Fallujah is now mired in fierce fighting as U.S. and interim Iraqi government forces punch their way into the heart of the insurgent stronghold. The New York Times reports approximately a dozen "coalition casualties" thus far; Iraqi insurgent and civilian casualties will without a doubt be much higher.
To say that Iraq's overall security and political future remain uncertain is an understatement; yesterday Juan Cole threw cold water on the Bush administration's mantra that democracy will begin to flower amid the war-torn terrain by January. "Maybe it is just me," Cole wrote, "but is it really possible to have democratic elections coming off 2 months of martial law?"
And if a report from the Associated Press today is any indication, the battle now raging in Fallujah has further darkened Iraq's political landscape and made the prospect of near-term elections look like a mission all but impossible to accomplish:
"BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) A powerful group of Sunni Muslim clerics called Tuesday for a boycott of national elections set for late January to protest the U.S.-led attack against the Sunni insurgent stronghold Fallujah. The group's director, Harith al-Dhari, said the election was being held 'over the corpses of those killed in Fallujah and the blood of the wounded.'
"In the past weeks, al-Dhari's Association of Muslim Scholars has been warning it would call such a boycott if a Fallujah offensive took place. The association is influential among Iraq's Sunni Muslim minority, and U.S. and Iraqi officials have expressed concern that a lack of Sunni participation would raise question about the legitimacy of the vote."