Bravo to the Iraqi people…!!

Most Americans will understand (but not all) that the blood of your countrymen mixed with that of our own young men and women fighting along side you was not spilled in vein.  Your struggle to secure your rights as a people to live free from tyranny and subjugation came at a great cost to our nation as well.  Yet let your courage, and now through your example, help pave the way to other peoples who are still struggling for their freedom and a hope for a democratic voice in government some day. America celebrates with you and hopefully our new administration will stand by your side against your enemies, both from within or from without, and if you should call on us for help as a new sovereign democratic nation.

(BAGHDAD) — Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s allies swept to victory over Shiite religious parties during last weekend’s provincial elections in Iraq — a rousing endorsement of his crackdown on extremists, according to official results released Thursday.

The impressive showing, which must be certified by international and Iraqi observers, places al-Maliki in a strong position before parliamentary elections late this year and could bolster U.S. confidence that it can begin withdrawing more of its 140,000 troops.

The results were a major blow to Iraq’s biggest Shiite religious party — the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council — which trailed in every Shiite province including its base in the holy city of Najaf. — AP

A Sunni bloc linked to the al-Maliki’s government finished ahead in Diyala and Salahuddin provinces but trailed a close third in Anbar, behind a party led by government critic Saleh al-Mutlaq and an alliance of tribal sheiks who rose up against al-Qaida two years ago.

A leader of the Anbar sheiks, Ahmed Abu Risha, had accused his rivals of rigging the election but said Thursday he would wait for the election commission to investigate the fraud allegations.

In Nineveh province, still a major battlefield in the war against Sunni insurgents, a local Sunni Arab party won 48.4 percent of the vote on a campaign to end Kurdish political domination.

Kurds won a disproportionate share of power in Nineveh, which includes Iraq’s third largest city of Mosul, because Sunni Arabs largely boycotted the last provincial election in January 2005. A Kurdish ticket finished second Thursday with 25.5 percent. The election was aimed at redistributing political power at the local level and encouraging disaffected Sunnis and Shiites to settle their differences politically instead of on the battlefield. — AP