Looking for reliable "in-country" Iraqi news sources on the web, I found instead several thoughtful, heartfelt and sometimes darkly funny blogs by ordinary and not so ordinary Iraqis. "Healing Iraq" (http://healingiraq.blogspot.com) by an Iraqi Shi'ite dentist -- sectarian identity is never far from the surface -- is a good example. The inside perspective on the main political parties' electioneering styles (too long to quote here) is particularly illuminating: an Iraq blessed with party politics will also need its own Jimmy Breslin soon. Reassuring somehow.
From a posting today:
"One week to elections day and the general atmosphere in the capital is eerie, yet strikingly familiar. I suspect the streets of Baghdad will look as if a war is looming this week. There is no doubt that many Iraqis regard the date of 30 January as a day of renewed hope, one they have been awaiting all their lives, but at the same time, many others are already dreading it."
"Several candidates were assassinated and targeted these last two weeks, others have been forced under threats to withdraw and to follow the example of the Islamic party. Sectarian tensions are at their highest since April, 2004, with Sunni insurgents now openly attacking Husseiniyas and Shia mosques."
"Ahmed Al-Chalabi and defense minister Hazim Al-Sha'lan have been engaging in shrill public attacks over the media. Chalabi describing Sha'lan as a "Ba'athist" and a "former double agent for Saddam and the CIA", while Sha'lan dismisses Chalabi as a "thief" and an "Iranian stooge who longs for his own origins by defending Iran". One remark made by Sha'lan on Al-Arabiya TV, that he couldn't say more about Chalabi because he would embarrass himself and the viewers almost made me roll on the floor. It was an extremely amusing episode, watching Chalabi looking smug and amused, contrasted with Sha'lan, all serious and barely keeping himself from swearing. Fistfights, please."
"The only hope now is that, following the elections, the National Assembly would offer the hand of peace and reconciliation to the dissenting parties. I would suggest going for tribal Sheikhs rather than clerics, since they have the upper hand in their areas and can effectively root out any Ba'athists in their midst in return for a promise of sharing power and authority. Many of these Sheikhs have been disenfranchised and abused over the last two years."
"Many Iraqis, including conservative and religious Iraqis, are surprisingly rooting for the Iraqi Communist party, probably in an attempt to counter the influence of Islamists in the forthcoming National Assembly. The Communist party has the largest number of registered party members in the country and can be considered as the oldest popular political party in Iraq. Its support base is much larger than what it seems."
"I believe national reconciliation to be the only path forward to a new Iraq. The Shia cannot live without the Sunnis, and vice versa. Both have shared this country for the last 14 centuries and there is no possible way that one can live without the other. Even partition is not a possibility, there are no clear borders between the two."