Iraq, Germany and New Zealand
A lot is happening this weekend. First, Iraq. The Security Watchtower site has a graphic listing all the military operations undertaken in Iraq as of September 16.
- Multiple airstrikes in Qaim
- Operations in Ar Rutbah in the far West
- Operations in Haditha
- Operations in Saqlawiyah
- Operation "Flick Ticker" in Baghdad
- Operation Royalty in Taji
- Operations in Mosul
- and Tal-Afar ("Operation Restoring Rights")
What's remarkable about this is that there have been 14 US KIA up to September 16. That is one third the rate for the period last year -- in a month of offensives. The attacks on Baghdad highlighted by the press, More Iraqis Joining Zarqawi's Cause, How troops struggle in a war raging on five fronts, Bombers Maintain Intense Attack included attacks on three American convoys wounding 10 but killing none.
There are two close elections taking place in the Western world. The first of course, is in Germany, where Angela Merkel is still tipped to unseat Gerhard Schroeder. The New York Times puts it this way: The Front-Runner in Germany Runs Scared.
Mrs. Merkel, 51, is still likely to become chancellor after the vote on Sunday. But her preferred coalition, with the Free Democratic Party, has been falling just short of a majority in the most recent polls. She may have to settle for leading a so-called grand coalition of her Christian Democratic Union and Mr. Schröder's Social Democratic Party. Given the aura of political invincibility that has enveloped Mrs. Merkel since a weakened Mr. Schröder called for elections in May, that would be seen almost as a defeat.
The other is in New Zealand. According to SBS News:
The people of New Zealand have begun voting for their next government with a plethora of opinion polls in the past week indicating a cliff-hanger result. Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark is seeking a third term in office but she faces a stiff challenge from the National Party's Don Brash. ... Mr Brash, a former central bank governor, who has only been in parliament for three years, has shaken up the establishment by vowing to soften New Zealand's ban on nuclear-powered vessels in its ports, and to discard some privileges for the country's native Maori.
The early results from New Zealand indicate that Labor will retain office, although it may require entering into coalitions with smaller parties. Labor kept its share of the vote, but the opposition gained nearly twenty percent from 2002. One problem facing Labor is that in order to get a majority, it needs to coalesce with the Greens, but some of the smaller parties are so antipathetic to the Greens that they will refuse to join the coalition unless they are excluded from cabinet positions. In all probability, the New Zealand Labor Party can only keep power by making contortionist deals.
It is actually possible for the conservative coalition to form a government provided it were willing to coalesce with the Maori Party. The media calls it unlikely. Yet Don Brash, head of the Nationals said in his post-electoral speech a few minutes ago that he was willing to form a coalition government with "all New Zealanders". One of the interesting subplots of election day was the light plane circling the capital threatening to crash into the Sky Tower, one of the city's highest buildings. It is said to have been forced down by a helicopter. This highlights the near-abolition of the New Zealand Air Force by Labor.