Rising Iraq violence an Al-Qaeda attempt to influence US vote: Pentagon

Rising Iraq violence an Al-Qaeda attempt to influence US vote: Pentagon
October 28th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Rising Iraq violence an Al-Qaeda attempt to influence US vote: Pentagon

Rising Iraq violence an Al-Qaeda attempt to influence US vote: Pentagon
Media: AFP
Byline: Jim Mannion
Date: 27 October 2006

WASHINGTON, Oct 27, 2006 (AFP) - The Pentagon's chief spokesman attributed
the rising violence in Iraq on Friday to attempts by Al-Qaeda to influence
the US elections and stir up opposition to President George W. Bush.

Eric Ruff, the Pentagon press secretary, stopped short of saying that
Al-Qaeda wanted a Democratic victory in the November 7 elections and denied
emphatically that he was implying that.

He singled out a Washington Post report quoting a local Al-Qaeda leader as
saying the group's leader, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, wanted redoubled attacks "to
have a great effect on the American elections."

"It would seem that if they can increase the violence, they can increase
opposition to the war and have an influence against the president," Ruff
told reporters.

Escalating sectarian and insurgent violence in Iraq and the seeming
inability of Iraqi and US forces to check it have fueled criticism here
that the administration's Iraq strategy is not working.

So far this month, 96 US servicemembers have lost their lives in Iraq,
making October the deadliest month for the US military in a year. The
monthly toll is approaching the all-time highs reached in 2004 during major
battles for Fallujah and control of the Shiite south.

Since the US invasion of Iraq in March 2003, 2,808 American servicemembers
have lost their lives in Iraq.

Ruff said there were other explanations for the spike in violence,
including heightened insurgent activity during the Muslim holy month of
Ramadan and stepped-up US military operations in Baghdad.

But he cast the struggle as a "battle for the hearts and minds of the
American people."

He said Iraqi insurgents "know this is a battle for the resolve of the
American people. And if they can influence elections and get the American
people to get tired of this war through their attacks, I think they see

Polls show plummeting public support in the United States for the war and
low approval of Bush's performance, which has boosted Democratic
candidates, put Republicans on the defensive and put control of the
Congress in play.

In a sign of the tensions aroused by the elections, US Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld exploded at a press conference Thursday over questions
about security and other "benchmarks" that the administration is trying to
get the Iraqi government to agree to.

"It's a political season," he said. "And everyone's trying to make a little
mischief out of this, and turn it into a political football."

The Pentagon has traditionally steered clear of electoral politics, making
Ruff's remarks linking Al-Qaeda and domestic opposition to the war all the
more noteworthy.

Asked whether he was implying that Al-Qaeda wanted a Democratic victory, he
said, "No, no, no. I'm not saying that."

Ruff said he has not seen any intelligence reports supporting the view that
Al-Qaeda is seeking to influence the elections.

But he pointed to the Madrid bombings on the eve of Spanish elections in
March 2004 and said it was not surprising that Al-Qaeda would try to use
violence to affect the outcome of the US elections.

"Again, it is a test of wills for the American people, and if they can
dishearten the American people and ... get the American people down on this
war, then they see that is how they can win ultimately in Iraq and
ultimately in the long war."

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