BAGHDAD, Iraq – A Sunni (search) Arab coalition submitted its list of candidates for the December election Friday, signaling the intention of many Sunnis to join the political process despite their failure to block ratification of the new constitution.
In the latest violence, the U.S. command said Friday that five American service members — three soldiers and two Marines — were killed Thursday in separate attacks. Their deaths raised the number of members of the U.S. military who have died since the beginning of the war to 2,010, according to an Associated Press count.
An alliance of major Shiite (search) parties, which won the largest number of parliamentary seats in the Jan. 30 election, also met Friday's deadline and submitted its candidate list to the Independent Election Commission.
Former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi (search), a secular Shiite, submitted his own list, including candidates from all major communities. Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi (search), a Shiite and former Pentagon insider, was expected to run under his own standard after he was unable to reach an agreement with the Shiite alliance that he joined before the January vote.
Sunni Arab participation in politics is considered a vital step toward calming the Sunni-led insurgency and enabling the United States and its coalition partners to begin drawing down troop levels next year.
Many Sunnis boycotted the January election, enabling majority Shiites and Kurds to dominate both the government and preparation of the new constitution. Many Sunnis opposed the constitution, fearing it will divide the country.
On Tuesday, however, the election commission announced that the charter was approved by nearly 80 percent of the voters in the Oct. 15 referendum. Voters in two Sunni-dominated provinces overwhelmingly rejected the constitution, raising concern that Sunni Arabs might forego politics in favor of armed resistance.
The new candidate lists by the Sunnis' Iraqi Accord Front and the Shiite's United Iraqi Alliance indicated that the Dec. 15 balloting will be contested along ethnic and sectarian lines. Kurds were also expected to submit their own list.
The Shiite Alliance includes Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari's Dawa Party (search), Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim's Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, followers of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and the Fadhila party.
The Alliance, which includes religious parties with strong Iranian ties, controls 146 of the 275 seats in the National Assembly. But the coalition is not expected to fare as well in December as it did in January.
Most of its success then was credited to the support of Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. But associates of the Iranian-born al-Sistani have said that the 76-year-old cleric does not intend to publicly support the United Iraqi Alliance, as he did in January, because of his disappointment with the performance with al-Jaafari's government.
Allawi's ticket includes several prominent Sunni Arabs, including Vice President Ghazi al-Yawer, parliament Speaker Hajim al-Hassani and elder statesman Adnan Pachachi.
The U.S. military said an Army soldier died of injuries suffered Thursday when his patrol hit a roadside bomb in southern Baghdad. When other soldiers arrived as a rescue team, a second roadside bomb exploded, killing another soldier, the military said.
In Saqlawiyah, 45 miles west of Baghdad, two Marines assigned to Regimental Combat Team 8, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), were killed by mortar or rocket fire, one immediately and one later of his injuries, the military said.
That same day, an Army soldier assigned to the 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) was killed when his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb explosion in Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad, the military said.