Remember how John McCain insisted to Wolf Blitzer that the security pact being negotiated by Iraq and the Bush administration talks about the withdrawal of US troops as “conditions-based” rather than tied to a strict timetable? That was not true of the draft, which called for US troops out by 2011 but did contain language in a different section that allowed for them to stay under certain conditions. The Iraqis now want that clause removed and the Baghdad government wants an iron-clad guarantee of US troops being out by 2011. The recent US military raid into neighboring Syria may have stiffened Iraqi resolve in this regard. If McCain were elected, which McClatchy argues is still entirely possible, he’d have rocky relations with Iraq if he continued to oppose a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops.
Bush has thrown $6 billion in government money to private security firms operating in Iraq. There have also been Congressional hearings on this issue. Why wouldn’t you use GIs to guard State Department personnel?
Some of those private security guards, along with US troops, man border stations where they collect biometric data on military-age Iraqi and Iranian men, which they do not share with the Iraqi government.
Rosa Brooks on the booby traps Bush is leaving behind for the next president.
A Turkish official believes that substantial steps toward peace among Israelis, Palestinians and Syrians would have important spillover effects on Iraq. He implied that you have to get Bush out of the White House before any such positive developments are likely to take place. In the meantime, Mark MacKinnon argues, Syrian leader Bashar al-Asad has decided to turn the other cheek in response to the US raid into Syrian territory, preferring to continue with initiatives to improve relations with Israel and with the West.
Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the spiritual leader of Iraqi Shiites, cautioned on Wednesday that the security agreement between Iraq and the US must not infringe on Iraqi sovereignty.
The US military turned over security duties in Wasit Province to Iraqi forces on Wednesday. All Shiite-majority provinces are now under Iraqi army control. The US continues to have primacy in five provinces including Baghdad itself (also Diyala, Salahuddin, Ninevah and Kirkuk). These provinces continue to see significant social violence and Diyala, Salahuddin and Ninevah have Sunni Arab majorities.
The International Organization for Migration urges that the 2 million Iraqi refugees in nearby neighboring countries be given support, not forced back to Iraq. Most of the refugees have been traumatized, seen a family member kidnapped, been personally threatened, or seen their old neighborhood ethnically cleansed and their property expropriated, so that they are disinclined to return or have no place to return to. Violence remains endemic in some of the places they have fled, including Baghdad.
McClatchy reports political violence in Iraq on Wednesday:
- A roadside bomb targeted a bus of the ministry of education’s employees in Ur neighborhood (east Baghdad). Two employees were killed and six others were wounded. – A roadside bomb targeted a police patrol near the Nadia ice cream shop on Palestine Street (east Baghdad). Five people were killed and seventeen others were injured, including the head of the traffic police department in Nahda neighborhood (downtown Baghdad).
- Gunmen attacked the house of the Dahalka Sahwa leader in Dahalka village in Balad Ruz, about 27 miles east of Baquba.They killed three people, the father of the Sahwa leader, his daughter and her husband. Fourteen others were wounded, including 7 men and 7 women. – A roadside bomb detonated in the Baquba central market downtown Baquba city. Sixteen people were wounded including one a girl who died later.
- A car bomb targeted a police patrol in Yarmouk neighborhood in downtown Mosul city. One policeman was killed.
- A sniper killed an Iraqi soldier in Al-Tanak neighborhood in Mosul city around noon.’