2 US Troops Killed in Mosul; Fallujah Bombers Kill 15, wound 150; Gates Prepared to Accelerate US Withdrawal

Two truck bombers in Fallujah, a former center of the Sunni Arab guerrilla movement, detonated two bombs on Thursday near a police station, killing 15 and wounding 150 persons. AP reports, ‘Police said the blasts were so huge that investigators could not find the chassis or the engines of the two trucks used in the attacks. “It looks like the trucks evaporated,” a senior police official told The Associated Press’. AP continues that in Mosul, a suicide bomber killed 2 US troops and wounded 8 persons, mostly civilians.

Iraq’s presidency council ratified the Status of Forces Agreement on Thursday. It still faces a popular referendum sometime before mid-summer. If the US begins getting combat troops out, showing the earnestness of Obama’s pledge, my suspicion is that it will make it easier for the agreement to pass in the referendum.

President-Elect Barack Obama called Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Wednesday. AP says, “Obama also gave assurances he’s committed to respecting Iraq’s sovereignty and to a responsible withdrawal of U.S. forces, al-Maliki’s press office said.”

The NYT says that Obama will deliver a major foreign policy speech from a Muslim capital during his first hundred days in office (i.e. sometime before May 1). Helene Cooper speculates that it will be from Cairo.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, whom President-Elect Barak Obama is retaining in his cabinet, is now looking for ways to accelerate the troop withdrawal from Iraq to meet Obama’s 16-month timetable for getting out combat troops.

He is also looking for ways to work with the Democratic Congress to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.

2,000 displaced Iraqi Sadrists protested in Damascus against the security agreement with the US. They interpreted it as putting Iraq under US control, insofar as it recognizes the legitimacy of the US troop presence through the end of 2011.

A thousand guest workers recruited by a subcontractor for KBR, who have been more or less imprisoned in warehouses near the airport for several months, are going to be sent back home. They never were provided with work. Subcontractors employing what is for all intents and purposes coerced labor has been a systematic problem in Iraq.

BBC: “Sixteen American soldiers who served in Iraq are suing the defence contractor KBR, accusing it of knowingly exposing them to a cancer-causing chemical.”

McClatchy reports political violence in Iraq on Thursday:

‘ Baghdad

Two members of the national police were injured by a bomb near al Wathiq intersection in Karrada neighborhood in downtown Baghdad around 10 a.m.

Four civilians were wounded by an adhesive bomb that was stuck to a car in Bab al Sharji in downtown Baghdad around 3 p.m.

A civilian was killed and two others were injured by an adhesive bomb that was stuck to a car in Bab al Muatham neighborhood in downtown Baghdad around 8 p.m.

Diyala

Three civilians were killed and ten others were wounded by a bicycle bomb in Baquba city north of Baghdad around 11 a.m.

Police found 21 unidentified bodies in Salam area north of Baquba city.

Anbar

15 people were killed and more than 140 others were injured in two suicide attacks carried out by people driving trucks. They targeted two police stations in downtown and north Fallujah, a city west of Baghdad around 11a.m. Police said the number of casualties could increase.

Nineveh

Gunmen killed and police officer and injured his colleague in downtown Mosul city on Thursday morning.

Eight Iraqi were injured when a suicide bomber attacked an American convoy in south Mosul city.’