Al-Maliki Threatens Journalists Al-Hashemi Plays Hard to Get

Al-Maliki tells off US pols., threatens journalists with libel lawsuits. A hint to Mr. al-Maliki: This kind of shrillness does not look prime ministerial and just hurts your cause. Muzzling criticism in the press is a contradiction of your claim to legitimacy because of a democratic victory in the polls.

Tariq al-Hashimi was in Ankara for consultations and announced that he would not lightly rejoin the Iraqi government. Al-Hashimi is a vice president of Iraq and leading figure in Iraqi Islamic Party and its current coalition, the Iraqi Accord Front. He has a list of 6 major demands. He and his party are being wooed by the 5 party coalition that is supporting al-Maliki. He got some of what he wanted on Friday, including pledges to release Sunni Arab detainees who were not going to be formally charged, and a change in the Debaathification laws. Turkish politician Abdullah Gul urged al-Hashemi to return to the al-Maliki government.

British troops withdrew from a Joint Operations Command Center in Basra on Sunday. Gradually the remaining 5,500 British troops in the south are being concentrated near the airport, having left most security duties to the Iraqi 10th Army Division and local police. When the British left, a crowd of Sadrists gathered, celebrating and claiming victory. A force of Mahdi Army militiamen attempted to invade the site, but they were fought off by security forces, according to Reuters.

The Sadrists are declining to return to the al-Maliki government, even though their differences with it are minimal.

A high official of the Islamic Call (Da`wa) Party of PM Nuri al-Maliki, Jawad Talibi, give this explanation of American politicians’ calls for al-Maliki to step down. It derives, he said, from the way the American political class is divided internally.

The Iraqi Presidential Council announced Sunday that some agreements had been made among its members on Bush’s benchmarks (they did not put it that way). But they mentioned the issue of Iraqi detainees in Iraqi prisons, the petroleum law, and so forth.

Reuters rounds up political violence for Sunday. McClatchy has more. Note that during the Shiite holy days commemorating the birth of the 12th Imam, death squad killings in Baghdad have fallen to 10 or 11 a day. Alas, probably won’t last.

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