Abdullah II in Baghdad; Bomber Attempts Assassination of Diyala Governor

McClatchy reports on the visit to Iraq of King Abdullah II of Jordan, . The king is the first Arab ruler to come on a state visit. The Jordanian press underlined that the visit was made possible in some ways by PM Nuri al-Maliki’s demand that the US set a timeline for the withdrawal of US troops. That is, from an Arab League point of view, Iraq is now transitioning from being under American military occupation to being more like an independent country, so the PR fall-out from diplomatic relations with it have been reduced. (Because of the brutality and rapaciousness of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories captured in 1967, and the whole history of colonial occupations, Arab publics have a very negative view of Iraq’s situation and the King could have faced a lot of denunciations if he had gone last spring. The press in Amman, at least, thinks that danger is now reduced). Editorialists also stressed the danger of leaving Iraq as an arena for US and Iranian competition, stressing the need to bring it back into the Arab world. Not unimportant to the visit was Iraq’s announcement of a further cut in the favorable price at which it sells Jordan petroleum (there is a gasoline shortage and a fuel price crisis in Jordan).

Abdullah II’s visit will likely not get a lot of press in the States, but in Jordan it is being seen as a significant diplomatic turning point. Given that the king had volunteered to Robin Wright years ago his fear of a “Shiite crescent,” and given that some Jordanian Qutbist vigilantes went off to Iraq to blow up people early on, the very friendly visit of Abdullah II with Shiite PM Nuri al-Maliki is an about face of sorts. The significant role that the Jordanian security forces played in tracking down and killing Abu Musab Zarqawi in Diyala Province in May of 2006 seems to me to have been an earlier such milestone. Jordanians were tipped to the dangers of the Qutbist vigilantes by the fall, 2005, bombing of Amman hotels.

On Tuesday, a female suicide bomber attempted to assassinate the Shiite governor of Sunni-majority Diyala province, where the government is waging a military campaign against guerrillas.

McClatchy reports on Gen. Ali Ghaidan’s campaign against guerrilla fighters in Diyala province east of Baghdad, a long time stronghold for both Sunni and Shiite militants. The report notes,

‘ The security of de facto military rule is a relief, but Baqouba is a wreck. Buildings are pockmarked with bullet holes, and rubble is everywhere. As many as half of adults are without jobs. The electrical grid is shaky and water is in short supply, a potentially disastrous development for a farming region that used to be called the breadbasket of Iraq.’

The Bush administration will have spent $100 billion on contractors in Iraq by the end of this year a new congressional report says. In my view one of the great dangers of involving civilian firms in war so much is that you can then expect them and their employees to lobby Congress for wars, and $100 billion would pay for a lot of congressional campaigns. The army could deliver food to the soldiers, moreover, more cheaply and efficiently. In 2003, US troops suffered in Iraq because civilian contractors for services didn’t want to try to operate in a war zone!

About 20% of the cost of the Iraq War has gone to paying contractors,and there are 190,000 of their employees in Iraq. That is more than all the multinational forces combined!

Hamza Hendawi profiles an ex-fighter of the Mahdi Army, who is now turning to theological studies in Najaf in hopes of becoming a mosque preacher. He warns that recent security gains by the al-Maliki government in Baghdad’s Sadr City are fragile.

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