Assassination Attempt on Chalabi; Baghdad Outraged at Bush Spying on Maliki; Iraq Seeks F-16s

A suicide bomber attempted to assassinate Ahmad Chalabi on Friday as the politician was returning home to the Mansur district. The bomb killed 6 bodyguards and wounded 17 persons, but missed its main target.

Advisor to the Ministry of Defence, Abdulameer Hasen Abbas was shot as he was driving near Shaab district in eastern Baghdad.

Iraqi officials expressed outrage at the revelation in Bob Woodward’s new book that the Bush administration has been spying on Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Iraqi spokesman Ali Dabbagh warned of future bad relations between Iraq and the CIA if the allegations proved true. Even Kurdish lawmaker Mahmud Osman denounced the spying as a breach of friendship.

Several hundred followers of Muqtada al-Sadr demonstrated against the US occupation in Kufa on Friday afternoon. Meanwhile, a clerical representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani called on Iraqis not to let their government off the hook with regard to the promises it had made to deliver basic services. At the Buratha mosque in north Baghdad, Jalal al-Din Saghir of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) demanded that the minister of electricity be fired and replaced with someone more competent.

The 16,000 US troops in Baghdad could be withdrawn from the capital by next June, allowed Gen. David Petraeus. The security agreement being negotiated between al-Maliki and Bush calls for US troops to withdraw from Iraqi cities to bases outside them by the end of June, 2009.

Over all, US troop levels could decline from 146,000 now to 139,000 by early January, a reduction of 7,000. (In November of 2007 there were 163,000 US troops in Iraq). In summer, 2005, there were 136,000 US troops in Iraq. The number was increased for the elections of Dec.2005, then reduced back to 133,000 in March, 2006. So as Bush goes out of office, there will still be more in early 2009 than there were early in his second term.

The Iraqi government is going on an arms buying spree in the military-industrial Mall of the US. It just inquired about 36 F-16 fighter jets, and is also seeking armored vehicles and helicopter gunships. In recent security operations in Basra and Sadr City, the Iraqi army was dependent on the US for crucial air support, and the al-Maliki government seems to determined to develop its own air capabilities. Likewise, Iraq will spend $11 bn. on weapons such as 140 Abrams tanks.

I have long held that until the Iraqi military can effectively deploy armor and helicopter gunships, it won’t be able to act on its own to establish internal order in the country. I notice that in the Maysan campaign al-Maliki launched against the Sadrists in Amara this summer, Iraqi armor appears to have played a role.

Aljazeera English asks, ‘Who controls Khanaqin,’ examining the conflict between the Iraqi government in Baghdad and the Kurdish Peshmerga paramilitary over control of the eastern, largely Kurdish city in Diyala Province, near Iran.

There was a dispute on Friday between Kurdish and Shiite sources about whether government forces and the Peshmerga paramilitary had reached an agreement on the disputed city.

Rania Abouzeid at Time reports that many Baghdad voters are apathetic about provincial elections, uncertain that they will bring increased services such as electricity and potable water.

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