Summary: Iraq imposed a nationwide security lockdown before key regional elections with blanket measures not seen since the deadliest years of the insurgency, underscoring the high stakes for Iraqi leaders desperate to portray stability after nearly six years of conflict.
Summary: Iraq has denied North Carolina-based Blackwater Worldwide, which guards American diplomats in Iraq, an operating license because of a deadly shooting spree in Baghdad. Iraqi officials said the lingering outrage over a September 2007 shooting in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead led to its decision. The shooting strained relations between Washington and Baghdad and fueled the anti-American insurgency in Iraq, where many Iraqis saw the bloodshed as a demonstration of American brutality and arrogance.
Summary: Suicide rates among active-duty U.S. military personnel are continuing to rise even as the Defense Department dedicates more resources to identifying troubled service members and getting them the help they need. Preliminary figures confirm at least 125 soldiers killed themselves in 2008, compared with 115 in 2007, 102 in 2006 and 87 in 2005.
Summary: Why North Korea could become one of President Obama’s most vexing foreign-policy challenges: For the moment, the Obama White House has bigger priorities than North Korea. Still, the new U.S. president would do well to keep in mind that Pyongyang is continuing to tweak its nuclear-weapons program. It already has an arsenal of ballistic missiles capable of hitting all of Japan and potentially parts of the United States. For all its paranoia, North Korea insists it’s still under the threat of “American and Japanese imperialists,” and says that it has every right to possess a “nuclear deterrent” to defend itself. Appeasing them with money and oil won’t be enough.
Summary: The message from Washington to Pakistan is clear: There is no change in U.S. policy when it comes to going after al-Qaida and Taliban targets in Pakistan’s lawless border areas. After all, Barack Obama warned during his presidential campaign that America must go after terrorist targets if Pakistan did not act first.
Live coverage of the Coleman-Franken Minnesota U.S. Senate recount trial, courtesy of The UpTake.
Summary: Counterterrorism officials and the FBI are investigating whether al-Shabab or other Somali Islamic groups are actively recruiting in the United States. Officials say as many as 20 Somali-Americans between the ages of 17 and 27 have left their Minneapolis homes since 2007, apparently bound for Somalia.
Summary: Iraqis vote Jan. 31, 2009 in the first nationwide election in three years, choosing provincial leaders in what amounts to a test of Iraq’s stability as the U.S. plans to remove its troops. A credible election without significant violence would show that the security improvements of the past 18 months are taking hold. The outcome will also show which parties stand the best chance of success in parliamentary elections a year later.
Summary: The upcoming January 2009 provincial elections will be Iraqis’ fourth national ballot since the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime. … David Enders of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting examines the power struggle among competing Shiite factions in Iraq.
Summary: A U.S. Army probe into suicides among Houston-based recruiters, all veterans of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, said medical problems factored in the deaths but none had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Four members of the Houston Recruiting Battalion took their lives between January 2005 and September 2008.