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Nov 29th, 2008

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Mumbai attacks alter U.S. foreign relations (MSNBC, Nov. 29, 2008) — A panel of experts discuss what impact the Mumbai attacks will have on future U.S. foreign policy as well as the relationship between India and Pakistan. (07:46)


Attack on U.N. Site in Iraq Kills 2

Rocket lands near Baghdad compound in Green Zone

Nov. 29, 2008

BAGHDAD — A rocket attack against a U.N. compound in Baghdad has killed two foreigners and wounded 15, an official said on Saturday. The victims were working for a catering company that provides services for the U.N. Their nationalities have not been released. …

The U.N. presence in Iraq has been limited since the organization’s Baghdad headquarters was bombed on Aug. 19, 2003, killing 22 people.


Suicide Bomber Kills 12 al-Sadr Followers

Shiite movement blames U.S. for creating ‘battlefield’

Firemen hose down the site where a suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance of a Shiite mosque in Musayyib, south of Baghdad, Friday, Nov. 28, 2008, killing at least 12 people. (Photo credit: Ahmed Alhussainey / AP)

Nov. 28, 2008

BAGHDAD — A suicide bomber struck Shiite worshippers Friday at a mosque run by followers of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, killing at least 12 people, a day after Iraqi lawmakers approved a security pact with the United States.

The blast underlined fears on both sides of the argument — proponents of the deal warn the Iraqis aren’t ready to take over their own security while opponents, led by the Sadrists, say the American presence is the main reason for the instability plaguing the country. …

The bomber blew himself up among a group of men waiting to be searched near the green iron gate at the entrance of the main mosque in Musayyib, 40 miles south of Baghdad. …

The U.S. military has warned Sunni insurgents are trying to provoke revenge attacks by Shiites in order to re-ignite sectarian warfare. …

“The explosion that took place today near a Shiite mosque in Musayyib town is one of the consequences of the security agreement,” Sheik Abdul-Hadi al-Mohammadawi said during a sermon in the Sadrist stronghold of Kufa. “The Iraqi government cannot survive without the U.S. presence and as long as the Americans remain here, Iraq will be still a battlefield.”

A car bomb also exploded in a central square in Baghdad, killing at least three people and wounding 13, according to police and hospital officials …



Iraq’s Prime Minister may be Weakened by Dealmaking over Pact

A child holds a poster of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki during a demonstration in support of a U.S.-Iraqi security pact in central Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, Nov. 23, 2008. (Photo credit: Khalid Mohammed / AP)

By Hamza Hendawi

Nov. 28, 2008

BAGHDAD — Parliament’s approval of a security pact with the U.S. has propelled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki into a position of strength unsurpassed among Iraqi political leaders since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Furious dealmaking preceded the vote Thursday, compelling al-Maliki to make a wide range of concessions to Sunni lawmakers in exchange for their support. As a result, he emerged with his main goal intact: a historic agreement in which the last American soldier would leave Iraq by Jan. 1, 2012, and restore the country’s full national sovereignty. …

Experts are divided on how long will the prime minister’s political dominance will last however.

“The prime minister is involved in political struggles that have only just begun, and it is far from clear how well he can survive the power struggles and elections to come,” said Anthony Cordesman, a former Pentagon analyst now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“The insurgency is still there, Arab-Kurdish rivalries are growing, Shiite-Sunni tensions are still critical, and no one can predict the future power struggle within each key ethnic and sectarian faction,” Cordesman said.

Al-Maliki risked his future on the agreement with the United States, which many Iraqis see as an occupying power. Failure to win approval might have forced him to step down. …

Realizing the stakes, a group of mostly Sunni lawmakers sought concessions from al-Maliki in exchange for their support. Al-Maliki said that amounted to blackmail but, in the end, he met most of their demands in a three-page “Charter of Political Reform.”

The declaration doesn’t have the force of law. But it has committed al-Maliki to make changes on several thorny issues he had been reluctant to undertake. Chief among them are the full integration into the security forces and government agencies of thousands of U.S.-backed Sunni fighters who revolted against al-Qaida in Iraq and recruiting more Sunnis in the Shiite-dominated army and police. …

“Assuming (the 2009 elections) are free and fair … I am not sure al-Maliki can survive them and get re-elected,” said prominent U.S.-based Iraq expert Juan Cole.

Al-Maliki is already showing some of the trappings associated with authoritarian Arab rulers, something certain to be used against him in the run-up to the 2009 elections. He has exploited the dramatic drop of violence as a tribute to his leadership and coverage of his activities, even the most mundane, dominates the state media’s news. There are signs to suggest he intends to do the same with the security pact.

“It’s a historic day for our glorious Iraqi people,” he said in a televised speech several hours after the passage. “We have realized one of our most important achievements in approving the agreement,” he said in a kind of flowery Arabic usually reserved for a military victory.

Prior to the broadcast, state television showed footage of demonstrators hoisting portraits of the prime minister and a recital of a poem that praised his rule, but without mentioning him by name.


Related reports

Iraq-U.S. pact leaves Prime Minister Maliki stronger than ever

Iraq agreement leaves U.S. troops powerless

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