Meanwhile, pressure and fissures build in the Democratic coalition as the party and its constituents debate the vote over the Iraq funding bill.
A suicide bomb in a coffee shop in Diyala Province’s Mandali town killed at least 11 and as many as 20 Iraqis, Damien Cave reports in the Times. The area had been the scene of an attack days ago in which assailants in Iraqi Army uniforms stormed the village and killed 15. At least 30 bodies were recovered in Baghdad. US forces notified family members of Pfc. Joseph Aznack that a body removed from the Euphrates near Mahmudiya belonged to the 20-year-old from Torrence, Calif. Iraqis in the area said they had found the body floating in the water and had removed it themselves, and turned it over to the Iraqi police, who placed the body in a local hospital and notified the Americans. US forces have not confirmed that reported chain of events. Two other soldiers remain missing in the area after Saturday’s ambush that killed four GIs and an Iraqi interpreter. Details are sketchy but it may be that the soldier was shot and disposed of while US forces pursued his captors.
Nine US troops were killed on Tuesday, John Ward Anderson writes in the Post, seven in the Army and two in the Marines. Roadside bombs killed three on Tuesday in an undisclosed location, two Marines were killed in fighting in Anbar. Two bombing attacks killed three soldiers in Baghdad, and another was killed by gunfire in the capital. A family in Albu Ubaid area outside Ramadi was targeted by a suicide bomber, who detonated himself inside their house, killing 10 relatives. A second bomber killed injured six police responding to the attack.
The Post obtained numbers from the Iraqi Health Ministry which show that 321 unidentified bodies were recovered in Baghdad in May so far. Sudarsan Raghavan reports that this figure is similar to numbers from before the security plan. Evidence is sketchy but the Post looks to the Mahdi Army as a major culprit. As deaths in Baghdad from bombings have spiked, the Bush administration has pointed to sectarian killings as an indication that the security plan is achieving progress. “But the recent increase in unidentified bodies raises questions about whether thousands of U.S. reinforcements can effectively halt sectarian violence,” Raghavan writes. Worth a full read.
Of around four million displaced Iraqis, the US let in 69 in the last seven months, Neil King and Yochi Dreazen report for the Journal. The two reporters present an update on the DC debate over the question of relocating Iraqi refugees in the US, noting the extreme difficulties and red tape that Iraqis, even those who worked with the US in Iraq, have in reaching the country legally. State and Homeland Security departments plan to develop procedures for letting more Iraqis in, and pending legislation on the Hill could allow tens of thousands of Iraqis to enter. Democrats especially have pushed the issue, while only one Republican, Chris Shays of Connecticut, currently in Iraq, has supported legislation to reform Iraqi asylum policy. The US will spend $150 million this year for “Iraqi refugee work in the Middle East,” they report.
Antiwar activists are mounting an eleventh-hour campaign to pressure Democrats against voting for the Iraq war funding package that would not establish any timetables for US withdrawal. The bill is expected to come to a vote in the House today, and the Democrats seem “deeply split” over the legislation, Shailagh Murray writes for the Post. The bill will apparently be split into two measures, one which contains the Iraq funding and “benchmarks” for Iraq, and another which contains about $20 billion in domestic spending. Several antiwar Democrats and candidates spoke out against the measure, and MoveOn.org suggested that it may remember tomorrow’s vote in primary season. On the Senate side, Sens. Biden, and Levin will support the Iraq funding measure, while Sen. Dodd has come out against. Sens. Clinton and Obama have not committed to a position yet. At least half of House Dems are expected to oppose the Iraq legislation, Murray writes.
Gail Russell Chaddock files similar news in the Monitor, noting that the final legislation approximates measures proposed by Sen. Warner last week. She too notes the divisions among Democrats over the bill, and carries several interesting quotes from key players in the debate within the party over the legislation.
The Journal’s David Rogers provides the best presentation of the domestic spending measures attached to the Iraq funding bill.
USAT’s Jill Lawrence also presents the divisions in the Democratic party as the most significant aspect of today’s expected vote, noting the “quandary” that the bill poses for the party’s presidential hopefuls.
In a speech at the Coast Guard Academy commencement in Connecticut, President Bush stressed that al-Qa'ida is the “most destructive force” facing the US in Iraq, Michael Abramowitz writes in the Post. “Bush's speech was part of a White House effort in recent weeks to portray the violence in Iraq as primarily a function of al-Qaeda, deemphasizing the internal divisions within Iraq in the apparent hope of regaining political support for an endeavor that has become deeply unpopular with the U.S. public,” Abramowitz writes. Critics dismissed the ratcheting-up of al-Qa'ida-threat rhetoric, raising the question of politicized intelligence and partisan goals.
David Jackson in USAT reports on the Bush speech, giving space for rebuttals by analysts. Jackson also notes that the recent efforts to emphasize the bin Laden network is a reversal as earlier “Bush and other administration officials have played down the threat from bin Laden, saying he has been on the run and that his organization is damaged,”
In other coverage:
The taste of home runs? State Department officials in the US embassy in Baghdad are doing without as a “theater-wide delay in food deliveries” disrupts the foods imported for the staff, Karen DeYoung reports. "I miss my yogurt in the morning and my fresh-cut melon," one staffer said. Rather than an entrée of pilaf with turkey or fish, Monday’s dinner was MREs. Another harsh revelation, to be sure.
Over two years ago, Marines commanders in Anbar province requested Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles to protect from IEDs, Tom Vanden Brook writes. The request was denied. Since that time, the Pentagon has embraced MRAPs and may order over 20,000 of the vehicles for up to $25 billion.
A memorial for fallen soldiers is running out of space, Greg Zoroya writes. Fort Stewart, Georgia, has planted a tree for each of its soldiers killed in Iraq. 326 trees later, “Warriors Walk,” as the memorial is known, is making expansion plans.