The Times's Alissa J. Rubin and Michael R. Gordon report that the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is sending several senior Shi'ite leaders to Tehran to discuss Iran's continued arming and financing of militias in Iraq. This appears to be the first time Maliki has sent an elite delegation specifically to discuss this issue. The delegation will meet influential ayatollahs in Tehran and Qom as well as Brig. Gen. Qassen Suleimani, the head of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Qods Force. It will include men who all have ties to Iran. "Among Mr. Maliki's emissaries are Ali al-Adeeb, a senior member of Mr. Maliki's Dawa Party, and Hadi al-Ameri, a senior member of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a Shiite party in Mr. Maliki's coalition. Another member is Tariq Abdullah, an old friend of the prime minister who runs Mr. Maliki's office." The delegation also might meet with Moqtada al-Sadr
Ernesto Londoño has a story for the Post on the number of American casualties for April. It's 50, although his story mentions 48. (The Post's Web site isn't updating quickly enough.) The toll is the highest number since September, and directly related to the push against the Mahdi Army. One gruesome sign that the fight is very nasty in Sadr City, Maliki announced that the nephew of an Interior Ministry official who oversaw security in Basra was recently slain in the Shi'ite enclave and his body hung from an electricity poll.
Howard LaFranchi of the Christian Science Monitor also has the story of the American casualties. He also notes that at least 568 Iraqi civilians died in April.
Erica Goode of the Times has a sad feature on the oud, Iraq's traditional stringed instrument that is being suppressed by Sunni fanatics who believe that Islam forbids music with instruments. She focuses on two men, one who fled to America and enjoys a thriving musical career with the oud, and another who stayed and has to teach and play his instruments in secrecy. "In 2004, (Rahim Alhaj) returned to Baghdad to give a concert at his familyÄôs house. The friends he grew up with, he said, wore beards and felt uncomfortable listening to him play; secular music was considered 'haram,' forbidden. An oud maker he knew was forced to build his instruments secretly in a tiny workshop on his roof." It's a damn shame because the oud is part of Iraq's soul, and its oud players brought it no end of fame in its past.
As if all those retired generals as "message force multipliers" weren't enough, Peter Eisler of USA Today reports that the Pentagon is setting up a network of foreign news Web sites designed to promote American interests. The network is even hiring local journalists to write news reports. Needless to say, this is upsetting non-Pentagon affiliated journalists. The Iraqi site is www.mawtani.com The site is modeled on two long-established native-language sites for people in the Balkans and North Africa.
Ann Scott Tyson of the post reports that Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warns of a period of vulnerability as the U.S. changes presidents and the military goes through a transition -- all while fighting two wars. Tyson makes a pretty serious error in terminology, however. She equates the Qods Force with the entire Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. As most readers of IraqSlogger know, Qods Force is the part of the IRGC "responsible for extraterritorial operations, including terrorist operations."
IN OTHER COVERAGE
Stephen Barr reports on a report from the House Armed Services Committee that found that federal employees working in Iraq and Afghanistan are not getting adequate medical care and benefits.
Samir Sumaida'ie, Iraq's ambassador to the United States, says the best way to reduce the U.S. costs in Iraq is to stabilize the country -- which will cost more money -- and increase Iraq's oil output, which will also mean more American "investment."
Wall Street Journal
No Iraq coverage today.