The Post's Amit R. Paley and Karen DeYoung report that things aren't looking great in Iraq right now, despite victory laps taken by conservative editorial pages. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki publicly rejected terms of the ongoing security talks while Moqtada al-Sadr called for a new militia offensive against U.S. troops. For Maliki, the talks have reached "a dead end" because the U.S. was asking for too much, he said. It's doubtful now the talks will be concluded by Dec. 31, when the U.N. mandate allowing the U.S. forces to remain in Iraq expires. The then makes the argument that this is all provincial election politicking, as the dominant Shi'ite parties running the government respond to their constituents' anger at the continued U.S. presence. Because of that, al-Sadr is trying to one-up Maliki by calling for a renewed offensive, hoping that will show his followers he's more anti-American than Maliki and they'll vote the Sadrists into office. That's why the young cleric ordered the end of the cease-fire. But it's not going to be like it was in April and August of 2004. A spokesman for al-Sadr said the order was "essentially a full-scale reorganization of the Mahdi Army, transforming it from a militia into a permanent peaceful organization with a small armed wing of several hundred or so members." The cease-fire for the non-fighters would remain in force, and they fighters would operate in total secrecy. Paley and DeYoung finally have some details on what ground the U.S. is willing to give on its demands. Now it has agreed to high-level coordination of military and arrest operations, fine-tuning the extent of U.S. control of the airspace and borders, and proposing contractors will only get immunity taken for actions during official U.S. operations. Maliki also wants a firm U.S. commitment from the U.S. to protect it against aggression. That's going to require a vote in the Senate, as that raises it to a full-scale treaty.
Alissa J. Rubin of The New York Times has the story of the Iraqi intransigence also, but it's nowhere nearly as in depth as the Post's. She does get some good quotes from American officials -- including Ambassador to the U.N. Zalmay Khalilzad and Sen. John McCain -- who say there's nothing to worry about, move along. In all honesty, they're probably right. Maliki has just stormed out of the bazaar in a bid for the seller to come down on his price. It usually works, especially when the seller needs the buyer. Rubin has nothing on the move by al-Sadr.
IN OTHER COVERAGE
Philip Rucker reports that some soccer clubs in the prosperous Fairfax County are partnering with U.S. diplomats to help build youth soccer leagues in Iraq. It's a very sweet story.
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