Ernesto Londoño of the Post reports that two U.S. soldiers were killed and three wounded when a council member opened fire on them after a meeting in a small town south of Baghdad. An Iraqi interpreter was also wounded. The council member, Raed Hmood Ajil, was killed. Sunni tribal leader said Hmood opened fire without provocation. Also, the U.S. military announced that a Canadian man working as an interpreter would be sentenced to five months after pleading guilty to stabbing a colleague in February. Alaa Mohammad Ali was the first civilian prosecuted since the 2006 amendment to the Uniform Code of Military Justice that allows courts-martial of civilian contractors. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki expressed concern over Diyala province following the suicide bomb attack there that killed 15 people.
Richard A. Oppel Jr. of the Times reports that it was the bodyguard of a council member who opened fire, not the council member himself. The Iraqi interior minister also said six soldiers were wounded, not three. Details are obviously fuzzy. Also, two pro-American fighters were killed by a roadside bomb that exploded near Buhriz, south of Baqoubah. Two civilians were wounded in Khalis and another Awakening Council member was seriously wounded when he was shot about 20 miles east of Baqoubah.
Gina Chon and Zaineb Naji report that Moqtada al-Sadr and his followers are looking to the fall provincial elections as a means of political retribution against Maliki for his campaigns against the Mahdi Army. Unfortunately, there is absolutely no news in this story. Readers looking for a payoff of something new will need to keep looking.
Sam Dagher of the Christian Science Monitor reports one of his patented slice of life features, showing the soccer-loving Iraqis at play. In Amara, where the government recently "cracked down" on a non-resisting Sadr movement, men and boys jostled for views of televisions to watch their team in the Asian 2010 World Cup qualifying match. Even Iraqi soldiers took a break and followed the action on the pitch. Tickers on the screen urged Iraqis not to indulge in celebratory fire because of the ongoing military operations. Alas, Qatar won, 1-0.
Charles Levinson for USA Today reports that as Maliki took a victory lap in Amara (maybe he watched the game?) he said Diyala would be next on the crackdown list.
The Journal's Yochi J. Dreazen reports that a new Pentagon report (available at IraqSlogger.com) points the finger squarely at Iran for still supporting Shi'ite militias in Iraq and names it the "greatest long-term threat to Iraqi security." The rest of the security situation in Iraq got a pretty upbeat assessment. Maliki also gets praise. Interestingly, the Journal downplayed the Government Accountability Office that slams post-surge planning.
Not so the Times or Post. James Glanz of the Times writes about the GAO report, which says several critical measures of progress in Iraq used by the White House are either incorrect or far more mixed than the administration has acknowledged. Overall, the American plan for a stable Iraq lacks a strategic framework that meshes with the Administration's goals. It's falling out of touch with realities on the ground and contains serious flaws in its operational guidelines. Only 10 percent of the Iraqi Army can operate independently in counterinsurgency, and even then, they need American support. Also, the GAO was unable to substantiate American claims that Iraqi had spent and committed more than 60 percent of its reconstruction budget in 2007. It was more like 28 percent, the report says. Wow, who staffed the GAO with Defeatocrats?
The Post's Karen DeYoung has the story on the GAO report, too. The Defense, Treasury and State departments all disputed the GAO report.
Glanz also has a story in today's Times about a group of Senate Democrats who are urging Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to block a series of no-bid oil contracts Iraq has decided to award to ExxonMobil, Shell, Total and BP. If they don't get their way, the senators – led by Chuck Schumer of New York – would cut off funding for unspecified Iraq programs not directly in support of U.S. troops. Their opposition to the deals is that Iraq still has no law regulating its oil industry. The State Department reacted with contempt.
A spokesman for the State Department, Karl Duckworth, said he could not confirm that the department had received the letter, but said that such messages could take some time to work their way through the system. "But we treat all correspondence with Congress as important, and if and when we receive it, we will respond directly to the senator," Mr. Duckworth said.I'm sure he'll be waiting by the phone.
IN OTHER COVERAGE
New York Times
Bob Herbert, regular columnist for the Times, bemoans the psychological trauma too many Iraq veterans are suffering – all while the home front exists in happy ignorance of the war.
David Brooks, also a regular columnist, lauds President George W. Bush's "surge" strategy and says Bush is right sometimes and liberals and anti-war types will get their comeuppance.