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IraqSide:Media
Daily Column
Iraq Papers Wed: Oil Law Remains on Hold
US Officials, Soldiers Targeted During Political Meetings
By AMER MOHSEN 06/24/2008 6:54 PM ET
Az-Zaman
Az-Zaman
The Iraqi and Arab media focused on two recent attacks that cost the lives of several US soldiers and administrators. The first incident involved an IED that was detonated as a US delegation arrived at the Sadr City municipal hall in East Baghdad. On the same day, and a few dozen kilometers south of the capital, a US delegation was also attacked in the municipal hall of al-Mada’in, this time by a member of the town’s council.

According to al-Mada, the incident in al-Mada’in cost the lives of three US soldiers, with four others injured, before the attacker - a municipal councilman using an automatic rifle - was gunned down by the US forces. In Sadr City, al-Jazeera reported, at least eight people were killed, including four Iraqis and four US nationals (two soldiers and two “US Embassy employees,” the news channel added.)

Az-Zaman, in its international edition, gave a slightly different account of the Sadr City bombing, claiming that ten individuals were killed, including a “reconstruction coordinator” and an Italian national employed the US Embassy in Baghdad. Interestingly, Az-Zaman also provided the context of the attack: the American delegation was at the Sadr City municipality “to participate in the choosing of new members (of the municipal councils) to replace the Sadrist delegates who announced their withdrawal from the local Council.” Al-Jazeera said that the vice-chair of the Council, Hasan Shammah, was injured in the attack.

A major part of the “Surge” was an increased US engagement in local politics and the political composition of provincial and city Councils. For example: the US delegation ventured into Sadr City to “help appoint” non-Sadrist representatives after the latest anti-Mahdi Army campaign. In al-Mada’in, the day before, the Americans visited the town to participate in the inauguration of a new public park (said al-Mada.)

It should also be noted that, while the two attacks received extensive coverage in Arab papers and media (including the international edition of Az-Zaman,) the incidents were covered scantly in the local Iraqi press with no papers presenting original reporting, interviews or analysis. Al-Mada relied solely on the communiqués of the US Army to describe the incidents and their toll, while Az-Zaman – in the Iraqi edition – did not report the news in its headline, and its short description of the attack was a word-for-word reiteration of a US statement “that Az-Zaman received by e-mail,” the paper said! (Needless to mention, the Baghdad edition eschewed the “political narrative” of the Sadr City attack presented in its London print.)

In other news, after weeks of rumors claiming an imminent ratification of the controversial Oil and Gas Law, Kull al-‘Iraq spoke to Kurdish officials who asserted that the law will probably not be passed during the current legislative session. Mahmud ‘Uthman, a leading figure in the Kurdistan Coalition, made it clear that deep disagreements still separate the central government and the Kurdish parties regarding the Oil Law. With the Kurdistan Regional Government practice of unilaterally signing oil contracts with foreign companies, which the central government considers null, a shared vision for Iraq’s oil industry is still a difficult goal to attain

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