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Daily Column
US Papers Wed: Contractors Lose Iraq Immunity
Sunni bloc looks to return to Maliki government; US Embassy says Iraq doing OK!
By CHRIS ALLBRITTON 07/02/2008 01:31 AM ET
After yesterday's full buffet, today's menu is think gruel indeed. Only The New York Times and the Washington Post file news stories, with the Wall Street Journal limiting itself to a congratulatory op-ed.

The Times kicks it off with Sabrina Tavernise's report that the U.S. has agreed to lift immunity for foreign security contractors, making them subject to Iraqi prosecution. That sound you hear is the mad dash of Blackwater, DynCorp, Triple Canopy et al., beating their way to Baghdad International Airport. Lifting the immunity removes one of "many sticking points" between Iraq and the U.S. in their negotiations over a new security pact. (This feels like a late report because Reuters reported this on June 19.) Some Iraqis want to end immunity for American soldiers, but that's never going to happen, especially because the main proponents of that movement are all Sadrists. The Americans seem willing to budge over control of Iraq's air space, but Mahmoud Othman, an independent Kurdish parliamentarian who loves the press, says it doesn't matter if Iraq has control or not because it doesn't have an air force or expertise to handle air traffic, so the Americans will still have control regardless of whatever official arrangements are made. Iraq's main Sunni block, Tawafiq, said it was closer to rejoining the government after a boycott lasting almost a year. And another judge was a target of an intimidation campaign on Tuesday. A bomb placed near his house was found and defused. (How does the Times know it was an intimidation campaign? Maybe it was a botched assassination attempt.)

Sudarsan Raghavan of the Post files his roundup and leads with the news of the possible return of the Sunni bloc. The faction is submitting names for five cabinet posts and a deputy prime minister slot, and as soon as they get parliamentary approval, they'll be able to rejoin the government. Raghavan eschews news of the immunity deal and instead reports that Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari is urging Iraqi lawmakers to approve a new security pact. Sounds like it's getting close to a deal. But buried in the story is this scooplet: "Zebari told lawmakers that any agreement would last one or two years." Was he lying to get the lawmakers on board? Telling the truth and revealing a timetable for American troop presence? Hard to say, but it's a reveal that needs fleshing out. In Diyala province, a suicide bomber attacked a police checkpoint, killing three people. Another roadside bomb killed three civilians and injured four in Buhroz.

The Post's Karen DeYoung reports that the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad has taken a decidedly upbeat spin on Iraq and said it has met 15 of the 18 Congressional benchmarks set last year. This contrasts sharply with another, recent assessment from the GAO. According to the Embassy, the only ones Iraq hasn't met are small, niggling things like "the Baghdad government's failure to enact and implement laws governing the oil industry and the disarmament of militia and insurgent groups, and continuing problems with the professionalism of the Iraqi police." Other than that, how did you enjoy the play, Mrs. Lincoln? Seriously, these are, like, the three biggest problems in Iraq and saying, "But elections are on track!" isn't just spin, it's clumsy and insulting spin.

IN OTHER COVERAGE

Wall Street Journal
Numan al Faddaghm, an Iraqi writer in Cairo, writes that all Iraqi expats and refugees are immensely grateful to the United States and can't wait to go home to partner with the Americans in building their country. Color me skeptical, but most other reports don't paint refugees as sounding so optimistic and forgiving of the U.S. Oh, it's the Journal's op-ed page. Never mind.

Christian Science Monitor and USA Today
No Iraq coverage today.

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