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US Papers Fri: Sunnis In Anbar Power Struggle
Awakening squaring off with Iraqi Islamic Party; Obama flip-flops. Or does he?
By CHRIS ALLBRITTON 07/04/2008 01:34 AM ET
It's the Fourth of July in the United States, so you know what that means: no news. In fact, only the Washington Post files anything out of Baghdad. The New York Times contents itself with news over Sen. Barack Obama's speech on Iraq. The other papers? They don't publish today.

Sudarsan Raghavan of the Post files a story out of Ramadi on the power struggle among Sunnis in Anbar. He leads with a scene of a defiant police chief who was fired last week by the governing council. He's still showing up to work and sitting at his desk, however. "The governing council had no right to dismiss me," said Tariq Yousef al-Asaal. His defiance is an outgrowth of the rise of the Awakening Councils in Sunni areas, which are now challenging the Iraqi Islamic Party, the established Sunni political faction. The split is one of exile vs. tribal leader. The IIP is led by exiles who mainly lived abroad during Saddam Hussein's reign of terror. The Awakening Councils are led by tribal leaders who stayed. These guys are now planning to run in the provincial elections. Raghavan lays out the stakes nicely: "At stake is the leadership of a rudderless Sunni community still struggling for a political foothold in the new Iraq. If the Awakening leaders prevail, they would inject nationalist, clan-based and secular values into a sectarian political system dominated by Shi'ite religious parties." Which brings us back to Asaal. The IIP runs the council, but the Awakening Council runs the police. Asaal is one of the movement's founders. It's a fascinating piece, and shows just how damned complex Iraq is. Read it in its entirety.

Michael Cooper and Jeff Zeleny of the Times handle Obama's speech. The presumptive Democratic candidate for president said he might "refine" his policies on Iraq after meeting with military commanders there this summer. The McCain camp -- along with every conservative blogger and pundit -- jumped all over this as a flip-flop. So, Obama held a second news conference hours later reiterating his commitment to withdrawing all combat troops within 16 months of taking office. Obama seemed a bit exasperated. "I've always said that the pace of withdrawal would be dictated by the safety and security of our troops and the need to maintain stability," he said, which is true. he has. "That assessment has not changed. And when I go to Iraq and have a chance to talk to some of the commanders on the ground, I'm sure I'll have more information and will continue to refine my policies." His second news conference was less ambiguous, and he committed himself to ending the war -- "responsibly, deliberately, but decisively."

The Post's Jonathan Weisman has the story as well. At least Weisman includes the shocking idea that the notion that Obama is flip-flopping is coming out of the McCain camp.

Christian Science Monitor, USA Today and Wall Street Journal
No editions today.

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