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US Papers Thursday: Talabani Nixes Election Law
Provincial elections unlikely this year; Obama, McCain 'truth-off' over surge
By CHRIS ALLBRITTON 07/24/2008 00:41 AM ET
Is he gone yet? Can we rest a bit from the Obamagasm that has gripped the Iraqi press corps for the last three days? Yeah? Good. Just in time for the big news that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani vetoed the election law, pushing any provincial ballots into 2009.

Over there Amit R. Paley of the Washington Post has that story. Talabani promised to veto the bill after the Kurdish delegation boycotted the vote that passed it over the status of the provincial council of Tamim province, which includes Kirkuk. Paley notes this is a setback for both Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Bush administration, which has been pushing this as one of the benchmarks for Iraq. Talabani, a Kurd, said the bill as passed was unconstitutional because it was passed by only 127 lawmakers out of 275, but does anyone really wonder why he will veto it? Identity politics. Now, with the bill scuttled, there's little chance of provincial elections before next year.

Sabrina Taverinse and Riyadh Muhammed have the story for The New York Times , writing that Talabani has actually vetoed the bill and sent it back. Lawmakers are under pressure to come up with a compromise on Tamim's council, and they expected the country's top political leaders to reach an agreement by the Aug. 1 recess rolls around. Meanwhile, in Kirkuk, Arkan al-Naiemi, son of the editor in chief of the weekly newspaper Sound of Villages, was accidentally killed by U.S. forces when he failed to stop his car after a convoy of humvees pulled out in front of him. And the new embassy in Baghdad is officially open for business.

The Post's Ernesto Londoño pens a feature on Lt. G, of "Kaboom: A Soldier's War Journal," one of the sharpest, funniest soldiers' blogs to come out of the war. Lt. Matthew Gallagher started it when he was deployed as a rookie platoon leader and decided to blog his experiences. But word got around and tens of thousands of page views later, he was ordered to take down the blog. His downfall? He failed to have a posting vetted by a superior officer, which is unsurprising considering he depicted an officer in the unit as a nincompoop. Readers were outraged. Letters to congressmen and -women streamed in. It's a great feature that captures the skill and passion Gallagher put into his posts, and it's shame his voice will be largely silenced for the remainder of the war.

Presidential politics
Michael Cooper of the Times checks both Sens. Barack Obama's and John McCain on the accuracy of their statements regarding Iraq, and McCain comes out for the worse of it. McCain is upset that "his" surge was given only partial credit for reducing violence by the junior senator from Illinois. Obama said the combination of troops, the Mahdi Army stand-down and the pushback by the Anbar Sunnis against al Qaeda in Iraq were the reasons for the drop in violence. "I don't know how you respond to something that is such a false depiction of what actually happened," McCain replied. McCain says it's "just a matter of history" that the surge created the Awakening movement (which is completely wrong, by the way.) Obama's campaign responded that the Awakening movement got going in the fall of 2006 (true) while the surge didn't get up to full strength until a year later. Gen. David H. Petraeus even testified before Congress that the Awakening movement predated the surge. It was the brilliance of the generals on the ground to take advantage of the Sunnis' determination, though, and it's true the troop escalation was a vital component. Obama, for his part, exhibited his own brand of stubbornness by saying he would still oppose the surge knowing what he knows now.

Home front
Gregg Zoroya of USA Today has a feature on how the Pentagon is now aggressively screening for traumatic brain injuries among its troops both before and after they've deployed.

IN OTHER COVERAGE

USA Today
The editorial page asks why can't Obama admit that the surge worked? "Why then can't Obama bring himself to acknowledge the surge worked better than he and other skeptics, including this page, thought it would? What does that stubbornness say about the kind of president he'd be?" It is a worrisome trait on his part.

Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., rebuts the first editorial, saying Obama has been right, as accepted the success of the surge but that it's not bringing about the political reconciliation that was promised. (See the veto on the provincial elections as just the latest speed bump.)

Christian Science Monitor and Wall Street Journal
No Iraq coverage.

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