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US Papers: US Troops Kills 6 Iraqi Soldiers
Awakening forces embattled from all sides: Petraeus kept offstage?
By DANIEL W. SMITH 09/04/2008 01:50 AM ET
Not a lot of Iraq coverage today, but enough to keep you going. The Awakening forces are seeing some difficult times, and there are rumored plans to possibly give Gen. Petreaus a few less public appearances in the coming months. McCain is mentioned too, of course.

From Baghdad
The Washington Post’s Amit R. Paley reports that U.S. troops mistakenly killed six members of Iraq’s security forces, and wounded ten in a stretch of farmland along the Tigris River north of Baghdad known as Mizrafa. (The Post says it happened on Monday, but that is obviously an error. It happened in the early-morning hours of Wednesday) Of those killed, two were policemen, and four were members of the Awakening forces. Paley describes what happened.
The incident took place when U.S. troops aboard a boat on the Tigris approached a patrol of Awakening fighters. The fighters were already on high alert because a suicide bomber had attacked the leader of the local group in nearby Tarmiyah, killing one person and wounding four. "They heard a rumor that al-Qaeda was going to stage an offensive against their town from the river," (Iraqi Army Maj. Mohammed)Younis said, referring to the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq. "They deployed themselves along the river waiting to ambush al-Qaeda if they started to attack." When the boat approached, the Awakening fighters fired warning shots because they could not determine whether the vessel was manned by Americans, Younis said. He said the troops on the boat did not shoot back, but an Apache helicopter later opened fire on the Iraqis...
An American military spokesman confirmed that U.S. forces were indeed in the area at the time conducting operations which involved aircraft, but declined to specify the number of casualties, saying that the incident was under review. It is only the latest in a string of attacks by U.S. forces on the Awakening fighters, the U.S. backed mostly-Sunni force which is given a good deal of the credit for recent security gains in Iraq. "We don't feel safe working with the Awakening anymore because of the American forces," said Ali Younis, 18, one of ten Awakening members who quit because of the incident.
The shooting comes at a delicate time in negotiations between Iraq and the United States over a security pact governing the presence of American troops in the country. Iraqi officials say both sides have agreed that American forces will withdraw by the end of 2011, with the key disagreement centering on whether the U.S. troops will be immune from prosecution under Iraqi law. U.S. negotiators have demanded complete immunity for the troops; the Iraqis counter that the immunity should apply only on American bases and on missions approved by the Iraqi government, according to Sami al-Askari, a prominent Shiite lawmaker.
The article ends with mention of the Iraqi cabinet voting this week to re-open Abu Ghraib prison as a facility for holding criminals, with part of it set aside as "a museum of the former regime's crimes," according to a statement from government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh. According to an official from the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, the museum will be divided into two parts: one devoted to crimes under Hussein, and the other focused on abuses by U.S. troops.

More Awakenings
Another story from Baghdad about the Awakening councils, this one addressing the rift between them and the Iraqi government. Erica Goode from the New York Times writes a piece entitled “Handshake Defuses a Standoff in Baghdad”. In it, she tells the story of an Awakening commander in Baghdad’s al-Adhamia district named Ali Abdul Jabbar, who sat in his headquarters early afternoon, waiting for the Iraqi Army to come and arrest him. His men stood, guarding the door, prepared to defend him. There was a one-day strike of Awakening members in the area, called in protest of Mr. Jabbar’s rumored status as a wanted man. Goode writes,
But a few hours later, the atmosphere appeared to have calmed. Mr. Jabbar and an Iraqi Army captain stood in front of the neighborhood’s Abu Hanifa mosque, shaking hands and exchanging mutual expressions of support and friendship. The strike was called off. And the warrant was forgotten, if it had ever existed; the captain told Mr. Jabbar it had never been issued. The escalating events of the morning, and the abrupt turnaround by midafternoon, offered a vivid illustration of the mounting tensions between the Awakening Councils and Prime Minister Nouri Kamal al-Maliki’s government, which is mainly Shiite. American and Iraqi officials have said that the Iraqi government will take full control of the Awakening patrols in and around Baghdad on Oct. 1.
Tensions are growing between the U.S. backed Awakening forces and members of Iraq’s government, many of whom consider the Awakening movement a militia. Arrest warrants for at least 650 Awakening members have been reported in the past week in Iraq, and many have gone into hiding.
Mr. Jabbar said he had heard that the Iraqi Army issued an arrest warrant for him in connection with a kidnapping and killing. The warrant, he said, was based on false accusations made by the family of a militia leader in a Shiite group, the Mahdi Army, whom he had helped to capture and turn over to Iraqi security forces. Mr. Jabbar said that he had asked the American forces for help, but that he had been told that this was “an internal affair.”
...Earlier in the day, Mr. Jabbar, 31, who is known in the neighborhood as Abu Sajad, said angrily that the government was trying to undermine the councils and to make them fail. “We think we are fighting not against just Al Qaeda; now we are also fighting against the Iraqi Army.” Goode also includes a brief account of the incident from the Washington Post article above.

Stateside
The Christian Science Monitor’s Gordon Lubold writes of a high-level move to keep General David Petraeus out of the political spotlight, just days before he gives his official assessment on troop levels. He is highly expected to recommend a reduction of troops from Iraq soon, but there is only speculation as to how much of one he will call for, and when. The Defense Dept. recently refused a request from members of Congress to have Petraeus make another appearance on Capital Hill, ostensibly because of scheduling issues.
...as the Pentagon struggles to muster more troops for Afghanistan, officials worry that the general's testimony on Iraq will upstage other needs. Petraeus is expected to be cautious on troop drawdown, not wanting to lose a hard-won security despite pressure from some colleagues to free up forces for Afghanistan. Officials also want to prevent any testimony he would provide from becoming political fodder as both sides would grope to use his testimony to their advantage. "The Hill respects him and they also expect to use him," says one retired senior officer who did not want to comment publicly on the sensitive matter.
Petraeus is thought to be wary of drawing down U.S. troops in Iraq too hastily. A blunt public plea was made last week by Gen. James Conway, commandant of the Marine Corps, to reduce some of his 25,000 marines currently stationed in Iraq’s Anbar province, so more troops could be sent to Afghanistan. "He's the first four-star who has openly challenged Dave Petraeus's view of Iraq," says one official close to the debate on troop levels within the government. Petraeus' assessment will include not only the level of violence but also the strength of Al Qaeda and other militia groups, political progress within the government of Iraq, and the growth of Iraq security forces, defense officials say. There are currently 15 combat brigades in Iraq after the final "surge brigade" left in July, and a total of about 146,000 soldiers serving there right now. Lubold finishes the story with the following...
But there is another reason to keep Petraeus out of the political limelight. With intense pressure to use the military as pawns that suit one or another political view, top military officers have for the last year railed against suggestions that the military play any political role during an intense election year in which the war in Iraq still figures prominently. Admiral Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the senior uniformed officer at the Pentagon, has long criticized the politicization of the military. "We are an apolitical, neutral organization in this country, and we need to stay out of politics, those of us in uniform," Mullen told reporters last week at the Pentagon. "And it is very tempting in this time because of where we are, and we just shouldn't do it."
McCain and Iraq
From St. Paul, Michael Abramowitz from the Washington Post adds to the latest stories about Senator John McCain’s decision to focus on the war in Iraq, and how it is a gamble that carries risk. It’s a well put together article, with the latest quotes, but you probably know the gist. McCain’s unabashed support for the troop surge in Iraq at an unpopular time has made him look very good, since the surge is largely credited with the marked improvement in Iraqi security. The war has become unpopular with the American public in general, and has reflected badly on the Republican party, so many in the GOP are nervous about highlighting the war too much. McCain, never one to shy away from controversy, seems to be going for it.
Obama has said, as have military experts, that this narrative of the buildup is too simple, and that reduced violence in Iraq has causes in addition to the troop increase, such as the cease-fire of Shiite militias and the greater willingness of Sunni tribes to fight the group al-Qaeda in Iraq... But in St. Paul, there is little outward sign of dissatisfaction with McCain's approach. "Among most of the grass-roots, the general consensus is we want to win with honor," said Kentucky delegate Richard Grana, president of a small export company in Paducah. "We don't want to have expended all those lives for nothing." Richard N. Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former Bush administration official, said McCain should tread carefully in discussing the war. "I think the Republicans, in particular, are saying that these are tough times and we need a tough president. McCain has been positioning himself in that place. My sense is that is easier to do because Iraq has improved," said Haass, who was also attending the convention. "But a growing number of Americans see involvement in the world as costly, and I believe that's because of Iraq. McCain and the Republicans have to be careful that the toughness will not lead Americans to think we will have four more years of costly foreign policy."


Wall Street Journal, USA Today, no Iraq coverage.

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