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Daily Column
US Papers Wed: Blast Kills 3 Americans
Assertive Parliament Emerges Under New Speaker, Government/Sahwa Tensions
By DANIEL W. SMITH 05/27/2009 02:00 AM ET
Three American deaths in Fallujah topped the American news from Iraq. After that, comes a parliament unfamiliar for its on-time sessions and votes actually being held, and the unraveling Sahwa.

From Baghdad
An American State Dept. official, a U.S. soldier, and a Defense Dept. worker were killed by a roadside bomb in Fallujah on Tuesday. The State Department official is identified as Terrence Barnich, deputy director of the Iraq Transition Assistance Office in Baghdad. The others have not yet been identified.

Both articles offered give the basic facts and use the attack in Fallujah as something of a yardstick for security – it’s much better than it once was, but the direction its going is unclear. The infamous killings there of four contractors in 2004 are referenced in both articles, but Marc Santora of the New York Times writes that it was only a few miles from yesterday’s incident, and that it is the second attack on US civilians in a week. Santora has more information on other points, too.
The Americans were driving along a road used exclusively by the American military and reconstruction teams when a bomb, which local Iraqi security officials described as an improvised explosive device, went off. No Iraqi vehicles, even those of the army and the police, are allowed to use the road where the attack occurred, according to residents. There is a checkpoint only 200 yards from the site of the attack to prevent unauthorized vehicles, the residents said.

The attack happened as the Americans were returning from an inspection of a wastewater treatment plant being built in Falluja, which Ambassador Hill said was the largest and most complex American-financed project in Anbar Province.
The Washington Post’s Anthony Shadid also reports on the incident.

Also in the Washington Post, Nada Bakri writes of the more robust parliament which has emerged under new speaker Ayad al-Sammarraie. Bakri rightly characterizes the proceedings by parliament against Trade Minister Abdul Falah al-Sudani not as just about corruption and as “more than just the typical debate between legislative and executive powers.” Information about the case is given, but al-Sammaraie’s willingness to force issues and (dare we say it?) what seems to be an attempt to create a culture of accountability in the Iraqi government ends up being the focus, and it the more important point.
In asserting parliament's new role, Samarraie has transformed the institution from an arena for seemingly endless debate and hour-long speeches into an organized forum that starts with the ring of a bell at 10:00 a.m.

Under the former speaker, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, discussions often drifted into minutiae, prompting many lawmakers to start side chats, talk on cellphones or read newspapers.
"We've had a 180-degree turnaround," said Tanya Gilly, a Kurdish lawmaker. "It seems that the new speaker is serious in the oversight role of parliament. He is trying to strengthen the body." In USA Today, Paul Wiseman writes about the current status of the Sahwa or Awakening (now routinely referred to as a “militia” in US papers – not really the case when the Americans were in charge of them), in an article that, though geared toward those who may not have the strongest working understanding of the situation, should still interesting to those who do.

As usual, the government says that the Sahwa did “a great job,” but acts in such a way as to make many of the Sahwa nervous. Salaries aren’t being paid in many areas, and Sahwa fighters are walking off the job. US military backing, both financial and otherwise, is diminishing or gone, and many of the Sahwa feel betrayed. "The Americans made the Sahwa militias to fight al-Qaeda, then they abandoned them," says an Awakening leader, Sheik Ali Hatem Sulaiman. "The heads of Sahwa are beginning to feel it would have been better to stay with al-Qaeda." Wiseman brings up one point which articles on the topic don’t often address - the fact that there are differences between how the Sahwa/government drama is playing out in varying regions.
The movement's rise has not caused many tensions in western Anbar province, which is predominantly Sunni, but the situation is different in religiously mixed areas such as Baghdad and Kirkuk, Sulaiman says. He says Shiite politicians "want Sahwa to stay in Anbar."
Christian Science Monitor, Wall Street Journal, no Iraq coverage.

Comments on the US Papers roundup are welcome at


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