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Daily Column
US Papers Sun: Sunni Leader Laid to Rest
Questions of Guilt, Fears of Sectarian Backlash
By DANIEL W. SMITH 06/14/2009 02:00 AM ET
There really isn’t much at all today, but Sunday editions of both the New York Times and the Washington Post both cover the funeral of Harith al-Obaidi, the high-ranking Sunni politician assassinated on Friday.

From Baghdad
It is common that there are differing media accounts of violent events anywhere, and this can be the case particularly in Iraq. Still, it is interesting that there is little more available a whole day later in the killing of such a high-level politician, in broad daylight, at a mosque just after Friday prayers. Either way, Tawafoq Bloc leader Harith al-Obaidi was shot and killed, there were other casualties, a grenade went off, and he was laid to rest on Saturday.

There is no consensus on who was responsible – suspicion falls, among others, on al-Qaeda, the Shi’a-led Iraqi government, or someone connected to the ministries of interior, defense and justice, as al-Obaidi announced that he was going to have the ministers of each called before parliament to answer for allegations of prisoner and human rights abuses. Al-Maliki and other government officials showed up in force, seemingly to deflect possible suspicions or to temper any sectarian response.

In the Washington Post, Nada Bakri reported the following...
Outside the cemetery where he was buried, an angry crowd chanted: "The Koran is our constitution, the prophet is our leader and jihad is our way." Mustafa al-Bayati, a Sunni preacher at the mosque where prayers for Obaidi were held, said: "They did not kill him because he is a lawmaker. They killed him because he is Sunni."
Marc Santora of the New York Times has a fuller article, with more analysis.
The party leaders rushed to condemn the killing of the Sunni leader, Harith al-Obaidi, and the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki went to great lengths to accord Mr. Obaidi respect, staging an elaborate funeral that was broadcast live on Iraqi state television. “We cannot understand how the sanctity of mosques can be violated in this way,” said Adel Abdul Mahdi, a vice president and a member of a leading Shiite party. He called the killing “sordid” and “depraved.”

While the sectarian fighting that raged here until about a year ago has mostly ended, many in the Sunni community remain deeply distrustful of the Shiite-led government. It was unclear if the killing would stoke more Sunni fears.
Both articles also mention the release of two more of the five US contractors who had been held, reportedly in connection with the slaying of another US contractor last month in the Green Zone. All have been cleared of involvement with the murder by the Iraqi legal system, but vague charges of the weapon and drug possession are still active. The New York Times also reports the death on Friday of a US soldier secondary to an IED explosion, but with no more details at all.

Bradley Graham's lengthy piece in the Washington Post about Donald Rumsfeld's final months as defense secretary was covered in Friday's US Papers roundup.

Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, no Sunday Editions.

Comments on the US Papers roundup are welcome at


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