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Daily Column
US Papers Thu: Muted Reaction to Iran Election
Iraqi Politicians Are More Quiet Than Usual, Iraqi Arrested in Shooting of MP
By DANIEL W. SMITH 06/18/2009 03:00 AM ET
Not a huge harvest today, but some stories of interest. See how Iran’s contested election doesn’t play out in Iraq, how the investigation into a major assassination last week is going, and how Iraq and Afghanistan are faring.

From Baghdad
World news is abuzz with Iranian post-election mayhem, but Gina Chon of the Wall Street Journal covers the relative silence coming from politicians right next door in Iraq, one of the countries that stand to be most affected by the outcome. President Jalal Talabani congratulated Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his victory (see details below), but, as Chon points out, “other politicians, including Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, who spent years of exile in Iran, have remained noticeably silent on the contested victory. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of Iraq's largest Shia party, also spent years in Iran and is there now, receiving treatment for cancer. He hailed Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, after the election, but pointedly left out any mention of Mr. Ahmadinejad.”

The two countries’ checkered existence is looked at, and this is seen as a major reason for the silence. "This was an unfair election," said one official who declined to be named, "but we can't say that publicly because we can't afford to affect our relationship with Iran."

The rest of today’s coverage is in the New York Times. Campbell Robertson and Abeer Mohammed start us off with the announcement of the arrest on Wednesday of a suspect, called the “mastermind” of Friday’s assassination of key Sunni political leader Harith al-Obaidi. It is a sensitive topic, and the Iraqi government is doing all it can to appear “on the case”.
General Jawad identified the suspect as Ahmed Abid Uwaid al-Luhaibi, a member of the Awakening, a government-backed Sunni paramilitary force. The general said Mr. Luhaibi was also an assistant commander in the Islamic State of Iraq, a Sunni jihadist group.

Maj. Gen. Abdul Karim Khalaf, a spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior, confirmed the arrest but said it was too early to say what role Mr. Luhaibi might have played in the killing.
An “Op-Ed Chart” is offered in the Times by Jason Campbell, Michael O’Hanlon and Jeremy Shapiro of the Brookings Institution and graphic designer Amy Unikewicz, measuring “The States of Iraq and Afghanistan. They begin their introduction with the following...
“Going forward, we will not blindly stay the course,” President Obama said in unveiling his new Afghanistan strategy this spring. “Instead, we will set clear metrics to measure progress.” Unfortunately, finding useful metrics for assessing counterinsurgencies is not easy. Getting the force size right is key to a successful counterinsurgency, but there is no exact formula — even when you get the numbers right the troops may fail because of poor training, difficult terrain or shifting politics.
They ask how actual progress is then to be measured. they provide a chart with information on both countries in odd-numbered years, starting with 2003, measuring foreign/domestic troop levels, troop/civilian deaths, number of phone customers, electricity output, per capita income, etc. As always, charts like this can put things in perspective, but what is chosen to be included makes all the difference.

Christian Science Monitor, Washington Post, USA Today, no original Iraq coverage.

Comments on the US Papers roundup are welcome at


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