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Daily Column
US Papers Thu: Sadr City Bombing
Why Mosul is a Special Case, A Different Struggle for Power
By DANIEL W. SMITH 06/25/2009 02:00 AM ET
Wednesday evening’s large-scale bombing in a Sadr City market dominates the news today. The Christian Science Monitor looks at Mosul and the Washington Post has a sub-headline that reads “Maliki's Message on January Election Is Clear: Cooperate or Risk His Wrath.”

From Iraq
For those who like to count monthly death tolls, the tail end of June is spiking. Both the horrific Sadr City explosion and Saturday’s truck bomb outside of Kirkuk killed over 70 people each, and Monday’s blasts around Baghdad added at least two dozen more. Discussion of the approaching and much-celebrated (but actually not completely clear) US withdrawal from most of Iraq’s cities is of course a key point to each article. The overall gists are pretty much the same – but the amount of information varies.

The New York Times’ Alissa J. Rubin and Duraid Adnan are about on par with Ernesto Londoño and Zaid Sabah of the Washington Post with lots of details, eye-witness accounts, and opinions of responsibility. Rubin and Adnan include the following political theory.
“All this is against al-Maliki,” said Muayad Hamed, a doctor who has watched the politics of Shiite neighborhoods because he has worked on projects in Sadr City and other Shiite communities in Baghdad. “The rumor on the street is that after 30 June there will be more attacks to show that al-Maliki cannot work without the Americans and that all his power came from the Americans,” he said.
Smaller articles appear by Gina Chon of the Wall Street Journal and Aamer Madhani and Nadeem Majeed of USA Today, both articles giving a good percentage to comments given at a media briefing earlier in the day by Brig. Gen. Stephen Lanza, regarding the US withdrawal.

Jane Arraf of the Christian Science Monitor reports on the oft-speculated US troops to remain within Mosul’s city lines, come July. Arraf describes the ongoing violence there. Some divergent opinions on the city are summed up in the following quote and snippet. "What we typically see are small arms attacks, pipe bombs and hand grenades. Those are 'normal' attacks," says Col. Gary Volensky, the US commander in Mosul. "Anytime you have a vehicle-born IED, because we don't have those every day, those are insurgents wanting to demonstrate that they're still viable and that is not ordinary."
An Iraqi lieutenant led a dozen of his men out into the street with the US soldiers to walk through the twisting alleys. It was just before they reached the rows of stalls with wooden carts displaying fresh fish, shots rang out and a radio call came through that the young Iraqi man had been killed. At the traffic circle where the young man's body had been brought, security people had their own view of what had happened. "This happens daily – I think it's all Iranian," said an Iraqi officer named Khalid.

Shopkeepers stood on the sidewalk to get a better view, many of them looking sullenly at the American soldiers. "We leave home in the morning and don't know if we'll return at night," said restaurant owner Ali Wadallah. "You see the situation – is anything normal here?"
The Washington Post’s Anthony Shadid writes a compelling and damning article about Prime Minister al-Maliki (the kind of piece that news organizations are threatened with lawsuits for these days).

He files from Baqouba, where a council member from an opposition party was arrested by security forces which answered directly to al-Maliki, causing quite a stir. Shadid writes that al-Maliki had also ordered the arrest of at least six opposition candidates just before January’s election, and was stopped only after the personal intervention of Gen. Odierno. The party which has borne the brunt of the pressure is the Iraqi Islamic Party, but there is apparently plenty to go around. As one unnamed Iraqi official put it, "Politics is getting rough."

Although Iraq's parliamentary elections are not until January, the campaign has begun, and Maliki has shown a determination to fight with a tenacity and ruthlessness borrowed from the handbook of Iraq's last strongman, Saddam Hussein. From Diyala, where men under Maliki's command have arrested and threatened to detain a host of his rivals, to Basra, where security forces have swept up scores of his opponents since January, the message is: cooperate or risk his wrath.

Although Iraq's sectarian war has largely ended, and the Sunnis feel they lost, another struggle for power, perhaps no less perilous, has begun in earnest. Maliki has resorted to a more traditional notion of politics in which violence is simply another form of leverage. His goal is simple -- to ensure he emerges as prime minister again after the vote.
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