The Dawa Party and the Supreme Islamic Iraq Council agreed to set down the Kalashnikovs they had at each others' temples and work to keep Moqtada al-Sadr's people from ruining Iraq's government yesterday, Alissa Rubin writes for the New York Times, agreeing on paper to back appointments for cabinet posts based on experience rather than party allegiance. Officials hope this agreement between "moderates" in Iraq's parliament will grow to include Kurds and the Iraqi Islamic Party, the most moderate of the Sunni Arab parties, but it's unlikely the Sunnis will come on board, Rubin writes. There are tensions over the speaker of the parliament and the culture minister being on the lam. A Dawa spokesman says the agreement is open to everyone, including al-Sadr's people, but Iraqi politicians always say this and it can be safely ignored. The real plan is to prevent Sadrists from "derailing the program," a Western diplomat said. Dawa and SIIC have been wrangling over power for more than a year, and six cabinet seats are still unfilled. Rubin suggest, somewhat optimistically, that with the agreement the seats can be filled with competent technocrats instead of party loyalists and "improve life for Iraqi citizens." Kurdish parties, however, remain skeptical the newly harmonious Shi'ite bloc can maintain the cease-fire.
The Journal's Greg Jaffe has a major, in-depth piece about the tensions and conflicts between younger officers "exhausted from by multiple Iraq tours" and older generals on the lessons learned from Iraq. Furthermore, analyses coming from the various service branches hew mainly to expectations: An Air Force officer argues the U.S. military shouldn't commit to fighting guerilla wars while Gen. David Petraeus' rewrite of the Army's counterinsurgency manual argues that learning to fight guerilla wars is exactly what the military must do. Use more smart bombs! No, use smarter grunts! And the tensions between the junior and senior ranks of commanding officers is growing, Jaffe reports. At Ft. Hood, where a major general called a meeting to rebut an influential article critical of senior Army leadership by Col. Paul Yingling, the junior officers in the audience bristled at the idea that Yingling wasn't "competent" enough to criticize generals because he had never been one. Jaffe writes:
"If we are not qualified to judge, who is?" says one Iraq veteran who was at the meeting. Another officer in attendance says that he and his colleagues didn't want to hear a defense of the Army's senior officers. "We want someone at higher levels to take accountability for what went wrong in Iraq," he says.
Richard Oppel Jr. and newcomer to the Times Stephen Farrell tackle the roundup, leading with a bus bombing in the Shi'ite neighborhood of Baya that killed 25 people and wounded at least 50. Ten more people were killed Wednesday night by a car bomb in the Shi'ite neighborhood of Khadimiya. Oppel and Farrell note that the attacks come just days ahead of a provocative march by Moqtada al-Sadr's followers to Samarra. The two Timesmen get into the government's so-far flaccid response to al-Sadr's planned march, which is sure to inflame sectarian passions even further. After the bombing in Baya, an Iraqi national policeman cursed Sunnis and shouted, "We will finish you!" the Times reports. South of Baghdad near Madaen, Iraqi police found 20 decapitated bodies on the banks of the Tigris. Fifteen bodies were also found scattered around Baghdad, four people were killed by a car bomb in Mansour and 11 people wounded by a mortar attack on the Shorja market in central Baghdad. Three British soldiers were killed Thursday by a roadside bomb in Basra while on a foot patrol.
The Post skips the Shi'ite news and tops its John Ward Anderson roundup with news that the U.S. is investigating claims by locals north of Baghdad that America killed 17 villagers last week in a helicopter gunship attack instead of fleeing militants. At the time, the U.S. military called the dead men "al Qaeda gunmen" and said they were trying to flee Operation Arrowhead Ripper into Khalis from Baqoubah. But locals say the men were village guards trying to protect Khalis from just such an infiltration by al Qaeda. Anderson mainly follows the Times' reporting, giving a slightly lower casualty count of 22 killed in Baya and 40 wounded. He adds some more details on the headless bodies found in Madaen, saying they were all of men aged 20-40 with their hands and legs bound. Also, a U.S. soldier was killed and another injured in eastern Baghdad by a roadside bomb, bringing to 93 the number of U.S. troops killed in June. Since the beginning of April, 323 U.S. troops have been killed, making it the most deadly period for Americans since the war started in March 2003. Anderson gets the three British soldiers killed in Basra and adds that their deaths mark 156 British troops killed since the start of the war.
At the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., Bush came to defend his Iraq war strategy and in a -- by now -- unsurprising display of tone-deafness, said Israel was a good example for measuring Iraq's success. As a "functioning democracy," Israel has not been destroyed by terrorism, Bush said. "It's not prevented from carrying out its responsibilities, and that's a good indicator of success that we're looking for in Iraq," write Jim Rutenberg and Jeff Zeleny for the New York Times. Oy, vey. The Times doesn't touch on the idea that holding up Israel as an example for the Arab Iraq to emulate might not play well in the Middle East; instead, it focuses on the Bush Administration's strategy of playing defense now that Republican senators are jumping ship. One sign however of the sea change Bush is facing: even at the War College he got, at best, polite applause and and skeptical questions. A woman asked if he was listening to his commanders -- of course, he said -- and a professor at the college asked if the U.S. was stretched too thin militarily. Bush said no.
The Christian Science Monitor runs a story by Jill Carroll about U.S. interest in France's war against Algerian insurgents as a lesson plan for Iraq. The Algerian war is of historical interest, and some of the tactics the French used -- pretty successfully, to be fair -- are applicable to Iraq (knowing community leaders, stationing troops among the people.) But there are big differences: The French deployed 500,000 troops in a country of 9 million and had help from skilled Algerian soldiers; they managed to seal the country's borders; the Algerian insurgency was unified and established diplomatic relations with neighboring countries and appealed to the U.N.; there were attacks inside France that killed 5,000 people and terrified the French. Perhaps most important, the French eventually left after the bombing campaign and extensive use of torture and murder by French forces caused political support at home to collapse.
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Richard Butler, former head of UNSCOM, writes an op-ed calling for a permanent weapons monitoring commission in the U.N. if the world body agrees to U.S. and British suggestions to shut down the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, which was created specifically to monitor Iraq. While it seems common sensical -- there's not much need for UNMOVIC these days -- Butler says UNMOVIC was right about Iraq's weapons when it said there weren't any, so any attempt by Britain and America, the two countries that got Saddam's WMD intelligence so wrong and went to war over the U.N.'s objections, should be viewed with suspicion. "Their decision demonstrates the danger of substituting national intelligence for the assessments assembled by an independent, international body." Spoken like a true-blue U.N. lifer.
Zaid Sabah reports on the chronic gasoline shortage hitting Baghdad again this summer. It's an old story that happens every summer, but it's good to see attention being drawn to this problem. In addition to fuel for cars, Iraqis have to buy fuel for generators because electricity production is at the lowest since January 2004.
Melvin, R. Laird, secretary of defense for Nixon from 1969 to 1973, pens an op-ed for the Post on what he considers a model of responsible withdrawal from Iraq. Big surprise: it's the one he developed in Vietnam. Laird says that South Vietnam didn't collapse after U.S. combat troops withdrew, but because Congress cut off military aid to Saigon, and that's just what the Iraqi forces need. He's getting a bit ahead of the debate in Congress, however, as the talk is still of whether there is going to be a withdrawal next year or not, and aid to the Iraqi government hasn't bubbled up much from the policy wonks. (Unless you count that report from the Center for American Progress.)