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Daily Column
2nd Christian priest killed in weeks in Baghdad; New war study finds little hope
By CHRIS ALLBRITTON 04/06/2008 01:35 AM ET
Most of today’s news in the Washington Post and The New York Times are curtain raisers on this week's report by Gen. David H. Petraeus to Congress. But violence in Iraq also takes its toll, again on the country's Christians.

Over there
Stephen Farrell of the Times reports that a second senior Syrian Orthodox Priest has been killed, this time in Baghdad. Faiz Abdel -- or "Father Youssef," as he was called -- was shot dead outside his home while his wife stood next to him. He was killed while still in his religious robes, suggested he was killed solely because he was a priest. His killing has alarmed Iraq's besieged Christian population. Syrian Orthodox are the second largest Christian denomination in Iraq, and about 40 percent of them have fled since the March 2003 invasion. One mourner, Abu Noor, complained that things were better under Saddam. "I heartily believe that we were living better under the old regime," he said. "No one could threaten the Christians then." Hours before Father Youssef's killing, a bomb on a minibus exploded, killing three people and wounding 13 on Palestine Street. In Diyala, four Kurdish police officers working as guards at an oil station were kidnapped and killed.

Ernesto Londoño has the story for the Post, but calls Father Youssef an "Assyrian Orthodox" priest. The Post and Times are both wrong, actually, although the Post is way more wrong. Father Youssef was actually part of the "Syriac Orthodox Church," which is the official name of the denomination. ("Syrian Orthodox Church" is an old name.) There is no "Assyrian Orthodox Church," but there is the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East. It's a common mistake to make. In addition to the minibus bombing, the U.S. military announced it had filed assault charges against a civilian contractor accused of stabbing a colleague in Iraq. This is the first time a civilian has been charged under military law since the 2006 alteration of the law. Also, the State Department renewed the Blackwater contract, despite last year's shoot-'em-up in a public square that killed 17 Iraqis.

Michael Gordon of the Times has a full story on the charges against the civilian contractor in Iraq, Alaa Mohammad Ali, who holds Canadian and Iraqi citizenship. He was an interpreter, and he's accused of stabbing another interpreter.

Military matters
The Times's Thom Shanker reports on the growing alarm in the Pentagon about rising incidents of mental illness among troops sent repeatedly to Iraq. This is an acute problem, given the likelihood that Gen. David H. Petraeus will recommend no further troop drawdowns after the surge ends at the end of July.

Speaking of Petraeus, the Post's Michael Abramowitz reports on the close ties between the general and President George W. Bush. Everyone reading this probably knows of the two men's relationship, but Abramowitz does a good job of illuminating it for the lay reader, pointing out that Bush has bypassed several layers of military command to give Petraeus a privileged voice in the White House. Democrats complain Bush should be listening to Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen. "Not only are they General Petraeus's superiors," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., "but they have the broad view of our national security needs, including Afghanistan, and the risks posed by stretching the force too thin." But Bush doesn't want to hear that, and Petraeus is focused on Iraq, so that's the White House's approach.

Others see Bush's reliance on Petraeus as part of a larger pattern. "It is part of Bush's overall management style -- to cede responsibility to a lower level and not look carefully at critical issues himself," said Kenneth Adelman, a Reagan-era official who has parted company with such longtime friends as Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney over the war. "Originally on Iraq, it was whatever Rumsfeld wanted. Then it was whatever Jerry Bremer did," he said, referring to the former Coalition Provisional Authority chief. "And now it is whatever Petraeus wants."
These stories are all run-ups to the general's report to Congress this week.

Steven Lee Meyers of the Times also tackles the relationship between Bush and Petraeus, penning another curtain raiser. This one, however, examines the possibility of Petraeus having a political future, a la Dwight Eisenhower.

Washington doings
Robin Wright of the Post reports on a new study by the same experts who advised the Iraq Study Group. The study, she writes, concludes that "political progress is 'so slow, halting and superficial' and political fragmentation 'so pronounced' that the United States is no closer to being able to leave Iraq than it was a year ago." That's under a section called "No political solution." Given that Petraeus and others have said there's no military solution to Iraq, and this report says there's no political solution in sight, that doesn't leave much to hope for, does it?

Presidential politics
Jodi Kantor reports that Sen. John McCain puts his war views front and center in the campaign, but fails to mention that his son, Jimmy, served seven months in Iraq. The military ideals that permeate the McCain clan are still alive and well.

IN OTHER COVERAGE

New York Times
Frank Rich pens another omnibus column on Iraq, politics and everything else that happened this week. He's predictably angry about most of it.

Washington Post
David Stafford, author of "Endgame 1945: The Missing Final Chapter of World War II," writes that, like Iraq, Germany was a mess, too, and that worked out OK. But there's some pretty big differences, such as the fact that Germany had a plan, enough troops and the political will to have the troops suppress looting.

Christian Science Monitor, USA Today and Wall Street Journal
No Sunday edition.

U.S. Politics
Quit Iraq Study Group to Make Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars Giving Speeches
06/19/2007 9:51 PM ET
Republican presidential candidate and fromer New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani addresses supporters on security issues May 31, 2007 in New York City. Former FBI director Louis Freeh announced his support for Giuliani in his bid for the presidency.
Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images
Republican presidential candidate and fromer New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani addresses supporters on security issues May 31, 2007 in New York City. Former FBI director Louis Freeh announced his support for Giuliani in his bid for the presidency.

The headline, byline, and opening graph of the Newsday exclusive:

Giuliani quit Iraq panel after missed meetings - but he had time for fundraising BY CRAIG GORDON

Giuliani failed to show up for a pair of two-day sessions that occurred during his tenure, the sources said - and both times, they conflicted with paid public appearances shown on his recent financial disclosure. Giuliani quit the group during his busiest stretch in 2006, when he gave 20 speeches in a single month that brought in $1.7 million.

Here's the full story.

Daily Column
US Mulls Permanent Iraq Presence? MRAPs vs. EFPs
By GREG HOADLEY 05/31/2007 01:59 AM ET
The most provocative read in today's paper has to be the Journal's look at some of the behind-the-scenes thinking of US officials about "post-surge" Iraq policy, with some arguing for a permanent US presence and deeper US management of Iraqi government institutions.

See also the discussions in the Monitor and USAT over the evolving role of mine-resistant vehicles in the theater, and the bureaucratic struggle in Washington over their deployment.

As the US continued its hunt for five captured Britons in Iraq, speculations flew over the organizations that might be behind the brazen raid on the finance ministry on Tuesday where the men were taken. The Sadrist current denied involvement in the abductions, John Ward Anderson and Naseer Nouri write in the Post, while the US conducted overnight raids in the Mahdi Army stronghold of Sadr City. Three houses were targeted in raids, which a Sadrist official said caused “a lot of damage” at one site. Though the US would not confirm that it was raiding the Sadr City houses to search for the captives, the Sadrist official said that troops yelled “Where’s the British?” as they searched. A child was killed by a flare whose parachute failed to open at another, he added. The US, UK and Iraqi government have not revealed exactly where they are looking for the captives. Bayan Jabr, the infamous former Interior Minister, is now the minister of finance, at the offices of which the attack occurred. 25 bodies were recovered in Baghdad, shot to death and many bearing evidence of torture. Three Iraqi journalists were reported killed on Wednesday, bringing the total number of journalists killed in Iraq to 103, along with 39 media support workers, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

In the Times, David Cloud leads his daily Iraq roundup with the Sadr City raids. . One other “non-Iraqi” employee was apparently in the building at the time of the kidnapping raid, was not taken, as he may have been in a separate room. Separately, two Iraqi employees of the US embassy were believed to have been kidnapped. The Islamic State of Iraq issued a statement claiming responsibility for downing a helicopter Tuesday in Diyala Province, and for killing the two pilots inside. The US has acknowledged the crash and the deaths, but has not announced the cause. Five people were killed by mortars in Falluja, and three Iraqi soldiers died in Hilla in an attack on their checkpoint. Ten people were killed in fighting touched of by an attempt to arrest suspected Sunni Arab militants in Khalis, Diyala province. Four policemen and one Iraqi soldier were among the dead.

The Journal advances the story on the administration’s “post-surge” deliberations. Greg Jaffe and Yochi Dreazen write that, in the near term, debate centers on how to increase the effectiveness of US war efforts during the “surge’s” guaranteed period, through September, when Gen. Petraeus is due to give a progress report, but already the indicators of “success” are mixed at best: Militia activity seems to be climbing, including Mahdi Army activity, and sectarian murders are increasing in the capital. May was the deadliest month since 2004’s assault on Falluja, even while the US has found new allies in the tribal leaders around the country who have taken American support to fight al-Qa'ida-linked groups. On the Iraqi political front, some US officials lean towards forcing the Iraqi actors to make a deal: "We've been too passive and deferential to Iraqi sovereignty," said one U.S. military official involved in a review of the surge for Gen. Petraeus, the Journal writers report. A strategy review conducted for Gen. Petraeus will recommend treating Iraq as a “failed state,” recommending that the US “devote far more effort to making Iraq's ministries work,” the Journal reporters write, citing officials who participated in the review. But, the real debate looks to the long term, and, from the report, US officials are not weighing full withdrawal, per se, but rather a redeployment strategy that would take the public pressure off. “White House spokesman Tony Snow yesterday said Mr. Bush envisions an indefinite American military presence in Iraq that would resemble the one in South Korea, with the U.S. in a support role able to ‘react quickly to major challenges or crises’,” they write. The debate over post-September policy in Iraq is not a very public one, and any insight about the balance of forces inside the administration is worth a full read.

MRAPs

The Monitor checks in with the progress of the Pentagon’s order for MRAPs (Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicles), wondering why the IED-resistant vehicles, with their hallmark V-shaped hulls, are not in wider deployment in Iraq. Only 350 of the machines are deployed in Iraq, Gordon Lubold writes, raising eyebrows in Washington and throughout the military. If you haven’t followed this issue through the USAT’s close reporting, take a look at Lubold’s piece for a summary of why the armored vehicles – available since 2003 -- have not been widely deployed in Iraq. The answers, Lubold writes, like in the tortured Pentagon contracting process, a misperception about the longevity of Iraqi resistance groups, and the capacity of the private sector to ramp up production, even though the Marines have been pushing for MRAPs since early 2005.

Tom Vanden Brook of USAT adds another dimension to the MRAP question: MRAPs may be effective against roadside bombs, but EFPs (explosively formed penetrators) can shred the vehicles – and their occupants. A Marine Corps document obtained by the paper argues that MRAPs need to be “up-armored” in order to protect against EFPs, which are expected to be used more heavily against US forces as the Humvee is phased out in favor of the new MRAP. “The Army has tested armor that appears to protect MRAPs from the explosives, said Brig. Gen. Michael Brogan” of Marine Corps Systems Command, the lead agency for the MRAP program. As mentioned earlier, USAT has followed the MRAP debate most closely its reporting. The Army appears to be developing armor that may fracture the EFP’s shaped charge, but it is dubious that an expensive new armor program will stop all EFP attacks.

In other coverage:

WASHINGTON POST

The next issue of Foreign Affairs magazine will feature policy pieces by former governor Mitt Romney and Sen. Barack Obama, both running for the 2008 nomination in their respective parties. “Obama calls the Bush administration's Iraq policies ‘tragically misguided’ and advocates a phased withdrawal of US combat forces, to be completed by next March. Romney notes that there is ‘no guarantee’ that the administration's current strategy will succeed but says that ‘the stakes are too high and the potential fallout too great to deny our military leaders and troops on the ground the resources and the time needed to give it an opportunity’,” Karen DeYoung writes.

In his column, David Broder argues that the “endgame” is looming for the war. Although high casualty rates are expected to continue through the summer, “The dynamic in Congress has been set in motion that will bring this war to an end -- or at least reduce the scale of American involvement and redefine the mission of U.S. troops,” he writes, citing three factors: The September Petraeus report, the 2008 military spending debates, and the 2008 election cycle will be the triggers, he writes. The Dems will run an antiwar campaign, and the Bush administration may look to the Iraq Study Group for salvation. The most ominous shift for the White House: The growing centrist GOP demand for a change in course, including the powerful Sen. Warner. The question is, do these developments point to an “endgame” or to a “redeployment”?

David Ignatius argues in his column that it is time to dust off the Iraq Study Group report, which the Bush administration seems to be gravitating toward in its way. Ignatius argues that the Baker-Hamilton plan may solve key problems in Washington related to making Iraq policy, namely the isolation of the Bush administration: “While the Democratic leadership isn't likely to join Bush in a top-down push for consensus, White House officials hope that by embracing Baker-Hamilton, they can begin to build out from a new center. The goal is a policy that has broad enough support that it could last into the next administration.” Ignatius argues that the recent engagement with Iran is also a positive step. So the plan solves problems in Washington and Tehran, but Ignatius hardly addresses the real question, debate over which was aborted by the “surge”: Will the Iraq Study Group recommendations meet with any success in Iraq?

Check this out: From Anbar province, Matt Pottinger, former Wall Street Journal reporter, sends in an open letter to the Dow Jones Co. arguing against the proposed sale of the Journal to Rupert Murdoch.

USA TODAY

The return of Muqtada al-Sadr to the Iraqi scene “ought to be a wake-up call,” USAT editors argue, “not to get rid of al-Sadr, but to find ways to work with him and other influential players, including tribal and Sunni insurgency leaders, outside the Iraqi government.” They note the International Crisis Group’s suggestion of holding a conference and inviting Muqtada, but write that “the hard truth is that Washington has few realistic choices.” Even the achievement of “limited aims will require dealing with unsavory but powerful characters such as al-Sadr, instead of pretending that the dysfunctional Maliki government alone is capable of delivering,” they close.

Daily Column
Militias Bring Stability and Volatility to Shi'a Area; 3 Lives in Baghdad
By GREG HOADLEY 05/22/2007 01:57 AM ET
After yesterday’s slim pickings, the Times sends in one of the day’s best reads with a piece by Ed Wong and Damien Cave on the Baghdad district of Kadhimiya, a majority-Shi'a district where militias run the show.

Also at the top of the list is Howard LaFranchi’s report in the Monitor on three different Iraqi individuals, getting by in Baghdad.

The Post hardly shows up today, with no Iraq-related hard news, but David Ignatius's column on "post-surge" talk is worth a look. USAT also takes the day off.

Stateside, the Monitor profiles blogger Bill Roggio, and the Times reports no progress in the war funding deadlock in Washington.

From Irbil, Kirk Semple writes in the Times that an ambush in Diyala Province’s Hibhib village killed five. The manhunt continues for three missing GIs in the Mahmudiya area. A local commander said that “American and Iraqi troops continued to find and arrest people who had knowledge of the May 12 ambush.” The number of detainees is in the “double digits” he said. A firefight broke out between the security guards of Adnan al-Dulaimi, head of the Tawafuq Front, the largest Sunni bloc in the Iraqi Parliament, and Iraqi forces, both of whom blamed the other for firing the first shots. The erupted out after a bomb killed three Iraqi Army soldiers in Baghdad’s 'Adil district. A UK fuel tanker was destroyed in Basra in clashes. Four Iraqi soldiers were killed Mosul, apparently by US friendly fire. A mortar shell hit the roof of the Parliament complex, with no casualties. An interpreter who worked for a nearby American base was found dead in Kut, and a US raid near Karma freed five captives, including a boy, who had apparently been beaten with chains and hoses and tortured with electricity.

Edward Wong and Damien Cave of the Times coauthor an important read on Kadhimiya, the Baghdad Shi'a enclave on the western bank of the Tigris. “It is a place," they say, "where militia leaders, Iraqi politicians, criminals and clerics intersect and compete; a place where the Iraqi soldier protecting residents on Monday may be collecting bribes for a militia on Tuesday, praying at the mosque on Friday and firing at American troops over the weekend,” In Iraq’s militialand, “the tradeoff for relative safety is living with a certain level of extortion, political corruption and religious militancy.” But there is an emphasis on the “relative” – militia machines compete over turf and politics. The Sadrist Mahdi Army and the SIIC’s Badr militia blame each other for the tensions in the district, and factional splits within militias only exacerbate matters. And yet they come: Iraqi Shi'a fleeing insecurity in other districts are moving into the district, driving up rents and buoying economic activity. As a local councilman put it, “This experience in Kadhimiya, you might find it in the future in every neighborhood throughout Iraq.” Worth a full read.

From a grocer in Jami'a, a Christian in Dora, and a Sadrist Imam in Khadimiya, the Monitor’s Howard LaFranchi gathers stories of life in today’s Baghdad. These three slice-of-life accounts sit in uneasy juxtaposition: The small-time shopkeeper for whom the security plan has driven up business, the Christian who faces the choice to convert or die, and the Sadrist cleric who warily watches the American troops. Worth a full read.

In other coverage:

NEW YORK TIMES

“There is no deal,” says Rep. Obey. With the self-imposed weekend deadline inching closer, Carl Hulse checks in on the efforts to hammer out a compromise over war funding on the Hill. Although due for a Memorial Day vacation, Congress will remain in session until a bill is delivered, Majority Whip Hoyer’s office informed members.

WASHINGTON POST

Top administration officials are beginning to entertain “post-surge” options for Iraq, David Ignatius writes in his column, many of which track with the recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group, including training of Iraqi forces, “force protection” of US troops, continuing special operations against al-Qa'ida, combating Shi'a militias, and maintaining Iraq’s territorial integrity, and pushing the oil law and reversing de-Ba'thification measures, as well as supporting “bottom-up” reconciliation between major groups. Ignatius notes that these policies are similar to what several top military officials, including CENTCOM chief Adm. Fallon, are thinking, but wonders aloud about the “wild card” in the debate: Partisan politics in DC.

From Amman, Richard Cohen argues, unconvincingly, that a US withdrawal in Iraq would be bad news for US clients in the region such as Jordan, Egypt, and ultimately Israel.

WALL STREET JOURNAL

In a contributed op-ed, former Sen. Bob Kerrey rehearses the original arguments for the Iraq war, papering over the contradictions between what was said in 2002-2003 and what is said now. He then argues that the US should continue a military war on Islamic extremists, straw-manning American liberals along the way. As even top Bush administration officials float “Plan B” ideas, the opinion editors at the WSJ are ready to keep on surging.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

Dante Chinni profiles the Weekly Standard’s Bill Roggio, who maintains that “as a whole, the coverage in Iraq lacks context, and reporters as a whole display a lack of knowledge of counterinsurgency and the role the media plays in an insurgency's information campaign.” Roggio says, “Like it or not, the media is a part of the battlefield. Why do the media refuse to recognize their role as participants – even if passive – in this war?” Strangely, Chinni saves the last several paragraphs for himself, in order to rebut Roggio’s views. “And there is a lot of bad news in Iraq beyond bombings. As the Brookings Institution's Iraq Index statistically shows, the country's schools and health system are in trouble, and unemployment is about 30 percent. Still, from your perspective (addressing Roggio), the changing media landscape itself must be some consolation. People can always click on different websites for other perspectives.”

USA TODAY

No Iraq coverage today.

Daily Column
Sadr City between a "Soft Approach" and the "Falluja Plan"; Actors under Fire
By GREG HOADLEY 05/21/2007 01:57 AM ET
In Iraq-related coverage, the Post runs circles around its rival to the north today: While the Times just opts for a daily roundup of Iraq violence, the Post gets down to business with three Iraq-datelined stories, including a look at Iraqi theater during wartime, and an important update on American strategy for infiltrating Sadr City, with the disturbing revelation that US forces have not ruled out an all-out assault on the district à la Falluja 2004.

Meanwhile, the Post also notices in a front-pager that the Iraq Study Group is gradually getting more airtime in policy circles as the “surge” delivers mixed results, at best, and Washington looks for answers.

USAT reports a US announcement of major operations against militants who targeted helicopters, but few details are to be had.

Seven US soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter were killed in two separate IED explosions on Saturday, John Ward Anderson and Sudarsan Raghavan report in the Post. An attack in Baghdad killed six GIs and their interpreter during a search for bomb-making equipment in Western Baghdad, and one soldier was killed in Diwaniya. US forces killed Azhar al-Dulaimi, the alleged ringleader of a January attack in Karbala where assailants disguised as US soldiers infiltrated a compound, resulting in the deaths of five GIs, near Sadr City. Dulaimi, according to US forces, appeared to surrender, but was shot when he tried to grab another soldier’s gun. He died en route to the hospital. According to US forces, Dulaimi had been trained by Iranian intelligence and the Lebanese Hizbullah, although no evidence linked Iran to the Karbala attack. An Iraqi Interior Ministry official said its forces had clashed with a group digging trenches in Baghdad’s Dora neighborhood, killing 14. US forces said they killed eight and arrest 34 in separate operations west and southwest of Baghdad. The AP reported that 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Hakim was diagnosed with cancer in the US and has traveled to Iran, where he will undergo chemotherapy. 22 bodies were recovered in Baghdad, six in Mahmudiya, and four in Mosul.

A chlorine-laden truck bomb killed 11 at a police installation in Ramadi, David Cloud writes in the Times. A car bomb near the Interior Ministry killed two, and US-Iraqi forces clashed with “Shiite militia members” in the Jihad neighborhood. Two Iraqi soldiers were killed in two bombing attacks in Baghdad. Cloud also notes Gen. Petraeus’s open letter to the Iraqis and President Talibani’s trip to the United States for weight-control care. Cloud reports that Talibani will be in the States for a “multiweek visit.”

The idea of imposing “benchmarks” for the Maliki government, which has become the Iraqi policy du jour, is lifted from the recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton commission, Michael Abramowitz reminds us in the Post. The Iraq Study Group’s conclusions, having earlier fallen by the wayside, are now becoming fashionable on the Hill, and may yet form the basis of a bipartisan push on Iraq policy. A group of lawmakers from both parties are sponsoring legislation to make the ISG’s 79 recommendations the official policy of the United States. Abramowitz notes that the administration is, in a way, already implementing some of the commission’s action points, including dialogue with Syria and Iran. It seems that the ISG recommendations are becoming the accepted counterpoint to the “surge,” the Bush policy that aborted the national debate over the group’s findings. As the pendulum swings back, it should be noted that any desperate DC consensus over the blue-ribbon report does not necessarily translate into better US fortunes in Iraq.

Baghdad’s artistic theater circle centered around the National Theater is highlighted in Ernesto Londoño’s enterprise report for the Post. Londoño describes the ambivalent feelings of the theater community: No longer targeted by the state censors, actors and intellectuals are now targeted by militias and gunmen, either for what they express on stage, or for no apparent reason at all. At least 14 actors have been killed since the 2003 invasion. At the same time, Londoño’s report offers a brief appreciation of the efforts of the theater community to express, in their own way, Iraq’s ineffable condition. Londoño describes a performance of “’The Intensive Care Unit’, a one-act play, (which) satirizes the country's ruined state. Cast members -- university students and recent graduates -- also portray a broken-hearted lover, a poet without a muse, an actor with no stage and a man hunched over from frantically searching for his lost ID. There's also a sweeper, a theater director, an Iraqi who wants to be a Westerner, a bully and The Authority, a stoic man in a long black coat to whom they all turn for guidance. The cast includes Sunnis, Shiites and a Christian. The actors are unpaid and most are unemployed. Performances are held only during the day, because the city turns into a ghost town after dark. There is no entrance fee. Audience members, most of whom are fellow actors or friends of cast members, are frisked for weapons and explosives as they enter.” Kudos to the Post for making space for a small part of Iraq’s rich cultural heritage. Worth a full read.

Also in the Post, Ann Scott Tyson prints an important update on US efforts to sidle into Sadr City. US strategy thus far rests on a combination of largesse on the one hand, and special forces raids on the other. Gen. Petraeus “personally approves” all targets for US raids in the 2-million-strong district, commanders said. However, this strategy only goes so far: Many in the Iraqi forces with whom the US is meant to be cooperating are affiliated with militias, the joint US-Iraqi base outside the district suffers constant attack, and recipients of US patronage are targeted for reprisals. Meanwhile “targeted” raids have continued in the district, and US sources say they have removed “a whole layer of middle people” in the Mahdi Army. The status of the militia in Sadr City (and all over the country) still remains unclear as Muqtada al-Sadr has not reversed his orders that the militia stand down as the security plan unfolds. As US reinforcements arrive in the coming weeks, Sadr City will be a major focus of US activity. “Commanders say they intend to use political negotiations to gain peaceful entry into the district, bringing with them Iraqi forces and reconstruction projects.” Should that fail, Tyson drops a bombshell about Plan B: "A second Falluja plan exists, but we don't want to execute it," a US officer in Baghdad told the Post.

Rick Jervis of USAT rounds up some of the issues concerning the draft oil law, reporting that influential Kurdish MP Mahmoud Othman said that there is “no way” the Parliament will pass the bill by the Maliki government’s May 31 target date. For those who have been following the issue, there is little new in the USAT article. For those who haven’t, Jervis’s piece will get you started, but see also the Monitor’s extensive coverage some days ago. Jervis also does not note that the Shi'a community in Iraq does not speak with one voice about the draft, and that secular nationalist Iraqis also tend view the measure with suspicion.

In other coverage:

USA TODAY

Without revealing much in the way of detail, the US military says it has broken up the Iraqi militant units responsible for the spate of helicopter downings earlier in the year, Jim Michaels writes in USAT. The operations apparently involved exploiting US intelligence on the attack methods and launching counterambushes on the assailants. The US Army’s top aviation officer, Maj. Gen. James Simmons told USAT that the number killed or captured in the operations was less than 100. Six military and two civilian helicopters were downed in January and February, ending in fatalities. A US military Kiowa chopper was downed in May, injuring two soldiers, and a Black Hawk was forced down in April with no casualties.

From Fort Drum, Oren Dorell looks at the culture of tattoo artistry among US soldiers, noting that soldiers returning from the Iraq and Afganistan theaters tend to opt for different designs than those shipping out. “In the beginning they wanted tattoos that identified them by name, religion or simply as soldiers,” said one tattoo artist, who said that “those who return are requesting skulls, patriotic phrases or memorials to fallen comrades.” Noting that the pain of the needle and the permanence of the design can be a form of ersatz therapy for veterans, Dorell also provides a brief history of tattoo art and a few examples of soldiers’ ink.

WALL STREET JOURNAL

Part description of a battle in Diyala province, part promo for Ahmad Chalabi, and part appeal for US support, Melik Kaylan contributes an op-ed to the Journal describing an attack at a gathering in Diyala where Chalabi was staging a media event for state-run al-Iraqiya television to support a group of local tribal shaykhs who had pledged to fight al-Qa'ida. If it is true of Chalabi, as Kaylan writes, that, “Among Iraqis he is highly respected,” why did his INC not win a single seat in the Parliament?

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

No Iraq coverage today.

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