The New York Times’ Richard A. Oppel Jr. reports on the latest explosion in Baquba, which killed a “pro-American Sunni militia leader”(Awakening Council leader), an Iraqi police captain, a local politician, and five others. Thirty were wounded. The extent of the damage first led officials to believe that it was caused by a car bomb, but two female legs lying near the site, paired with some characteristics of the blast, suggest that it was in fact the work of a female suicide bomber. The general lack of consistent searching of females has led to a rise in this tactic, thought to be employed by al-Qaeda in Iraq. It was carried out in front of a restaurant popular with policemen. US-backed Awakening (or Sahwa)councils complain of not receiving proper support. In other targeting of Awakening council members, gunmen speeding through Baghdad’s al-Adhamiya district waving machine guns killed at least three of them.
Also in the New York Times, Alissa J. Rubin tells of the American Embassy in Baghdad’s announcement that it had expanded tenfold its program to help Iraqi employees of the American government to obtain visas and ultimately citizenship in the United States. The program was first announced in January, but applications have reportedly been being processed in the past few weeks. Last year, a similar program allowed only 500 Iraqi and Afghan translators to apply, and in 2006 the number was 50. Five thousand per year are slated for the next half decade, which include family members of Iraqis who have worked as translators or in other jobs which served American interests in Iraq, many of whom face threats of violence and death as a result. Rubin gives a good basic explanation of the plan, but Walter Pincus paints a bleaker picture of the situation in the Washington Post, chronicling the US government’s history of failure to help these people, and the continuing obstacles they face.
Iraqi Sports in the News
The Washington Post’s Amit R. Paley and Amy Shipley report that the International Olympic Committee has banned most of the seven Iraqis slated for the upcoming Beijing Olympic Games from participating. Members of Iraq’s disbanded Iraqi Olympic committee had been accused of corruption, rigging elections, and choosing athletes based upon sectarian background. Juliet Macur of the New York Times writes pretty much the same story, but reports that it is only “highly unlikely” that the two remaining candidates (a discus thrower and the much reported-on sprinter Dana Hussein) will be able to attend. More Iraqi hopes dashed.
Joshua Robinson and Ali al-Shouk of the Times report that Iraq’s national football (soccer, to us Yanks) federation is pressing that Qatar should have to forfeit a match four months ago that helped push Iraq’s team out of the World Cup. The argument taken to FIFA, the world governing football body, is that one of Qatar’s players was ineligible to play on their team at the time of the match.
Washington Post Op-ed columnist Charles Krauthammer speaks of Barack Obama and Prime Minister al-Maliki cooperating to mutual benefit, with the oh-so witty title of "Maliki Votes for Obama".
The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page chimes in on Obama’s recent travels, putting it into a historical perspective by comparing it to other American figures' speeches while abroad. Obama is praised for his performances in both Iraq and Europe, but slammed for his unwillingness to admit that everything good in Iraq is due to the “Surge”.
Christian Science Monitor, USA Today no Iraq Coverage.