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The US is handing over control to Iraq's own security forces as it prepares to withdraw combat troops from all Iraqi cities by June 30. But strains in political reconciliation and a new wave of bombings threaten to re-ignite simmering sectarian tensions between Sunnis and Shiites. Iraqis have enjoyed a new calm in recent months. Will it hold? What will the US do if it doesn't? Also, Republican Senator Arlen Specter changes parties, and with cases of swine flu reported on several continents, we talk with a noted authority on epidemic diseases.
Banner image: The remains of an Iraqi suicide bomber lay on the street following an attack in the northeastern town of Baquba 60 kms from Baghdad on April 20. Disguised as an Iraqi policeman, the bomber killed three officers and wounded eight US soldiers and a civilian, in the third such attack on security forces in just over a week. Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images
Specter Switches Parties to Democrats ()
Pennsylvania's US Senator was elected as a Reagan Republican in 1980. Today Arlen Specter said the party's moved so far to the right that Republicans in his state are becoming Democrats, so he is too. John Mercurio is Executive of The Hotline, National Journal's daily briefing on politics.
- John Mercurio: Senior Editor, The Hotline
Pakistan, Afghanistan, the economy and swine flu are dominating the news today, but Iraq presents challenges that aren't going away. After suicide bombings killed more than 150 people last week in Iraq, Hillary Clinton made her first visit as Secretary of State. Asked if the US has put Iraq on the back burner, she said the US is committed to seeing “a stable, sovereign, self-reliant Iraq,” but that a transition is under way. The recent violence proves that sectarian tensions remain, and the Shiite-led government is making life hard for Sunnis who've helped maintain order. As US troops begin to withdraw, the worst case scenario is civil war. If Iraqi forces can't maintain order, will the withdrawal schedule have to be revised? Would escalating violence bring in Iran, Turkey and other regional powers?
- Alissa Johannsen Rubin: Baghdad Bureau Chief, New York Times, @alissanyt
- Ali Allawi: former Iraqi Minister of Trade, Defense and Finance
- Thomas Ricks: Senior Fellow, Center for a New American Security
What's Next for Swine Flu? ()
Outbreaks of Swine Flu have now been confirmed in seven countries; the Centers for Disease Control have confirmed 64 cases in the US. Different countries are imposing different precautions. So far, the only deaths reported have been in Mexico. Yesterday, the World Health Organization raised its pandemic threat level from 3 to 4. A full-scale pandemic would register 6. Laurie Garrett, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, is author of The Betrayal of Trust: The Collapse of Global Public Health.
- Laurie Garrett: Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
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