FROM Ned Parker
US Lays Diplomatic Groundwork for Action Against Islamic State The world is waiting for tonight’s speech by President Obama on his strategy for a new coalition against the extremist Islamic State. Much will depend on Iraq’s new government and in Baghdad today, Secretary of State John Kerry met with the Shiite prime minister, the Kurdish president and the Sunni speaker of Parliament. Ned Parker is Baghdad Bureau Chief for the Reuters News Service.
The Iraq We Left Behind, Is It a Democracy? As Iraq heads into parliamentary elections on Wednesday, the country is slipping back into civil war. Dozens of people have died at a campaign rally and polling sites. Fighting in Anbar province has destroyed villages and turned tens of thousands of Iraqis out of their homes. Scores of people were killed in suicide bombings at polling centers, where police and other government officials are casting early ballots. On Friday more than 30 people died in explosions at a campaign rally for Shiite groups in Baghdad. This year is on track to be the bloodiest since the height of sectarian violence in Iraq in 2006 and 2007. Will bloodshed and religious strife derail democracy? Will this election change anything given Iraq's increasingly authoritarian Prime Minister? Should the US recommit to help stabilize this fledgling democracy it withdrew from little more than two years ago?
Al Qaeda Is Making a Comeback Al Qaeda militants in Iraq, known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, have fought to seize control of Fallujah and Ramadi in Anbar Province, where at least 100 American troops were killed during the Iraq War. Although US troops are no longer there, the civil war rages on. According to the United Nations, more than 7800 people were killed in Iraq last year. Just today, dozens were killed at an Iraqi Army Recruiting Center. ISIS' resurgence is mirrored in other conflicts in the Mideast, stemming from the Syrian war and creating instability from Baghdad to Beirut, as Shiite-Sunni sectarian violence is creating fault lines from Saudi Arabia to Iran. How do veterans feel about the resurgence of al Qaeda? What does it say about the sectarian violence? What, if anything, should the US do about it?
Iraqi Cities Ripped by Sectarian Violence, Stoked by Syrian War In the worst sectarian violence in five years, Shia neighborhoods in Iraq were hit by a series of car bombs today. At least 60 people were killed and some 200 were wounded. Los Angeles Times reporter Ned Parker was in Baghdad two weeks ago.
Iraq's Government Impasse Broken Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's party came in second in last spring's election, but after eight months of a dangerous impasse, Maliki will keep his job. Ned Parker reports from Baghdad for the Los Angeles Times .
Iraq in the Rear-view Mirror The Army's 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division was the last combat detachment to leave Iraq after seven years of warfare. Over the course of three days, 360 military vehicles and 1800 soldiers went from Baghdad through the Shiite south and finally into Kuwait. "The road out is marked with blood and regret for the years [these soldiers] spent away from family." That's according to Ned Parker, an embedded reporter from the Los Angeles Times .
Can Democracy Survive in Iraq? The party of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi won two more seats in this month's parliamentary elections than the party of current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Maliki has called the outcome a "fraud," and demanded a recount. Today, Allawi claimed that Iran is trying to prevent him from forming a government.
Can Democracy Survive in Iraq? What if you have an election and nobody wins? That's the latest challenge to democracy in Iraq, and it may take months for a new government to be formed. It's not even clear if the current prime minister or one of his predecessors should get the first chance to try building a coalition strong enough to take charge. Prolonged delay might produce political compromise or a return to sectarian civil war, and both leading candidates are looking over their shoulders at Iran. Should the Obama Administration stay the course and pull combat troops out by the end of August, or will continued stability require US boots on the ground?
Female Suicide Bombers Kill Dozens in Iraq In the midst of a four-year low in violence, Iraq today was struck by four suicide bombers. Twenty-five were killed and 178 wounded by a suicide bomber in Kirkuk. In Baghdad, three women blew themselves up, killing a total of 32 and wounding 102. Ned Parker is reporting from Baghdad for the Los Angeles Times .
Troop Withdrawal and Campaign Promises John McCain 's been consistent in claiming he won't draw down troops in Iraq until "victory" is guaranteed, whenever that might happen. Barack Obama says he's been consistent too, but Republicans claim it's a flip-flop when he says his sixteen-month timeline depends on Iraqi stability. With reports that violence is decreasing, is Obama revising his plan? Was McCain right about the surge? Is Iraq's Shiite-dominated government making peace with Sunni insurgents, or could violence resume and upset the strategies of both candidates?
The Iraqi Ceasefire: Winners and Losers Baghdad and Basra are calmer now that Muqtada al-Sadr has told his Mahdi Army to stop fighting government forces, but government politicians went to Iran to make the deal. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's surprise offensive has revealed more weakness than strength. The shaky ceasefire occurred after US forces took sides in a struggle between two groups of Shiites. What’s next for Sunnis, Kurds and other factions? What’s the role of Iran, now and in the future? Will US troop withdrawal depend on local players and events it has no way to control?
Is Iraq's Government on the Verge of Collapse With the parliament off on a month-long vacation, five more Iraqi cabinet ministers quit today, the last of the Sunnis in a Shiite-dominated regime. The latest to leave the government of Nouri al-Maliki are loyal to former Prime Minister Ayad Allawai. Also today, suicide bomber killed at least 28 people, including 19 children, in Tal Afar, a religiously mixed city north of Baghdad. This comes on the heels of Defense Secretary Robert Gates' very public disappointment over the failure of political reconciliation. We hear about Iraqi politics and the government's inability to provide basic services, including water and power. Is it too late for the Iraq Study Group's recommendations ? Should Iraq be divided into three separate entities?
Senate Debates Military Draw-down in Iraq Democratic Senate leaders staged an all-night debate on their plan to give President Bush just 120 days to start bringing troops home from Iraq. Republicans called it a "circus," a "mockery" and "Kabuki theater." Before noon today, the Democrats lost a procedural vote to cut off debate. Yet, despite today's outcome, there's no doubt that many Republicans are uncomfortable about the President's course in Iraq —especially those who are up for re-election next year, and back an alternative that incorporates recommendations of the Iraq Study Group . Meantime, polls show that a majority of Americans think it's time for the troops to come home. We hear about the marathon session and what's next for efforts to force the President to change direction. We also talk to authorities about troop withdrawal, whether the "surge" still has a chance or if it is only postponing the inevitable.
Moqtada al-Sadr Delivers Sermon in Kufa After months in hiding, Moqtada al-Sadr emerged in Iraq today to deliver a sermon to thousand of worshipers at a mosque in the southern city of Kufa . His speech was laced with his trademark anti-American rhetoric and his return comes at a time when there are growing signs that extremists in his militia have been disobeying orders to stand down from sectarian violence.
Funding the Troops; Fighting the Enemy in Iraq; Safety in the Green Zone Democratic leaders in the House and Senate hope to send President Bush an Iraq spending bill by the end of this week. It would include political benchmarks for the Iraqi government but not a timeline for withdrawal of troops. A car bomb has killed at least 25 people and wounded 60 or more today in a Baghdad market. Also, Inside the Green Zone , the US is building a complex that will be the largest US embassy in the world. Waiting for it to be finished, US State Department employees are angry over what they call inadequate safety precautions.
Ex-FBI Director Comey tells his side of the story Today, former FBI Director James Comey came close to calling the President who fired him a liar. The White House denied the claim and called it insulting, but Republican Senators did not challenge Comey’s truthfulness. Many questions remain: did the President try to obstruct a federal investigation? Later, we’ll go behind the “velvet rope” for a look at 5-Star health care for the richest Americans.
The Trump agenda: where's the beef? President Trump says big things are happening. After celebrating a House bill on health care, he doesn’t yet have Senate agreement. With James Comey’s public testimony scheduled tomorrow, the President today tweeted his selection of a new FBI Director. Is the Chief Executive all style and no substance? Later, terror attacks in Iran and conflicting claims about who’s behind them.