Archive for the ‘al-Maliki’ Category

Iraqi parliament OKs US troops for 3 more years

November 27, 2008

Iraq’s parliament approved Thursday a security pact with the United States that lets American troops stay in the country for three more years — setting a clear timetable for a U.S. exit for the first time since the 2003 invasion.

By Qassim Abdul-zahra, Associated Press Writer

The vote in favor of the pact was backed by the ruling coalition’s Shiite and Kurdish blocs as well as the largest Sunni Arab bloc, which had demanded concessions for supporting the deal. The haggling among the political factions highlighted sectarian-based tensions that hinder reconciliation efforts, nearly six years after Saddam Hussein‘s ouster.

The Shiite bloc agreed to a Sunni demand that the pact be put to a referendum by July 30, meaning the deal must undergo an additional hurdle next year. It took nine months of difficult talks for U.S. and Iraqi negotiators to craft the agreement.

Under the agreement, U.S. forces will withdraw from Iraqi cities by June 30 and the entire country by Jan. 1, 2012. Iraq will have strict oversight over U.S. forces.

Lawmakers voted with a show of hands, and an exact breakdown of the parliamentary vote was not immediately available. But parliament speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani said an “overwhelming majority” of lawmakers who attended the session voted in favor. Parliament’s secretariat, which counted lawmakers as they entered the chamber, said 220 out of 275 legislators attended.

“This is a historic day for parliament,” said Deputy Speaker Khalid al-Attiyah, a close ally of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. “More than three-quarters of those present at today’s session voted for the agreement, and that was not expected.”

Al-Maliki appeared to have won the comfortable majority that he sought in order to give the agreement additional legitimacy.

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Al-Maliki stressing US departure from Iraq

November 1, 2008

Iraq’s prime minister is pushing the idea that the U.S. departure is in sight in a bid to sell the security deal with Washington to Iran.

To reinforce the message, the Iraqis are asking for changes to the deal that would effectively rule out extending the U.S. military presence beyond 2011.

By ROBERT H. REID, Associated Press Writer

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his allies are also describing the agreement not as a formula for long-term U.S.-Iraqi security cooperation — the original goal when the talks began earlier this year — but as a way to manage the U.S. withdrawal.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, pictured here in May 2008, ... 
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, pictured here in May 2008, said on Friday he will submit the text of the controversial security pact with the United States to all of his country’s neighbours.(AFP/File/Qassem Zein)

It’s unclear whether this will be enough to win over the Iranians and Iraqi critics — or whether the U.S. will go along with the demands submitted by the Iraqi Cabinet this week.

The Iraqis want expanded Iraqi jurisdiction over U.S. troops and elimination of a clause that could allow the soldiers to stay past a tentative Dec. 31, 2011 deadline.

Iran strongly opposes the agreement, fearing it could lead to U.S. troops remaining in a neighboring country indefinitely.

With Iranian sensitivities in mind, the Iraqis also want an explicit ban on the U.S. using Iraqi territory to attack its neighbors — a demand that was reinforced by last Sunday’s U.S. raid against a suspected al-Qaida hideout in Syria.

If Washington won’t bend, key Iraqi politicians believe the deal will never win parliament’s approval. U.S. diplomats are studying the proposals.

But some U.S. officials in Washington have privately expressed doubts about chances to reach an agreement before the U.N. mandate authorizing the U.S. mission expires at the end of next month.

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Iraq pledges to fight Kurdish rebels

November 3, 2007

By ANNE GEARAN, AP Diplomatic Writer 

ISTANBUL, Turkey – Iraq promised Saturday to work with its neighbors and the U.S. to combat Kurdish guerrillas who have attacked Turkey from hide-outs in the north. The border crisis overshadowed Iraq’s other problems at an international conference on the country’s future.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acted as a buffer and go-between for Turkey, an important NATO ally, and the U.S.-backed government in Baghdad. She sought to stave off what the Bush administration fears could become a dangerous new front in the Iraq war, now in its fifth year.

“Iraq should not be a base for attacks against neighbors,” Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told delegates at the session hosted by Turkey. “We will cooperate …..

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State Department Security Chief Resigns Amid Blackwater Turmoil; Iraq Wants the Security Contractor Out

October 24, 2007

By MATTHEW LEE, Associated Press

WASHINGTON – The State Department’s security chief resigned on Wednesday in the wake of last month’s deadly Blackwater USA shooting incident in Baghdad and growing questions about the use of private contractors to protect diplomats in Iraq.

Richard Griffin, the Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, announced his decision to step down at a weekly staff meeting, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said, adding that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accepted the resignation, which is effective Nov. 1.

“Secretary Rice is grateful to Ambassador Griffin for his record of long exemplary service to the nation,” McCormack said. “He has distinguished himself during a 36-year career with the U.S. government, serving in some of the most sensitive and demanding posts.”

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Iraq Still Determined to Expell Blackwater USA

By STEVEN R. HURST, Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD – The Iraqi government remains determined to expel the Blackwater USA security company and is searching for legal remedies to overturn an American-imposed decree that exempts all foreign bodyguards from prosecution under local laws, officials said Wednesday.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki‘s government accepted the findings of an Iraqi investigative committee that determined Blackwater guards, without provocation, killed 17 Iraqis last month in Nisoor Square in western Baghdad.

Iraqi investigators declared that Blackwater should be expelled and $8 million should be paid as compensation for each victim.

The officials said the Cabinet decided Tuesday to establish a committee to find ways to repeal a 2004 directive issued by L. Paul Bremer, chief of the former U.S. occupation government in Iraq. The order placed private security companies outside Iraqi law.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.

The Iraqi probe into the Sept. 16 shooting found that Blackwater personnel guarding a State Department convoy opened fire on Iraqis without reason. Blackwater said its men came under fire first, although no witnesses have been found to corroborate the claim. The guards involved have been isolated and have not been available to comment.

The Iraqi officials said Cabinet ministers again demanded that the U.S. Embassy, Blackwater’s biggest client in Iraq, expel the company. U.S. officials have said any action must await completion of an American investigation.

In Washington, the State Department’s security chief, Richard Griffin, announced his resignation a day after a review panel created by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ordered a series of measures to boost government oversight of the private guards who protect American diplomats in Iraq.

Rice’s review panel found serious lapses in the department’s oversight of such guards, who are employed by Griffin’s bureau.

Neither Griffin nor spokesmen for the department’s Diplomatic Security Bureau could be reached for immediate comment.

In a Shiite district southeast of Baghdad, meanwhile, two bombs exploded seconds apart near a bus station Wednesday, killing at least nine people, police and hospital officials said.

The blasts, which occurred about 30 yards apart in Jisr Diyala, targeted government employees, construction workers and vendors waiting for minibuses to take them into the capital, officials said. Vendors were selling pastries, juice and tea to the workers.

Three policemen, women and children were among the nine killed and 23 wounded, officials said.

Mohammed Nuaman, a 36-year-old store owner who was wounded by shrapnel in the shoulder, said rescue efforts were complicated by a damaged bridge. The bridge, which spans the Diyala River to connect the area with Baghdad proper, was bombed in May and remains under repair.

“I heard a big explosion at the bus station area and another bomb went off about 30 seconds later, as I was heading to the area,” Nuamen said.

“Locals rushed to the area and carried some wounded by their cars to the nearby Zafaraniyah hospital before the ambulances and police arrived about 15 minutes later,” he said.

Hours later, mortar shells rained onto a neighborhood in Hibhib, 30 miles north of Baghdad, killing at least five civilians and wounding 17, police said.

Hibhib, a Sunni town in Diyala province, was the area where al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed by a U.S. airstrike last year.

A police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to release the information, said the mortar rounds were launched from the nearby district of Hidaid and were targeting Sunnis who had turned against al-Qaida.

Despite bombings in Baghdad and elsewhere, the Iraqi civilian death count is projected to decline for the second consecutive month. At the current pace, October would have a death count of fewer than 900, down from 1,023 in September and 1,956 in August, according to figures compiled by The Associated Press.

The AP tally is compiled from hospital, police and military officials, as well as accounts from reporters and photographers. Insurgent deaths are not included. Other counts differ and some have given higher civilian death tolls.

U.S. and Iraqi military commanders said a security crackdown had succeeded in sharply reducing the violence.

Lt. Gen. Abboud Qanbar, the Iraqi in charge of the operation, said overall terrorist acts in Baghdad had decreased by 59 percent and the number of Iraqi casualties by 77 percent since the crackdown began in February. He also said car bombs in the capital were down by 65 percent and the number of people killed in bombings was down by 81 percent.

“All sectors in Baghdad have witnessed a decrease in terrorist activities,” Qanbar said. “This has brought life to normal in many parts of Baghdad.”

The American military has reported 29 military deaths in October, down sharply from the month before. The latest fatality reported occurred Wednesday when a land mine exploded in Salahuddin province north of Baghdad, the U.S. military reported.

The U.S. second-in-command said attack levels in Baghdad were on a “steady downward trend” and were now at the lowest level since January 2006.

Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno said he expected the U.S. military to make steady progress over the next year in turning over large parts of Baghdad to Iraqi forces. “I think it’ll be somewhere between 40 and 50 percent by the end of the year,” he told reporters.

Related:

Armed Civilian Security Personnel In Iraq Held to Military Rules 

Democrats see ‘results’ in Iraq war

August 21, 2007

Top Senate Democrats have started to acknowledge progress in Iraq, with the chairman of the Armed Services Committee yesterday saying the U.S. troop surge is producing “measurable results.”

Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan highlighted improved security in Baghdad and al Qaeda losses in Anbar province as examples of success — a shift for Democrats who have mainly discounted or ignored advances on the battlefield for weeks.

“The military aspects of President Bush’s new strategy in Iraq … appear to have produced some credible and positive results,” Mr. Levin said in a joint statement with Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, after a two-day visit last week to Iraq.

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