Iraq's Kurds have been enthusiastic U.S. allies since before the 2003 invasion. But as the Kurds have expanded their control over their oil-rich territory—and as they reassert claims to the contested city of Kirkuk ahead of a constitutionally mandated referendum—tensions are mounting with the central government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and with Arabs and other ethnic groups.
U.S. soldiers leaned back on metal chairs in the open parking lot where the crowds walked through metal detectors. Inside their cordon they mingled through the stands at Baghdad's national soccer stadium.
Iraqi government representatives faced leaders of the Awakening tribal militia movement in Baghdad today to hear their complaints and answer with promises that they are not being abandoned.
A new United Nations report on human rights in Iraq cites Iraqi prisons for continued torture of detainees, incarceration for months without charges and warns, as it has in the past, that "security may not be sustainable unless significant steps are taken in the area of human rights such as strengthening the rule of law and addressing impunity." The report (PDF), covers mainly the last half of 2008.
The implications of the January provincial elections are still playing out in Iraqi politics. Since they required intramural competition among Sunni and Shiite political parties (rather than just the old, lopsided Shiite vs.
With security improving, the toughest part of Saturday's Iraqi provincial elections might be educating voters about how to mark their ballots. An attempt to explain a truly complex process: The elections are for the provincial councils in 14 of the country's 18 provinces.
Ahmed Chalabi just sent me a text message. "Elect slate 274 now. The future is in your hands, Dr. Ahmed Chalabi, Iraqi National Congress, paid advertisement," stated the little script across my phone screen.
Last summer when Barack Obama made his only visit to Iraq, he met one of Iraq's most influential and colorful sheiks. Sheik Ali Hatim watched the inauguration last night and remembered telling Obama that his schedule for pulling troops from Iraq was too fast and could leave the country again in chaos. "I don't want you to stay forever but fix what you messed up," he says he told the then presumptive Democratic nominee. "We will not abandon you," he remembers Obama telling him.
It's bad enough to have phone lines that have not worked for years. It's worse to get billed for them. In recent weeks, Iraqis have been getting visits from employees of the government phone company handing them large bills for phone service–their first bills in years.
As a ceremonial and social event, the dedication of the new U.S. Embassy in Baghdad was an unqualified success. The sun shone on a cool winter day. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani expressed his gratitude for America's sacrifices to drive a despot from his homeland and Ambassador Ryan Crocker pledged his country's continuing support.