Parliament on Wednesday approved a controversial law that will allow Iraq to be carved into a federation of autonomous regions, after Sunni Arabs and some Shiite Muslims stormed out of the session in protest.
The bill passed the 275-member parliament by a vote of 141 to 0, despite a nearly successful attempt by opponents to prevent a quorum by walking out, said Mohanned Abdul Jabbar, an aide to parliament speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani.
The measure, introduced by a powerful Shiite group last month, creates a mechanism that many believe will lead to a predominantly Shiite zone in southern Iraq that would parallel the semiautonomous Kurdish region in the north. Sunnis vehemently oppose such a division, which would leave them with an area in central Iraq that lacks the vast oil wealth of the north and south.
The above, noted by Martha, is from Amit R. Paley's "Parliament Approves Measure Allowing Autonomous Regions" (Washington Post). Kirk Semple covers the issue above in this morning's New York Times. From his "In Victory for Shiite Leader, Iraqi Parliament Approves Creating Autonomous Regions," we'll pull this part because it updates the number wounded on the Tuesday night attack of the US munitions depot:
The mortar attack on Forward Operating Base Falcon, on the southern fringes of Baghdad was conducted by "civilians aligned with a militia organization," an American military statement said. The insurgents fired four 82-millimeter rounds at the base and one struck the ordnance supply, igniting tank, artillery and small-arms ammunition, officials said.
Powerful explosions continued for several hours, spraying huge chunks of jagged shrapnel across the base, destroying trailers, breaking windows, knocking doors off their hinges and shaking buildings across the capital, where alarmed residents were reminded of overnight aerial bombardments that signaled the start of the American-led invasion in 2003.
Three people were lightly wounded, all servicemen on the base who quickly returned to duty, military officials said.
Semple's coverage of the move towards federalism is a bit too upbeat for me which is the other reason we're going with the above for the excerpt. He does offer that a faction of Shi'ites (led by Sadr) argue that delibartions on the issue of splitting a nation into three parts should not go further until US forces depart Iraq. In which case it, at the rate things are going, that discussion could be tabled for four years or more.
Semple also notes the American military fatality count which has risen one more since his story was filed: 42 for the month, 2755 since the beginning of the illegal war.
Also in the Times, David S. Cloud is left to cover George W. Casey Jr.'s Pentagon press briefing and, frankly, doesn't add much to it. Sandra Lupien's stressed something on Tuesday and Wednesday that Cloud's missed in "Top U.S. Officer in Iraq Sees Spike in Violence" so we'll pick that up in the snapshot today:
General Casey suggested at the briefing that broad changes were not necessary, though he added, "We constantly review our strategy."
Mr. Bush was responding to questions about comments from, among others, Senator John W. Warner, Republican of Virginia and chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and James A. Baker III, a former secretary of state and co-chairman of a bipartisan panel reviewing Iraq policy, both of whom have said some new approach may be needed.
And on the topic of violence in Iraq Aseel Kami's "Gunmen storm Iraqi TV station, kill 11" (Reuters):
Gunmen stormed the offices of a new Iraqi satellite channel in Baghdad on Thursday and killed 11 employees in one of the biggest single attacks on Iraqi media, frequent targets of militant groups.
Elsewhere in Baghdad, a string of bomb blasts killed at least eight people, police said. Hundreds of people are killed every week in the capital in daily shootings and bombings blamed on Sunni insurgents and sectarian death squads.
Hassan Kamil, executive manager of Shaabiya satellite channel, said gunmen raided the station's office in eastern Zayouna district at 7 a.m. (0400 GMT), killing guards, technicians and administrative staff.
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