Indeed, Mr. Maliki intervened Wednesday to win the rapid release of one of Mr. Sadr's prominent loyalists, who was seized in an American-led raid on Tuesday and suspected of complicity in death squads. The release provoked a new wave of exasperation among American officials and military commanders, who have made little secret of their growing doubts about Mr. Maliki's political will or ability to stop the killings.
Mr. Maliki removed the country's two most senior police commanders this week in a major restructuring of the Shiite-led police forces, which have been widely accused of abetting death squads. But American officials and some Iraqi leaders have demanded further changes.
As American soldiers continued intensive patrols of Baghdad neighborhoods to try to stop the capital from slipping out of control, the military announced on Wednesday that 11 service members had died Tuesday, making it one of the deadliest days for the American military since the start of the war. The death on Wednesday of another American brought October's total to at least 70, putting this month on track to be the third deadliest of the conflict.
Two news conferences in Najaf, one attended by Mr. Maliki and Mr. Sadr, and one attended by Mr. Maliki alone, produced no concrete agreements that might herald a truce by the Mahdi Army.
The above is from Kirk Semple and John F. Burns' "Premier of Iraq Seeks Assistance of Shiite Clerics" in this morning's New York Times. Why John F. Burns? A friend at the Times wants this noted. This is one opinion, Burns in the byline to say to those in NYC: "Back the hell off." Michael Luo wrote a strong piece of reporting that is everything the Times wants from their reporters. But then the US has an official statement from 'officials' and his report got trashed. Rewritten basically line for line by someone not in Iraq, someone who hadn't observed a damn thing.
The friend is very pro-John F. Burns. So make of the above what you will but there is no question that Tuesday was one of the most embarrassing days of this month for the Times as they yet again buckled while destroying reporting they had run in print by allowing someone in NYC to reshape, re-edit and censor a report from Iraq. I use the word "censor" and friends at the paper do as well. If I hear from others at the paper that Burns' co-byline was intended as a message, good for him. What was done was an insult to every one of the reporters and stringers in Iraq and it was an insult to news.
Staying on the topic of insults, from Robert Burns' "Marines Plan to Recall Some Battalions" (AP):
The Marines are drawing up plans to send back to Iraq at least some reserve combat battalions that have already served one tour there, officials said Wednesday -- the first time such units would be returned to the war.
[. . .]
The return of Marine Reserve combat battalions to Iraq would begin in 2008, according to a senior Marine officer who discussed the subject on condition he not be identified because no official announcement has been made. Thus, the first picked to go back probably would be remobilized next year to train for the mission.
The plan, put forward by Gen. Michael Hagee, the Marine commandant, could be modified as the situation in Iraq changes, officials said. For planning purposes, the Marines are working out future force rotations that would include at least one Reserve combat battalion starting in 2008.
Anyone remember Bully Boy's hints that as this year drew to a close US forces in Iraq would be drawn down to 100,000? Didn't happen. And it's not happening.
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