Tuesday, April 08, 2008

4 US service members died on Monday

Three more U.S. troops were killed Monday as Iraqis struggled to bury their dead amid fierce street battles between Shiite Muslim militias and Iraqi and American soldiers in the nation's capital.
In one of the most intense days of fighting here involving U.S. troops in recent months, American helicopters fired at least four Hellfire missiles and an Air Force jet dropped a bomb on a suspected militia target. Rockets and missiles launched from militia strongholds pounded U.S. bases around the city, where U.S. troops also came under fire from small arms and rocket-propelled grenades. Targets included the Green Zone, where the U.S. Embassy and most Iraqi government buildings are located.
The latest American casualties brought to nine the number of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq since Sunday. At least 18 U.S. service members have been killed in and around Baghdad since March 25, when fighting spread to the capital after Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's decision to launch an offensive against Shiite militiamen in the southern city of Basra.
The fighting and rising death toll are likely to raise new questions about the role of the U.S. in Iraq, and how to define progress or success, as Army Gen. David H. Petraeus appears before Congress today with his latest assessment of the war. The long-awaited testimony will take place before committees that include all three major U.S. presidential candidates: Republican John McCain and Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, all of whom will be afforded the chance to question the general.

As Susman notes Operation Happy Talks rolls into shore this morning. CNN focuses on some participants today:

Sen. John McCain, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, and Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, the two rivals for the Democratic nomination, will share the spotlight when Army Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, the top U.S. diplomat in Iraq, testify.
McCain and Clinton will question Petraeus and Crocker -- and possibly advocate their positions on whether U.S. troops should be withdrawn -- when they appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday morning. McCain is the committee's top Republican.
Obama of Illinois, will have his chance to question Petraeus and Crocker when they appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday afternoon.

Guy Raz provides an audio overview at NPR.

And chaos continues in Iraq. Al Jazeera reports:

Hundreds of people have fled fighting in Baghdad's Sadr City district, as US and Iraqi forces increase pressure on Muqtada al-Sadr, leader of the al-Mahdi Army, to disband his fighters.
Gunfire and an explosion could be heard across Sadr City on Tuesday morning and a low-flying jet was heard circling the capital several hours before sunrise.
At least four mortars hit the Green Zone on Tuesday, while a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol near al-Shaab stadium in the east of the capital exploded, wounding two policemen, police sources said.
Later, another roadside bomb hit a US patrol near Sadr City, injuring a number of soldiers, police said.

Sinan Salaheddin (AP) reports:

Meanwhile, security forces were reported to be blocking al-Sadr's supporters from traveling to Baghdad from outlying areas to attend an anti-U.S. rally scheduled for Wednesday.
Al-Sadr called for the protest to mark the fifth anniversary of the capture of Baghdad by U.S. troops nearly a month after the war started, but many observers see it as a show of force in his confrontation with the government.

What effect could preventing an announced march, one given a 'green light' by the occupiers in the Green Zone, have on Iraq? You'd need real reporters to know that and, case in point, you won't find them. Take this morning's New York Times, James Glanz and Stephen Farrell's "Iraqi Offensive Against Militia Raises Concern" raises concerns about the paper. Well they did a LOUSY job covering the assault on Basra -- one that if most people actually read the Times, would have earned huge ridicule -- so don't expect them to report what's going on right now. A Kurdish parliamentarian is the closet to reporting they offer and he hits their story around paragraph 26. Dig for it if you want to -- it's really not that newsworthy (or even) but it's the only thing of value in their article.

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