Monday, April 28, 2008

Sadr City

Shelling rocked the Green Zone as a sandstorm blanketed Baghdad on Sunday, days after U.S. commanders said they had nearly eliminated deadly rocket and mortar attacks on the heavily fortified government zone through a security crackdown in the eastern slum of Sadr City.
Clashes continued over the weekend in Sadr City, where U.S. and Iraqi forces have confronted fighters tied to the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia loyal to anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. The U.S. military said drones fired Hellfire missiles, killing at least three men believed to be engaging in bomb attacks.
Abu Ammar al-Mayahi, a Mahdi Army fighter, said that U.S. and Iraqi forces continued to press into Sadr City on Sunday but that the dust storm curtailed U.S. use of air power.

The above, noted by Martha, is from Sholnn Freeman's "A Storm of Sand and Shelling" (Washington Post). In the New York Times, Alissa J. Rubin and Erica Goode's "Iraq Struaggle Unfolds in Peaceful Protest and Violence Attacks in Sadr City" charts the protests in support of ending the assault on Sadr City. (The story runs on A6 and we're going with the print title.) From the article:

However, for now, members of Parliament from several parties -- with the apparent exception of some of the Shiite blocs that rival Mr. Sadr's -- seemed to be trying to transcend the fight for power and focus on the terrible living conditions for residents of Sadr City, the impoverished Shiite neighborhood where militiamen and American and Iraqi troops have fought for more than a month.
"What is different about this delegation is that it is composed of all kinds of Iraqis," said Azzad Barbani, a member of Parliament from the Kurdistan Democratic Party. He was among 40 lawmakers who protested Sunday.
"The situation is so bad," he said. "But from a political point of view, the solution is dialogue, without getting rid of any bloc in Parliament."
Mustafa al-Heeti, a Sunni member of Parliament who led the delegation on Sunday, said, "We want to solve the problem peacefully."
Mr. Heeti, of Anbar Province, said the goal of the protest was to demand an end to the fighting and the withdrawal of military forces. He added that a committee of Sadrists and other members of Parliament hoped to meet with Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to discuss their concerns.

And that wasn't the only gathering members of Iraq's Parliament took part in over the weekend. Farah Stockman (Boston Globe) reports:

After a weekend of closed-door negotiations in Helsinki, a group of rival members of Iraq's parliament and tribal leaders are set to announce today that they will gather in Baghdad for the first time for a further round of talks that they hope will lay the foundation for peace in their troubled country.
more stories like this
"Progress has been made," Padraig O'Malley, the UMass-Boston professor and veteran peace activist who organized the meeting, said in a phone interview from the Finnish capital.
O'Malley said the participants agreed upon all but three of 16 broad principles, which he hopes the Iraqi Parliament will eventually endorse, laying the framework for negotiations to reconcile Iraq's warring parties and militias. He said the participants hoped that that their talks would lead to a detailed agreement on core issues that have plagued Iraq, including disarming militias associated with political parties, protecting the rights of minorities, and reducing corruption in government.

Reuters notes the following were in attendance:

Among the Iraqi delegates were Minister of Dialogue and National Reconciliation Akram al-Hakim, chairman of the Constitutional Review Committee Sheikh Humam Hamoudi, Fouad Maasoom of the Kurdistan Patriotic Union (PUK), Shi'ite Dawa Party parliamentary leader Ali al-Adeeb and Osama al-Tikriti from the Sunni Arab Iraqi Islamic Party, CMI said.

Meanwhile Military Families Speak Out releases [PDF format warning] "Families Remind Congress: Funding the War Is Killing The Troops:"

April 24, 2008 - Nationwide -- As Congressional leaders meet behind closed doors to iron out the details of yet another supplemental war funding bill, members of Military Families Speak Out are expressing anger and dismay at published reports that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. John Murtha, and other leaders who have previously spoken out against the war are preparing to put forward a bill funding the Iraq war for an entire year in an apparent effort to avoid a contentious debate in Congress in the run up to the November election.
Keri Wheelwright, a member of Military Families Speak Out from Fountain Hills, AZ and the wife of an Army officer currently serving in Iraq, said "My husband's deployment to Iraq has been the hardest sacrifice we've had to make as a military family, and it's especially hard to endure knowing that we were duped into this war in the first place. It is the worst betrayal to watch Congressional leaders, who have spoken out against this war in the past, put their political calculations ahead of the well-being of our troops.
"Senators and Representatives who say you’re opposed to this war -- you have the
chance to right one of the biggest political blunders in the history of our country. Do not fall into the trap of believing this Administration when it says 'funding this war is funding the troops.' What I and other military families know only too well is that funding this war is killing our troops. Take real leadership now by refusing to put forward a bill that continues to fund the war in Iraq and introduce a bill that funds the swift and safe return of our troops."
Megan Brooker, a member of Military Families Speak Out from Portland, Oregon whose brother is a Specialist in the Army now serving his second tour of duty in Iraq, said "My brother was supposed to leave the Army this year, but will soon be stop-lossed and forced to remain in Iraq until his fifteen month tour is over. It is infuriating to think that he could be forced to risk his life for another year because Congressional leaders who claim to oppose this war want to avoid controversial votes in the fall of an election year.
"Stop taking the lives of our men and women of the armed forces for an unjust and illegal war. Stop causing irreparable physical and psychological injuries to our loved ones and the people of Iraq. Bring our troops home and do it NOW. Why not truly support our troops for once, by bringing them safely home and taking care of them when they get here?"
Members of Military Families Speak Out are available for interview -- including
families with loved ones currently serving in Iraq, families whose loved ones have
died as a result of this war, families of troops who have suffered physical and
psychological injuries, and families of those awaiting deployment or re-deployment.
Military Families Speak Out ( is a national organization of almost 4,000 families who are opposed to the war in Iraq and have loved ones who serve or have served in the military since the fall of 2002.

Kyle notes the following video from (click here for HUBdate it appeared in) that is running in North Carolina and Indiana. The tag is "It's Time For Leadership."

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