Monday, January 26, 2009

4 US soldiers killed in Iraq

This morning the US military announced: "TIKRIT, Iraq – Four Coalition Soldiers died Jan. 26, when their aircraft crashed in Northern Iraq. The cause is unclear at this time and does not appear to be by enemy action. An investigation is ongoing. The names of the deceased are being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense." The announcement brings the total number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4236 with 15 for the month thus far. Ned Parker and Caesar Ahmed (Los Angeles Times) cite an unnamed Iraqi police source who states the aircraft was a helicopter and they note, "Initial reports from the U.S. military said two aircraft were involved, but later reports said it was only one aircaft that went down in the incident, which occured around 2:15 a.m." Reuters is currently standing with two aircraft involved.

In other reported violence today, Reuters notes 1 corpse discovered in Mosul, a Baghdad roadside bombing that left eleven police officers injured and a Baquba bicycle bombing that left five people wounded and the bicyclist "shot dead by police".

While the violence goes on, Iraq's prime minister takes to spinning. Waleed Ibrahim and Michael Christie (Reuters) report that puppet of the occupation, Nouri al-Maliki, declared that US [combat only] forces will be pulled quickly. They report he made this announcement to "a crowd of supporters in the southern Iraqi city of Babel during a campaign rally ahead of Jan. 31 provincial elecitons" -- translation, a campaign promise by al-Maliki whom Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) notes is eager to pump up the number of seats held by his Dawa Party. And for those Kool Aid drinkers out there, you can hug yourself and moan that Barack's pulling out troops! And when you come to from your fainting spell explain to the rest of us why Barack would want Nouri announcing that before he could?

On the 'withdrawal,' we'll note Gordon Lubold's "Logistics of a faster Iraq exit: Will Obama be able to get most US forces out in 16 months?" (Christian Science Monitor):

The rate of departure may be first determined by what the president decides should now be the American security posture in Iraq. Many foreign-policy experts say the US has a strategic interest in leaving a sizable force there for years to come, and some believe that could mean as many as 60,000 troops remain in noncombat-related roles. The Bush administration has signed a "status of forces agreement" that requires most troops to be out of Iraq by 2011.
But other factors are at play. One is logistics: the ability to rapidly remove as many as 143,000 uniformed personnel, some 60,000 aircraft and vehicles, 120,000 trailer-sized containers, and 150,000 private contractors from nearly 50 bases and installations.
The military must decide what equipment stays and what goes. Gifting thousands of used Humvees or old generators to the Iraqis, for example, would cut down on what is shipped home. But it could also lead to more decisions about helping the Iraqis maintain the equipment. And then, who would pay for it?
The military has already been quietly moving materiel out of Iraq over the past 18 to 24 months, says a military official who requested anonymity. He adds, "We think right now we're about the right size we need to be."

A full withdrawal, which Barack is not promising, could be done in the first 100 days. That was proven when Georgia decided to quickly pull out. 70,000 troops is the number the administration is using. And we'll pair it with this from Third:

Truest statement of the week II

But also a key there is how many troops he leaves behind. That's something we're not talking about so much, he's not talking about so much. This residual force that could be 50, 60, 70,000 troops even if he withdraws

-- Martha Raddatz (ABC News) on the January 23rd broadcast of Washington Week.

Ava and I covered Raddatz remarks and Barack's 'withdrawal' yesterday. The transcript for Friday's Washington Week will be up later today as will video. (You can already download the podcast -- audio or video.)

In other news, Iraq's Foreign Ministry notes the following:

26 January, 2009

Dr. Mohammed Haj Hmoud Receives Representative of the Islamic Conference Organization in Baghdad

Dr. Mohammed Haj Hmoud, Foreign Ministry Undersecretary for Legal Affairs and Multilateral Relations received on 25/1/2009, Ambassador Hamid Al-Tiny representative of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Baghdad.

The two sides discussed bilateral relations and the arrangements for the forthcoming visit of the Secretary-General of the Islamic Conference Organization Dr. Ekmeleddin Ihsan oglu to Baghdad.

The meeting was attended by Minister Plenipotentiary Ahmed Nadhem Jawad, head of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in the Foreign Ministry organizations and international cooperation Department.

In addition, Dr. Mohammed Haj Hmoud met with Deputy British Ambassador John Tuknut yesterday. And on Friday:

24 January, 2009

His Excellency President of the Turkish Republic Receives Foreign Minister

His Excellency the President of the Republic of Turkey, Mr. Abdullah Gul met on Friday 23/1/2009 with His Excellency Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari.

The Turkish President welcomed His Excellency the Minister and his delegation valuing the good relations between the two countries, expressing the importance of the agreement signed between His Excellency Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the necessity of activating the work of the committees to complete the implementation mechanism of the Convention, stressing the importance of developing relations between the two countries in the fight against terrorism and expressed satisfaction with the relations between the Turkish Republic and the Government of the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

And pointed that Turkey had always sought to provide all forms of assistance and cooperation for Iraq's reconstruction and stabilization, and conveyed his greetings to His Excellency President Jalal Talabani and His Excellency Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and His Excellency Kurdistan's regional president Massoud Barzani.

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, conveyed the greetings of His Excellency the President of the Republic and Prime Minister and the President of the region and praised the bilateral relations and the strategic importance of activating the declaration which was signed between the two countries. The two sides also agreed to convene the Ministers Council headed by the foreign ministers of the two countries and with the participation of a number of ministers from both countries at end of next February or beginning of March in the Turkish city of Istanbul to be preceded by a meeting of senior officials, stressing the importance of Turkey's regional role in stabilizing and rebuilding Iraq, adding that Iraq has begun to play a prominent role regionally in the area after the reopening of embassies and the designation of Arab ambassadors in Baghdad and the expansion of diplomatic representation .

Turning to the US, Tony Perry (Los Angeles Times) files another report on those rotated out of Iraq, having completed their latest tour of duty:

The signs -- mostly hand-drawn, all heartfelt -- told a story of stress and joy as 300 Marines and sailors returned Sunday to their base at Camp Pendleton after a year in Iraq.
"Welcome Home From Iraq, Half Of My Heart Has Returned."
"Welcome home Daddy! Can I have a puppy?"
"Kayla Loves Riley."
"Babe, 386 Days of Deployment Over!"
Along with the signs came stories of how families coped with having a loved one in a war zone.
"I tried keeping busy, lots of positive thoughts, and lots and lots of prayer," said Barbi Saville, 39, as she waited for her daughter, Cpl. Chantel Saville, 21.
Merideth Maggard, 23, of Prattville, Ala., whose husband, Cpl. Seth Maggard, 22, is a combat photographer in Regimental Combat Team 5, said that when she was lonely, it helped to telephone other Marine wives.
"They understand," she said. "I could cry, and they knew why. You want to call your Marine, but you can't."

AP reports that the above returning sailors and marines numbered 300 and that two members of Regimental Combat Team 5 were killed in Iraq on the deployment.

Hurriyet reports an interesting development: "Turkish President Abdullah Gul has called on the representatives of Kirkuk's ethnic groups to convene in Ankara, an Iraqi Shi'ite Turkmen MP from the United Iraqi Alliance said on Monday."

Bonnie notes Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Who Could Have Guessed" went up yesterday.

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