Brian Williams: [Speaking over video of the carnage from Wednesday's Baghdad bombings] We are back as part of this day long discussion of the Obama presidency this is an inextricable part of that. 41 people dead. New violence Sadr City this morning. That section of Baghdad that was in the news for so long for good reason. Seventy injuries here. As I said before the break, we are fortunate that our chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel has chosen to spend a little of his home leave with us here in New York before leaving again for Pakistan this coming Saturday. Richard's here with us in the studio. It's interesting watching you back in your home newsroom where we're all forced to communicate with you by telphone and home computer while you're away. People actually get to see you and talk to you. Invariably they say, 'Tell me what do you make of Iraq these days?' And what do you tell them?
Richard Engel: I'm actually very concerned about what's going on in Iraq right now. We could be in the situation where there's the eye of the storm. Where things are quiet but it's starting to brew around the edges and it's starting to take -- to take force. The conflict in Iraq right now is at a very important turning point. It is the transition from a combat role, a war fighting role to a training role.
Brian Williams: What everybody feared.
Richard Engel: And the danger is that it's going to be an unclear mission for US troops. US troops are now confined mostly to their bases. What's going to happen in June is that they will legally be confined to their bases in most Iraqi cities and will only be able to operate with a warrant. Now we're seeing the Iraqi government flexing its muscles and the prime minister of Iraq, Maliki, is threatening to prosecute some American soldiers who were involved in a mission that the Iraqis say resulted in civilian casulities. So we're entering a grey area and I think that is a troubling thing considering that you have more than 100,000 troops on the ground.
Brian Williams: Now let me take you to another front entirely, where you're headed this weekend, Pakistan . . .
The above is from MSNBC yesterday morning. Yesterday's violence continues the pattern evident since February when January's much trumpeted 'lower violence' began to crumble. Alsumaria reports:
Security officials in the Interior and Defense Ministries affirmed that 46 citizens were killed and around 70 others were wounded in two car bomb explosions which detonated in short sequence in a crowded market in Sadr City.
Police found as well another car bomb which was disabled.
Moreover, a security official reported that at least five people were killed and three others were wounded in a bomb explosion targeting a civial passengers’ bus in southern Baghdad while another car bomb explosion in western Baghdad wounded five people.
Two similar incidents occurred in Diyala and southern Mosul killing a policeman and wounding five civilians.
In this morning's New York Times, Sam Dagher and Sudad al-Salhy's "Baghdad Is Shaken by a Series of Bombs" observe, "So far in April, at least 300 Iraqis have been killed in bombing attacks, making it the bloodiest month since the start of the year and reversing the sharp drops in civilian deaths in January and February." They note the various hypothesis as to who is responsible. Among those blamed: Ba'athists, al Qaeda in Mesopotami and Americans. On those hypothesis, Ernesto Londoño and Qais Mizher (Washington Post) offer:
Ahmed al-Masudi, a lawmaker who serves as the Sadr bloc spokesman in parliament, offered a different theory, saying he suspected the recent bloodbath is the work of Sunni extremists aided by Western intelligence agencies that want to create a pretext to delay the U.S. withdrawal.
"I think they have a hand in this to create reasons to stay," he said in a telephone interview.
Saif Hameed and Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) quote Adnan Dawood who was wounded in the Sadr City bombings who asks, "How is this possible? There are three entrances to Sadr City and all are overseen by army checkpoints. What is the army dong? Are they there for only oppressing and arresting people?" And they quote eye witness Sabah Mohammed stating, "The army is not playing its role. When the army first came to Sadr City, I was happy, but now all they care about is hitting on girls and women. They don't inspect incoming cars. They only inspect them if there are women inside."
Joel Brinkely aims higher with "Iraqi prime minister should take blame for recent violence" (McClatchy Newspapers):
If any one person holds primary responsibility for the fresh rush of carnage in Iraq, it is none other than Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a politician who has shown he cares little about the fate of his nation.
Consider the suicide bombers' targets last week: a Shiite Islam shrine and a gaggle of Iranian travelers coming to Iraq for worship - all direct or indirect constituents of al-Maliki, the protector of Iraq's Shiite majority. Al-Maliki had betrayed the perpetrators.
Do you remember the goals behind the so-called surge of American troops last year: to reduce the level of violence in Baghdad, and to set the table for national reconciliation? Well, the American troops did their part. Al-Maliki shirked his.
Assyrian International News Agency reports that a St. Joseph Church's security guard "was severly beaten on Sunday, April 26 by four people claiming to be Kurds" in northern Iraq. There is a St. Joseph's in Baghdad. That's not this one. I believe this is St. Joseph's Chaldean Church in Ainkawa that's being referred to but there is also a St. Joseph's in Erbil which is also in northern Iraq. The dateline lists Ainkawa as where the story was filed. On Sunday, 3 Iraqi Christians were killed in Kirkuk with two more seriously wounded.
Meanwhile, China's People's Daily Online reports that Turkey has again bombed northern Iraq as they continued to pursue the PKK. The bombings started last night and continued today. Hurriyet notes, "The PKK is listed as a terrorist group by Ankara and much of the international community, including the EU and the United States." Iran's Press TV adds, "The air strikes come a day after nine Turkish soldiers were killed in a roadside bomb explosion in the southeastern province of Diyarbakir. The PKK later claimed responsibility for that attack."
Already this morning, Reuters reports three roadside bombings across Iraq which have left at least eight people wounded. In other news, Mowaffaq Al Rubaie is one of the many Iraqi 'leaders' who went into exile. He went to England in the 80s and remained there until the US invaded Iraq in 2003. He's close to CIA asset Ahmed Chalibi and, since 2006, was Iraq's National Security Advisor. Today Alsumaria reports: "Iraq's Ministerial Council affirmed that it has canceled the National Security Advisor post which was run by Mowaffaq Al Rubaie and has merged it rights and duties with the General Secretariat of the ministerial council. A draft resolution is this regard is passed to Parliament for approval."
Lastly Iraq's Foreign Ministry announces "Foreign Minister Meets Japanese Ambassador in Baghdad:"
Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari met on Apr. 29th. 2009 with Mr. Shoji Ogawa Japanese Ambassador in Baghdad. Both sides discussed the ways to strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries in order to activate the strategic partnership agreement signed in Baghdad at the beginning of the year.
The Japanese Ambassador stressed on his country's continued support to Iraq in the reconstruction process and invited his Excellency Minister Zebari to visit Tokyo on behalf of his Japanese counterpart in an aim to strengthen bilateral relations, on his part Foreign Minister Zebari accepted the invitation and promised to make this visit as soon as possible.
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