In something of a political shocker, Alsumaria is reporting that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has decided to run for the office again (his term is set to expire in December). Talabani had previously announced that he would not run again.
In other news, Kristoffer Walker is the US Specialist who was home in Wisconsin on leave from Iraq and declared that the Iraq War was illegal and immoral and refused to return. A few weeks after that, with very little assistance, Walker stated he would return to Iraq but refused to recant his statements about the war. WLUK (Fox 11) has an update and the link has video and text. We'll do a transcript of the video:
Moica Landeros: Well, Laura [Smith], a spokesperson with the U.S. Army tells me Kristoffer Walker has been demoted several ranks from Specialist to Private, but that's just part of his punishment. The Army also said Walker will be fined in the form of docked pay. For two months he will get half of his usual paycheck. In addition, he will also be fined for a -- confined to an Army base for 45 days. That means he can't leave the base and might even have additional duties during that time. Though Army officials do not know when that confinement will actually start. That's because right now, Walker is on medical leave from Iraq though officials won't give details on his medical condition. Once he is healthy, Army officials said he will begin the base confinement. Now we were unable to speak to Kristoffer Walker today though his mother tells us her son was aware of the severity of his absence and that he was ready for any consequences handed down.
Tony Walter (Green Bay Press Gazette) adds:
Walker's wife, Sierra, said her husband is not being confined to the base. He will be released upon the completion of medical paperwork and he will continue treatment at home, she said. "The doctors are pushing for him to be medically discharged from the military," she said Friday evening. Sierra Walker only would say her husband's condition is "bad enough that he was sent out of Iraq in the first place. He was dealing with doctors who said he needed to be out."
Contrary to a really bad AP report (we're not linking), Kristoffer Walker did not make a stand in January and announce he was not returning. That was in February and you can see this Feb. 23rd snapshot for more.
In this morning's New York Times, Campbell Robertson and Stephen Farrell offer "Sunnis Turn To Politics And Renew Strength" which runs on A4 of the national edition. They're covering northern Iraq, not central or southern and the article has nothing to do with the attacks on the Sahwa; however, it does have to do with the intense power struggle going on in the northern region. From the article:
In the first years after the invasion, Sunni Arabs, the minority that long ran Iraq and who make up the majority in the northwest, mostly stayed away from politics. Many joined or supported the insurgency as the American-allied Kurds took power by default, giving them a political and military ascendance out of all proportion to their numbers in Nineveh Province.
But in the prelude to Nineveh's provincial council elections in January, the tribes of the countryside led by the nationally ambitious Sheik Abdullah, and the urban Sunni Arab elite led by a polished businessman from Mosul whose brother already sits in Parliament, came back with a vengeance.
Riding a wave of resentment against the Kurds -- and openly trumpeting influence with insurgents -- they came to control Iraq's second most populous province, thus overseeing not only regional decision-making, but also the coffers and patronage that go with it.
Daniel Graeber (UPI) covers a variety of topics in a roundup and we'll note this section:
Delays from the Iraqi Parliament on implementing a comprehensive oil law limit the national economy and investment potential, officials said.
Ali Hussein Balo, a Kurdish lawmaker who sits on the regional government's oil and gas committee, told the Iraqi political Web site Niqash.org that Iraq faces a looming budget crisis due to stagnating oil prices.
"If the oil price remains the same, $50 per barrel, the Iraqi budget will be cut by about 50 percent next year," he said.
The Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq had moved to pass its own regional oil and gas laws, much to the ire of Baghdad, which claims any deals under those terms are illegal.
Balo said, however, that Baghdad will have to accept the KRG contracts. But Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloom, the former Iraqi oil minister, said the dispute is hurting the bottom line.
"Foreign oil companies are not investing in (Iraq) because of the bad security situation, but the fact is that foreign companies do not see a legal framework," he said.
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