Iraq War

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  Former Anti-Terror Czar Clarke: Staying In Iraq 'Helps Al-Qaeda'May 27, 2008 22:28 Maintaining US combat troops in Iraq "helps Al-Qaeda" and Washington should pull them from the ravaged country if it wants to see progress in the war on terror, former US anti-terror czar Richard Clarke said Tuesday.

"I think the best thing that we could do to hit Al-Qaeda's attractiveness to the Muslim world was in fact to get out of Iraq in an orderly way over the course of the next two or three years," Clarke said on CNN.

"Our being in Iraq helps Al-Qaeda," he added.

"We have to beat them in the ideological struggle. Getting out of Iraq will help that."

The US presence in Iraq has become a flashpoint issue in the 2008 presidential race. Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have both said they will withdraw troops if elected, while Republican John McCain supports the war in Iraq but recently said he envisioned most troops could be home by 2013.

Clarke said that wasn't soon enough.
  Further Cuts In U.S. Forces In Iraq Are Likely, Petraeus SaysMay 22, 2008 10:15 Gen. David H. Petraeus said he expects to recommend further cuts in the size of U.S. forces in Iraq before he gives up command in September.

The military is currently cutting its forces down to 15 brigades, or about 140,000 troops. That drawdown is scheduled to be concluded by July. Last month, President Bush endorsed Petraeus' call for a 45-day pause before the troop reduction.

Petraeus noted those further cuts may be small but said that he always intended to make constant reassessments of force level requirements.

"My sense is that I will be able to make a recommendation at that time of further reductions," Petraeus said.

The Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing today on the nomination of Petraeus to become the top U.S. commander in the Middle East and the nomination of Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno to succeed him as the top commander in Iraq.

In his opening statement, Sen. Carl M. Levin, chairman of the committee, signaled that he supported the nomination of Petraeus and Odierno. Levin's backing would all but assure the approval of the two men's nomination by the committee and probably the Senate as a whole.
  Iraq Party: Punish U.S. Soldier Who Shot At QuranMay 19, 2008 14:54 Iraq's most powerful Sunni Arab political party on Monday said a U.S. soldier's desecration of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, requires the "severest of punishments," not just an apology and a military reassignment.

The Iraqi Islamic Party, the movement of Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, condemned what it said was a "blatant assault on the sanctities of Muslims all over the world."

An American staff sergeant who was a sniper section leader used a Quran for target practice on May 9.

The U.S. commander in Baghdad on Saturday issued a formal apology and read a letter of apology from the shooter.

The sergeant has been relieved of duty as a section leader "with prejudice," officially reprimanded by his commanding general, dismissed from his regiment and redeployed -- reassigned to the United States.

But the Iraqi Islamic Party -- which said it reacted to the news "with deep resentment and indignation" -- wants the "severest of punishments" for the action.

"What truly concerns us is the repetition of these crimes that have happened in the past when mosques were destroyed and pages of the Holy Quran were torn and used for disgraceful acts by U.S. soldiers," al-Hashimi said.
  Bbc Baghdad Bureau Is Struck By RocketMay 09, 2008 11:51 A rocket crashed through the roof of the BBC's bureau in Baghdad today causing structural damage but no injuries.

It was one of a number of rockets fired towards the heavily fortified Green Zone by Shia insurgents taking advantage of a sudden sandstorm, which gave them cover from counter-attack by US aircraft.

Patrick Howse, the BBC's Baghdad bureau chief, said the rocket impacted at 2.45pm local time, leaving a hole around 1 metre by 1.5 metres in the roof of the office.

“It caused structural damage but no one was injured," Mr Howse said.
  House Democrats Seek To Press Ahead With Vote On War Funding Bill, But Delays PossibleMay 07, 2008 17:13 House leaders on Wednesday worked to rally rank-and-file Democrats behind a $195 billion (€126 billion) measure to pay for the war in Iraq through next spring and provide education help to veterans as well as relief for the jobless. At the same time, protests by Republicans threatened to delay a vote until next week.

Democratic leaders hoped to bring the bill to a vote on Thursday, but a revolt by Republicans upset with Democrats' handling of the war funding measure left the House schedule in chaos. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, said Wednesday that stalling tactics by Republicans may result in the measure not coming up until next week.

Republicans are up in arms that they have been excluded from opportunities to participate in the crafting of the war funding bill, and in response they have forced more than two dozen procedural votes over the past three days in protest.

At the same time, Pelosi worked to overcome rebellion by some of her own members. Moderate to conservative Democrats are upset that the war funding bill is carrying new benefit programs — especially the boost in education benefits — without paying for them with offsetting cuts to other programs.

Amid the turmoil, Republicans acknowledged that Pelosi had devised a strategy to try to jam the bill past Republicans and President George W. Bush in a form that he might have to sign.
  Ex-Guantanamo Prisoner Took Part In Iraq BombingMay 07, 2008 17:10 The Pentagon confirmed yesterday that a Kuwaiti released from the US detention camp at Guantánamo Bay three years ago carried out a suicide bombing in Iraq last month.

The involvement of an ex-Guantánamo detainee will make it harder for civil rights lawyers in the US and Britain, who have been fighting for the release of the remaining prisoners at the camp complex in Cuba.

Abdallah Salih al-Ajmi and two other Kuwaitis are reported by their families to have taken part in an attack on Iraqi security forces in Mosul, a northern city that is the scene of intense fighting.

Although the families did not specify a date, seven people were killed in a suicide attack in Mosul on April 26.

Civil rights lawyers claim most of the detainees are innocent, while the US military claims they present a danger and would take up arms if released.

The US military opposed his release, saying there was a risk that he presented a continuing danger, but he was freed after being transferred to Kuwait.

A spokesman for the US central command, US navy commander Scott Rye, told the Associated Press he did not know the motives behind the suicide bombing.

Ajmi, aged 30, a former Kuwaiti soldier, was taken to Guantánamo as part of a general sweep in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.