Petraeus: Iraq is still ‘central front'
Iraq remains “the central front” for al-Qaida and other extremist organizations, Gen. David Petraeus, the departing commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, said Tuesday.
Petraeus acknowledged extremist violence is rising in Afghanistan and Pakistan, battlegrounds he will soon oversee as the next head of the U.S. military's Central Command, but said “it is still assessed that Iraq is still viewed as the central front, if you will, for al-Qaida and extremism of that flavor.”
Petraeus oversaw the dramatic drop in violence in Iraq that began last summer as the Bush administration deployed 30,000 additional troops. “We have gone from being on the brink to being on the mend,” he said in his office in the Green Zone. “A country that had lost hope has hope.”
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He said al-Qaida leaders remain keenly interested in keeping a foothold in Iraq because of its oil wealth and proximity to Gulf states where they have been shunned in recent years. He said al-Qaida in Iraq, a largely homegrown organization that U.S. officials believe is led by Arabs from other countries, had been severely weakened but could regain strength. Washington Post
Bomb discovered in journalist's car just in time
An Iraqi journalist for one of the Middle East's best-known satellite TV stations escaped an attempt on his life Tuesday when a bomb was found under the seat of his car as he prepared to leave home for work.
The attempt against Jawad al-Hattab, Baghdad bureau manager for Al-Arabiya television, illustrates the dangers facing Iraq despite the decline in violence.
Al-Hattab's driver and a security guard found the laptop-sized bomb as they waited to pick up the correspondent at his home in central Baghdad, according to the station's executive editor Nabil Khatib.
Al-Arabiya, based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, is among the most popular Arabic TV news stations and has been criticized by Iraqi hard-liners who believe it is too pro-Western.
Key legislative session opens nearly short of a quorum
Iraqi lawmakers convened their key fall session Tuesday, facing decisions on key issues that the U.S. believes are needed to turn improved security into a lasting peace.
Parliament speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani opened the session two hours late because too few members were there for a quorum by the announced start time. The session began with 160 of 275 legislators.
Key issues facing the lawmakers include a bill providing for provincial elections, legislation to regulate the oil industry and a still-unfinished security pact with the United States that will take effect after the U.N. mandate expires at the end of the year.
U.S. diplomatic positions filled in Iraq voluntarily
The State Department said Tuesday that enough diplomats have volunteered for duty at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq next year to avoid having to draft potentially unwilling candidates.
A cable sent to foreign service officers says 325 jobs in Baghdad and outlying provinces, along with 134 in Kabul, have been filled.