THE BLOG

NSN Iraq Daily Update:12/14/07

THE WAR IN IRAQ HAS MADE THE U.S. AND IT'S ALLIES LESS SAFE

Investigators of failed British terrorist attacks point to Iraq. Investigators examining the failed terrorist attacks in London and Glasgow six months ago believe the group had a link to the homegrown Iraqi group Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. While officials stopped short of saying that the plot originated with Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, or was directed by the group, they did say it was the closest collaboration they knew of between the Iraq group and plotters outside the Middle East. "The event is best viewed as A.Q.I.-related, rather than A.Q.I.-directed," said one official. If true, the attacks would be the first time the group has been involved with something outside of the Middle East. Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia is an Iraqi homegrown Sunni extremist group led by foreigners that came about after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. [NY Times, 12/14/07]

VIOLENCE CONTINUES TO RAGE

Bombs hit two Baghdad liquor stores and violence continues throughout the city. Homemade bombs hit two Baghdad liquor stores on Thursday and attacks in several other parts of the city killed two people and wounded at least seven others. Eleven more deaths were reported outside of Baghdad, and 19 bodies were found throughout the country. [AP, 12/14/07]

Southern Iraqis deal with the aftermath of Amarah bombings. Residents of the southern Iraqi city where a triple bombing killed at least 25 are afraid of another attack. Amarah, an oil-rich city southeast of Baghdad, has, until now, largely escaped the sectarian bloodshed that has plagued Iraq. Some officials now fear attacks like this could ignite fighting between powerful Shi'a factions in the region, which reverted from British to Iraqi control in April. [USA Today, 12/14/07]

RECONSTRUCTION CONTINUES TO BE MISMANAGED

The Inspector General for Iraq is under investigation. The Office of Inspector General Stuart Bowen has earned bipartisan respect for probing allegations of waste and fraud in the $22 billion U.S. effort to rebuild Iraq. However, Bowen's office has now been accused of its own overspending, mismanagement; brought on by former employee's complaints. The FBI, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the Presidential Council on Integrity and Efficiency, and the Army's Equal Employment Opportunity Office are all engaged in separate investigations into the complaints from SIGIR staff members. Several current and former officials expressed concern that the practices of SIGIR's leaders are discrediting the work of the agency. "SIGIR's purpose was to look at reconstruction and then go away," said a former senior official. "Are they contributing to the good anymore? No. Were they before? Yes. But they should have stuck to the plan and been willing to stand down in 2008." [Washington Post, 12/14/07]

SHI'A ON SHI'A RIVALRY COULD RIP IRAQ APART

"If ... Muqtada becomes a religious authority, the entire movement will grow stronger..." The leader of Iraq's biggest Shi'a militia movement has quietly resumed seminary studies toward attaining the title of ayatollah -- a goal that could make firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his 60,000 strong Mahdi Army an even more formidable power broker in Iraq. Al-Sadr's objectives -- described to The Associated Press by close aides -- are part of increasingly bitter Shi'a-on-Shi'a battles for control of Iraq's southern oil fields, the lucrative pilgrim trade to Shi'a holy cities and the nation's strategic Persian Gulf outlet. Becoming an ayatollah -- one of the highest Shi'a clerical positions -- would give the 33-year-old al-Sadr an important new voice and aura. It also would give him fresh clout to challenge his top rival, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, which looks to Iranian-born Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani as its highest religious authority and has its own armed wing, the Badr Brigade, which have been largely absorbed into Iraqi security forces. The endgame among Iraq's majority Shi'a also means long-term influence over Iraqi political and financial affairs as the Pentagon and its allies look to scale down their military presence in the coming year. [AP, 12/13/07]