Al-Maliki Insists US Troops be Out by 2011;Iraqi Christian Refugees at Risk

 Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of Iraq insisted again Monday that all foreign troops must be out of Iraq by 2011 and that US troops in Iraq must come under the authority of Iraqi courts. These demands appear to have emanated in the first instance from Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani of Najaf and from Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr, now studying in Iran. They may also reflect a secret deal al-Maliki may have struck with Iran on his visit to Tehran last spring. Iran has been restraining the Mahdi Army, allowing al-Maliki to assert control in places such as Maysan Province (said to be oil-rich). You have to wonder what the quid pro quo is.

Al-Maliki implied that the US had agreed to these two demands, but a White House spokesman denied it.

My guess is that in the end Bush blinks on these two demands, or, as one wag on put it, “surrenders.”

A young female suicide bomber was caught by police in Baquba before she could detonate her payload. She said she was fitted for the bomb by her husband’s female relatives, though her own mother appears to have played a leading role, as well. says, “At least 16 Iraqis were killed and 14 more were wounded in the latest round of violence. One U.S. soldier was killed in a small arms attack in Baghdad.” See below.

Saving Iraqi Christian refugees. PM al-Maliki wants them to return to Iraq, but most refugee NGOs and UNHCR insist that it is not safe enough for them to do that. I was just in Amman, Jordan, looking into the refugee issue. Some 10% of the Iraqis there are Christians. There is no rush to return because they just don’t trust that the militias are gone or the ethnic cleansing at an end.

Likewise, al-Hayat reports in Arabic that a major reason for Iraqis to flee their country is lack of basic services such as potable water, electricity, fuel and reliable health care. The paper quotes Muhammad Laith, who took his family of five to Amman from the tony Hayy Zayounah in Baghdad. Laith, who works in the advertising and publicity sector, said, “Life in Iraq is still hard, despite the slight improvement in security. There is a big deficiency in services in all areas and even in the nice neighborhoods. This deficiency is the fault of the government and concerned circles, which cannot fulfill their duties because of endemic fraud.”

MP Ghufran al-Sa’edi said that there was no difference between failure of government to deliver basic services and militias’ ethnic cleansing campaigns, in their effect on emigration of refugees.

Reuters reports political violence in Iraq on Monday:

‘BAGHDAD – A U.S. soldier died after being shot during a patrol in northern Baghdad, the U.S. military said in a statement. . .

TIKRIT – A roadside bomb exploded near a convoy carrying Major-General Hamad Namis Yasin, the police chief of Salahuddin province, wounding six of his guards in central Tikrit, 150 km (95 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

SHIRQAT – A roadside bomb killed two bystanders in the town of Shirqat, 300 km (190 miles) north of Baghdad, police and hospital sources said.

MUSSAYAB – A roadside bomb was planted near the house of Basim Mohammed, a Lieutenant-Colonel of the government facilities guard force, killing his daughter and wounding two sons on Sunday in Mussayab, 60 km (40 miles) south of Baghdad, police said . . .

MOSUL – Gunmen killed a man working as a guard for the dean of Mosul University in a drive-by shooting in eastern Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.’

McClatchy gives more detail on events in Baghdad:

‘ Baghdad

– Mortars hit the International Zone(IZ) in downtown Baghdad. No casualties reported.

– Around 7 am an IED detonated near an Iraqi army check point near Mr.Milk supermarket in Mansour neighborhood (west Baghdad). One officer was injured.

– Around 8 am a bomb planted in a car detonated in Jamiaa neighborhood. Three family members were injured in that incident.

– Around 11 am a bomb left inside a mini bus detonated in Adhemiyah neighborhood(north Baghdad). Only the driver was injured in that incident.

– A roadside bomb detonated in Adel neighborhood(west Baghdad). One person was injured.

– Mortars hit Ghazaliyah neighborhood. A petrol station got fire by one of the mortar shells.

– Gunmen opened fire on an army patrol. 2 soldiers were killed and another one was wounded.

– Police found 2 dead bodies in Baghdad. 1was in Sleikh(north Baghdad) and 1 was found in Mansour(west Baghdad)’