Iraqi leaders announced Aug. 3 they had agreed to start negotiations on keeping an American military presence in the country after the current Dec. 31 deadline for a withdrawal of all US troops under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). The decision was announced after more than four hours of closed-door talks led by President Jalal Talabani. Deputy Prime Minister Rosh Nuri Shawis said in a statement: “All those present agreed to authorize the government of Iraq to start negotiations with the American side.” There are currently 46,000 US troops in Iraq. US officials have broached a number of 10,000 remaining after the deadline. (CSM, Aug. 3)
Ironically, the announcement comes just as US forces have been implicated in another atrocity—or, at least, an horrific case of “collateral damage.” The New York Times’ At War blog writes Aug. 2:
On Saturday news began filtering out of Al Rufait, the grape farming village near Saddam Hussein’s hometown, Tikrit, that a nighttime operation conducted by Iraqi and American forces aimed at a suspected member of al-Qaeda had turned in to a shootout involving bullets, grenades and American Apache helicopters that left the tribal Sheik and two others dead, and several wounded, including two young girls.
A cloud of competing stories emerged, but the outrage from village residents and local officials was directed at the Americans, even though it was Iraq’s own security forces in charge of the mission, and Iraqi soldiers far outnumbered the amount of American boots on the ground, a United States military spokesman said.
Atrocities by US forces continue to be reported even as the Obama administration has pursued a policy of grooming local proxies in Iraq to fight the insurgents. In what has been described as the “two poles of terrorism,” jihadist atrocities also continue—especially against religious minorities such as Christians. On Aug. 2, the ethnically divided northern city of Kirkuk witnessed another attack outside a Syrian Catholic Church. At least 23 people were wounded in the attack, mostly from surrounding homes. The parish leader, Imad Yalda, was inside the church during the bombing and was among the wounded. Following the attack, two other car bombs were also found outside Kirkuk’s Anglican Church and the Mar Gourgis church. These bombs were defused by security forces. Kirkuk’s deputy police chief, Torhan Abdulrahman said, “It was a coordinated attack to target churches at the same time.” Said Rev. Haithem Akram, the priest of one of the targeted churches: “The terrorists want to make us flee Iraq, but they will fail. We are staying in our country.” (Christian Post, Aug. 2)
See our last post on Iraq.