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NSN Iraq Daily Update 1/14/08

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NEW DE-BAATHIFICATION LAW MAY EXCLUDE MORE SUNNIS THAN BEFORE

After Iraq passes bill on Baathists, troubling questions remain about the measure's actual effects. On Sunday, the Iraqi Parliament passed the Justice and Accountability Law, meant to open government jobs to former members of the Baath Party of Saddam Hussein who were barred from office after the American invasion in 2003. However, the legislation is both confusing and controversial. It is a document riddled with loopholes and caveats to the point that some Sunni and Shi'a officials say it could actually exclude more former Baathists than it lets back in, particularly in the crucial security ministries. Interpretations of the measure's effects varied widely among Iraqi officials. In general, Shi'a politicians hailed it as a peace offering to Sunni Arabs. But many Sunnis say it is at best an incremental improvement over the old system, and at worst even harsher. [NY Times, 1/13/08]

VIOLENCE CONTINUES TO RAGE

Shootings in Baghdad targets judge and soldiers. Amir Jawdat al-Naeib, a high-ranking judge at the appeals court and a member of the Supreme Judicial Council, was ambushed by gunmen in two cars in the Mansour district of western Baghdad as he was being driven to work from his home, police and Deputy Justice Minister Busho Ibrahim said. His driver was also killed. Gunmen also followed two Iraqi soldiers from a military camp opened fire on them, killing both, said a police official. [AP, 1/14/08]

A booby-trapped house exploded as Iraqi police searched the building, killing at least two officers and trapping five beneath the rubble. The house was in Buhriz, about 35 miles north of Baghdad. A doctor in Baqouba General Hospital said two bodies were pulled from the debris, and that rescuers were looking for the remaining five. Another four policemen were seriously wounded, a police official said. Buhriz is near Baqouba, the capital of the restive Diyala province. Last week, six U.S. soldiers were killed and four were wounded in a similar incident, as they searched a booby-trapped house in Diyala. [AP, 1/14/08]

CHANGE IS COMING IN US ARMY LEADERSHIP

Lt. Gen. Austin will take over daily operations in Iraq. Lt. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, a decorated paratrooper will take over as the No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq next month. Austin will replace Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno. Austin, who has played a central role in running the military's combat operations since 2001, predicts grueling years of conflict ahead -- in Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere. "We're in it for the long haul. But it's a tough, tough road ahead," he was recently quoted as saying. [Washington Post, 1/13/08]

SECTARIANISM REVEALS LONG-STANDING ETHNIC FISSURES

Iraqi Shi'a and Sunnis criticize Kurds. Iraqi Arab lawmakers from rival sects joined forces Sunday to criticize what they claim is overreaching by the Kurds, alleging the powerful U.S.-backed minority's go-it-alone style in oil and other major issues threatens national unity. "There must be a formula for maintaining the unity of Iraq and the distribution of its wealth," said secular lawmaker Osama al-Nijifi, reading from a declaration at a news conference in the capital. "Oil and gas are a national wealth, and we are concerned about those who want to go it alone when it comes to signing deals," he said. Many see such gestures and the recent oil deals as a threat to the country's national unity. Complicating the situation is a major Shi'a party's aggressive calls for a self-ruled region in southern Iraq modeled after the Kurdish one. [AP, 1/13/08]

TENSIONS ARE HIGH ALONG THE NORTHERN TURK-IRAQ BORDER

Turkey PM says Iraq operations may be extended. According to PM Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's government may seek an extension of its parliamentary mandate to attack Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq when the current authorization expires in October. Turkey claims the right under international law to carry out cross-border operations and has been receiving intelligence from the United States to pinpoint the PKK targets. Turkey has staged limited raids into Iraqi territory, as well as air and artillery strikes. However, most believe a full-scale invasion is unlikely despite the presence of up to 100,000 Turkish troops along the border. [Reuters, 1/13/08]