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NSN Iraq Daily Update 1/28/08

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IRANIAN LEADER TO VISIT IRAQ

Iranian leader is to visit Iraq. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will make a historic trip to Iraq sometime before March 19, Iranian state media reported Monday, the first such visit ever by an Iranian leader. The exact date of Ahmadinejad's visit will be announced days before the trip. Earlier this month, Iraqi officials said Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd who has close relations with Iran's ruling clergy, invited Ahmadinejad to visit. Since May, Iran and the U.S. have held three rounds of ambassador-level talks on security in Iraq. The news agency reported Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki as saying Monday that Iran was interested in scheduling a fourth round of talks soon. [AP, 1/28/08]

US: 9,000 AWAKENING MEMBERS READY FOR IRAQ MILITARY TRAINING

The number represents more than half the 16,000 or so Awakening members, many of whom are former Sunni Arab insurgents. Some members of the anti-Islamist groups have applied to join the regular Iraqi security forces. US troops have for the past year been working closely with former insurgents they call CLCs or Concerned Local Citizens, who are paid 300 dollars a month to patrol neighborhoods and man checkpoints. Their numbers have swelled to some 80,000 members of a total of 130 CLC groups countrywide, according to latest figures from the US military. Of these, 80 percent are Sunni and 20 percent Shi'a. [AFP, 1/27/08]

IRAQI TROOPS PREPARE FOR OFFENSIVE IN MOSUL

Iraqi army reinforcements moved Sunday into positions near the northern city of Mosul, ready to strike at Islamist extremists in their last urban stronghold. Iraqi and U.S. officials have not said how many additional soldiers were headed toward Iraq's third largest city, an important trade and transportation hub, after a massive bombing there last week badly damaged a poor neighborhood, killing 38 and wounding more than 200. A senior police official was killed the next day inspecting the damage. The United States has said Iraqi security forces will take the lead in Mosul -- a major test of Washington's plan to, at an undetermined date, shrink the American force and leave it as backup for Iraqi security forces. The U.S. military does not plan to send additional forces to Mosul.
[AP, 1/27/08]

FBI INTERROGATOR: SADDAM LIED ABOUT WMD TO SCARE IRAN

Hussein was surprised U.S. invaded, claimed he didn't anticipate that the United States would invade Iraq over WMD. FBI Agent George Piro said, "For him, it was critical that he was seen as still the strong, defiant Saddam. He thought that (faking having the weapons) would prevent the Iranians from reinvading Iraq." Once it was clear that an invasion was imminent, Hussein asked his generals to hold off the allied forces for two weeks, Piro said. "And at that point, it would go into what he called the secret war," the agent said, referring to the insurgency. But Piro said he was not sure that the insurgency was indeed part of Hussein's plan. "Well, he would like to take credit for the insurgency," he said. [CNN, 1/27/08]

FIRE DAMAGES ONE OF IRAQ'S MOST IMPORTANT STATE FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS

Fire damages Iraq's central bank. According to an Iraqi interior ministry official, a huge fire struck the Central Bank of Iraq in Baghdad on Monday. The fire caused serious damage to three of the building's 10 floors. The civil defense directorate, which falls under the interior ministry, will conduct an investigation to determine the cause of the fire. [AFP, 1/28/08]

VIOLENCE CONTINUES TO RAGE

US Soldiers, Iraqi official, and Awakening Council leader are among those killed in Baghdad. On Saturday night, a band of attackers broke into the Sadr City home of a man who was a senior Baghdad city official under the government of Saddam Hussein, shot and stabbed him and his family, killing all four members of the family. Also on Saturday, the leader of an Iraqi militia that had joined forces with American troops was killed by a bomb planted inside his car in northern Baghdad. Gunmen stopped a minibus carrying five female employees of Baghdad University and kidnapped them. The American military also disclosed the deaths of two US soldiers, killed in separate bombings in Baghdad's Shi'a neighborhoods. [NY Times, 1/28/08]