THE BLOG
01/23/2008 10:16 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

NSN Iraq Daily Update 1/23/08

SECTARIAN DIVISIONS CONTINUE TO DEFINE IRAQ

New "clear as mud" de-Baathification law could spark another purge. The new legislation was promoted as a way to return former Baathists to public life. However, more than a dozen Iraqi lawmakers, U.S. officials and former Baathists here and in exile have expressed concern that the law could set off a new purge of ex-Baathists, the opposite of U.S. hopes for reconciliation. The law would restrict members from the "division rank" from working in a host of government agencies, including the Defense, Interior, Foreign and Finance ministries. Since scores of division members -- at least 7,000, according to the de-Baathification commission -- occupy jobs in those ministries, the new law could purge them from their current positions. The implementation will be overseen largely by a seven-member commission nominated by the Iraqi cabinet and confirmed by parliament. "This is a bomb on the road of reconciliation," said former Baathists Muhammed Kareem, a past director general in the ministry. "This law does not bring anything new. This does not serve national reconciliation that all Iraqis are hoping for. On the contrary, it envisions hostility, hatred, discrimination and sectarian strife." [Washington Post, 1/23/08]

Some say the law's primary aim is not to return ex-Baathists to work, but to recognize and compensate those harmed by the party.
Of the law's eight stated justifications, none mentions reinstating ex-Baathists to their jobs. The confusion has been compounded because the information on former party members comes from the de-Baathification commission headed by Ahmed Chalabi, the former deputy prime minister who as an Iraqi exile sought to convince U.S. officials that Hussein's government had weapons of mass destruction. In light of the absence of such weapons, many Iraqi and U.S. officials are suspicious of his commission's statistics. [Washington Post, 1/23/08]

Legislation adopting temporary changes to Iraq's flag highlights sectarian distrust remains.
Three stars representing the Baath Party Ideals were removed, and the expression "God is Great" was changed to an Arabic font called Kufi rather than one which looked like Saddam Hussein's handwriting. The contentious process reflected the larger sectarian differences that consistently tug at the country. Parliament members from the leading Sunni bloc, as well as the followers of Shi'a cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, opposed the changes. The revisions forestalled possible embarrassment at a major upcoming Arab conference in Iraq and appeased the Kurdish politicians who refused to raise the current flag. [Washington Post, 1/23/08]

VIOLENCE CONTINUES TO RAGE

Suicide bombing kills 1 and wounds 21 in front of high school. A suicide bomber blew himself up in front of a high school in Iraq's violent Diyala province Tuesday, wounding 21 people. Students, teachers, bystanders and at least one policeman were among the wounded in the morning attack in the provincial capital, Baqouba. The bomber's target was unclear. The school is next to the provincial governor's office and a municipal building. [AP, 1/22/08]

Gunmen kill 8 Iraqi soldiers, wound 2, at a checkpoint in Baghdad.
The drive-by shooting occurred about 11 a.m. in the Bab al-Mudham district, a commercial area on the eastern side of the Tigris River in central Baghdad. The attack in the heart of Baghdad provided a deadly example of the stark challenges facing the Iraqi forces as they work to take over their own security so U.S.-led troops can eventually go home. It was the latest in a series of bombings, shootings and mortar attacks as militants seek to undermine recent security gains. [AP, 1/23/08]

Dean of Baghdad dental school is killed. He was attacked while driving home from work on Wednesday, Iraqi police said. They said they found the body of Munthar Muhrej Radhi, who headed the country's premier dental school, in the front of his car in western Baghdad. He had been shot multiple times. Gunmen have regularly targeted Iraq's academic community, killing scores of professors in recent years and prompting many more to flee the country. [Reuters, 1/23/08]