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- Moqtada al-Sadr began withdrawing from Najaf and Kufa, possibly signalling an end to the two-month old uprising, but Shiite fighters were blamed for two attacks in Baghdad, a strike on a convoy in Baghdad that left four civilians dead and the bombing of a U.S. convoy that left two soldiers dead and two wounded. Al-Sadr met with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani over the weekend as well, though, which could be an opportunity to give Sadr an out as he backs down from his confrontation with the Coalition.
- JK: An American filmmaker based in Berlin has spent the better part of the last year in Baghdad shooting two films. The latest, Gunner Palace, follows a troop of young soldiers over a few months. Michael Tucker says: "This is the war you haven't seen on the news." As a soldier says in the film, "For y'all this is just a show, but we live in this movie."
- The National Guard may be reaching its breaking point under the strain of massive deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. There are no reports of shortfalls in enlistments or reenlistments as yet, however, so it is open to question whether or not the strain is really as bad as Guard commanders are claiming.
Other Topics Today Include: violence ramps up in anticipation of 1 July; gas subsidies taken to the next level; Sistani gives the new government a tentative thumbs up; Iraq's new government releases a military plan; Congress may start looking into Abu Ghraib.
REPORTS FROM THE FIELD
- Five U.S. soldiers were killed and five more wounded by a roadside bomb in Sadr City on Friday. U.S. troops also clashed with Shiites in the Sadr stronghold, killing a reported three Iraqis.
- Terrorists blew up a car bomb outside a joint U.S./Iraqi base in Taji on Sunday, killing at least nine and wounding 61 more. As 1 July approaches, the terrorists are presumably pulling out all the stops to try to derail the occupation. If this is the best they can do, however, the situation in Iraq may not be as bad as advertised.
- Michael Tucker has been making two films in Baghdad over the past year. His latest effort is available here. Beyond the film, Michael's commentary about what he saw is well worth seeing.
RECONSTRUCTION & THE ECONOMY
- Tim Blair notes just how far the U.S. is willing to go to support Iraq's recovery: nickel a gallon gas. It's not hard to imagine John Kerry using this as a campaign point against President Bush, but there's little doubt it is providing a significant boost to the Iraqi economy. Conversely, when the subsidies end, it could be a significant blow.
- He didn't sound overly thrilled with the new government, but Ayatollah Sistani gave the interim government at least a lukewarm endorsement. Given his standing with Iraq's Shiites, this marks a major victory for the new government.
THE INTERNATIONAL STAGE
- Iraq's new Prime Minister informed the United Nations that Iraq will control its own armed forces in close cooperation with American forces in Iraq. The Minister also formally invited the United States to maintain a presence in Iraq following the turnover of sovereignty. These announcements may help the U.S. get a UN resolution approving the turnover through this week.
- Congress is becoming concerned with the DoD investigation of Abu Ghraib. Republicans and Democrats are worried the investigations are too narrowly focused to expose problems higher up the chain of command, a concern that has been expressed by many outside observers including yours truly.
- A California National Guard soldier is claiming he reported prisoner abuse by his unit last summer, but the only action his superiors took was ship him home for a psychological evaluation. If he's telling the truth, the claims that prisoner abuse was a policy and not an aberration will be bolstered significantly.
- The U.S. released hundreds of prisoners from Abu Ghraib on Sunday, although some 3,100 remained in detention.
- The troops are still there. So is the Winds of Change.NET consolidated directory of ways you can support the troops: American, Australian, British, Canadian & Polish. Anyone out there with more information, contact us!
- Don't forget Chief Wiggles' Toys for Iraq drive!
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