U.S. troops kill 100s of Iraqi militiamen
Iraqis protest U.S. arrest of Shiite official
Supporters of Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, a leader of the largest faction of the Shiite-led Iraqi government, march February 24 in Kerbala, Iraq, to protest the arrest and 12-hour detention by U.S. troops of al-Hakims eldest son, Amar, also a leader of the same group.
BY SAM MANUEL
WASHINGTON, February 28Thousands of Shiites rallied across southern Iraq February 24 to protest the arrest and 12-hour detention of Amar al-Hakim, an officer of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), as he returned from Iran. His father, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, is the central leader of SCIRI, the largest faction in Iraqs Shiite-led government.
The U.S. military said Hakims convoy traveled along a route used to supply weapons from Iran to Shiite militias in Iraq, according to the Associated Press.
About the same time, Iraqs prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, announced that some 400 members of Sunni- and Shiite-led militias have been killed, and a similar number arrested, by U.S. and Iraqi government forces in the first 10
days of a crackdown launched in Baghdad in mid-February. The U.S. government is sending 21,500 additional troops to Iraq to spearhead the operation.
Meanwhile, antiwar posturing by Democrats in the U.S. Congress continues to sputter. A proposal by Rep. John Murtha, chairman of the House of Representatives subcommittee on defense appropriations, to tie U.S. funding for the war to readiness of the troops being deployed is all but dead in the water, according to press reports.
Amar al-Hakim said during his detention by U.S. troops that he was handcuffed and blindfolded and his bodyguards were strongly abused, according to AP. Hakim said he was told by the U.S. military that he was being held because his passport had expired. However, he displayed a passport valid until September, AP reported.
Leaders of SCIRI were exiled in Iran during the reign of Saddam Husseins Baath party regime in Iraq. SCIRI has kept close ties with the government of Iran but also maintains good relations with Washington.
Iraqs cabinet approved a new draft oil law February 26. The U.S. rulers view its passage as a key component in establishing a stable regime in Iraq friendly to U.S. interests in the region.
A summary of the law shows that the central government would distribute oil revenues to Iraqs 18 provinces based on population. It would also open Iraqs vast oil reserves to extensive investment by foreign companies. A compromise in the draft law allows the Kurdish regional government to negotiate and sign contracts with foreign companies for oil exploration and production. The contracts would be reviewed by Baghdad. The measure still needs to be approved by Iraqs parliament.
Back in Washington, Democrats in the House have pulled back from the Murtha Plan due to strong opposition within their party.
Aides to Democratic politicians said Murthas proposal would be revised to drop some of the more stringent restrictions on troop deployments, such as being trained with the equipment they will use before being sent to Iraq, reported the Washington Post.
Democrats in the Senate said they are considering a proposal to revise the 2002 Congressional resolution authorizing the invasion of Iraq. The proposal would keep U.S. troops in Iraq for a year. An unspecified number of troops would remain beyond that time to train Iraqis, secure Iraqs borders, and continue counterterrorism operations.
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