1/30/07 James R. Carroll jcarroll@courier-journal.com The Courier-Journal

WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said…. “Well, look, I don’t want to speculate about what will happen if the effort to secure Baghdad doesn’t work. I will say this. This is their last chance. This needs to be successful over the next six to nine months.”

Some analysts said McConnell was sending two messages: one to the White House about what is politically viable, and one to Republican senators about how much time they will have to repair political damage, if that is necessary.

Republicans must defend 21 of the 33 Senate seats on the ballot next year. One of those GOP seats is McConnell’s. “I think he’s being a good leader by offering his caucus an approach that can both support the White House but also give them some peace of mind that their support isn’t any longer open-ended and unequivocal,” said GOP strategist Terry Holt, who was Bush’s 2004 campaign spokesman.


1/30/2007 ….The Sadrist movement has given its blessing to an initiative led by one of two mayors of Sadr City to negotiate terms under which U.S. forces will be able to deploy freely there.

If the negotiations succeed, U.S. forces will be welcome in Sadr City, the Mahdi Army stronghold that has witnessed two previous battles between U.S. troops and the Shiite militia, said Rahim al-Daraji, the mayor of the southern half of Sadr City. Al-Daraji said he has been authorized to negotiate on behalf of the Mahdi Army and other Shiite factions.

“It will mean any U.S. soldier will be as welcome in Sadr City as any Iraqi citizen,” said al-Daraji, who said he is politically independent. “He will be able to walk safely in Sadr City, sit in any restaurant he likes, and he can help in reconstructing the city.”


IRBIL, Jan 29 (KUNA) — Iraqi MP for the Sadrist bloc Baha Al-Araji unveiled on Monday the near announcement of the Sadr-Kurd alliance….along with recommendations for serious cooperation seeking real national unity. The Sadr bloc delegation that is visiting Kurdistan at present, held meetings with the Kurdish leaders and discussed the Iraqi developments in general and the relations between the Sadrist bloc and the Kurdish alliance.



…Ambassador, Hassan Kazemi Qumi, said Iran was prepared to offer Iraq government forces training, equipment and advisers for what he called “the security fight.” In the economic area, Mr. Qumi said, Iran was ready to assume major responsibility for Iraq reconstruction….“We have experience of reconstruction after war,” Mr. Qumi said, referring to the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. “We are ready to transfer this experience in terms of reconstruction to the Iraqis.”


(Saudi Arabia)

Skeptical of U.S. strategy and resolve in Iraq, Saudi officials have met in Riyadh with Iranian national security chief Ali Larijani and with a delegation from Hezbollah in recent days. Arab-language newspapers close to the Saudi regime said the separate visits focused on containing the crisis in Lebanon and tamping down Sunni-Shi’ite tensions in general.

….Mohammed Mehdi Akef, the spiritual leader of the militant Sunni Muslim Brotherhood, late last week issued a statement condemning Sunni-Shi’ite divisions, implicitly blaming U.S. policy in Iraq and the region to fanning the tensions. …Saudi King Abdullah had a double-edged message for Iran:

The king told the Al-Seyassah newspaper that Saudi Arabia “does not support any party that is an enemy of Iran,” but also cautioned Tehran against underestimating the danger of antagonizing the United States in Iraq and elsewhere. “We advised Iran on how you go about cooperating internationally, and to avoid exposing the Gulf region to dangers,” the king said of his meeting with Iran’s Mr. Larijani.



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