NEWS: Refugees; fewer foreign fighters; more mercenaries; Sadr’s relentless rise; the toll of war

Crocker blasts refugee process

The U.S. ambassador to Iraq warned that it may take the U.S. government as long as two years to process and admit nearly 10,000 Iraqi refugees referred by the United Nations for resettlement to the United States, because of bureaucratic bottlenecks.

In a bluntly worded State Department cable titled “Iraqi Refugee Processing: Can We Speed It Up?” Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker noted that the Department of Homeland Security had only a handful of officers in Jordan to vet the refugees. [complete article]

Fewer foreigners crossing into Iraq from Syria to fight

The number of foreign fighters entering Iraq from Syria has decreased noticeably in recent months, corresponding to a similar decrease in suicide bombings and other attacks by the group al-Qaeda in Iraq, according to U.S. military and intelligence officials.

“There is an early indication of a trend,” said Gen. David H. Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, in an interview. Border crossings from Syria that averaged 80 to 90 a month have fallen to “half or two-thirds of that over the last two or three months,” Petraeus said. [complete article]

Muqtada strikes another political blow

We have absolutely no intention of pushing Prime Minister [Nuri al-]Maliki out,” said a spokesman for the Sadrist alliance on Sunday. This came after Muqtada al-Sadr finally decided to walk out of the ruling Shi’ite United Iraqi Alliance (UIA).

For obvious reasons, the prime minister did not believe the assurances, realizing that ever since he broke with Muqtada this year, the rebel-turned-politician has been bent on bringing down the entire Maliki administration in revenge.

Muqtada has been giving Maliki nightmares – serious ones. Step 1 of his “coup” was six of his supporters walking out on the Maliki cabinet, depriving it of Sadrist legitimacy and keeping key positions vacant, such as Transport, Commerce, and Health. Maliki promised a cabinet reshuffle in the summer to fill in the vacant posts, but to date he has not done so. [complete article]

‘Help wanted’ ad belies report on Iraq security

A week ago today, Gen. David H. Petraeus started his rounds on Capitol Hill, reporting that security in Iraq was improving to the point that a small number of troops could begin coming home by year’s end.

But 10 days ago, his commanders in Baghdad began advertising for private contractors to work in combat-supply warehouses on U.S. bases throughout Iraq because half the soldiers who had been working in the warehouses were needed for patrols, combat and protection of U.S. forces. [complete article]

Sectarian toll includes scars to Iraq psyche

Iraqis have continued to flee their homes throughout the American troop increase, which began early this year, and despite assurances that it is becoming safe to return, uncrossable lines have been left in Iraqi minds and neighborhoods. Schools, hospitals and municipal buildings are quickly losing their diversity. [complete article]

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