Iraq canceled leave Friday for all military officers two days before an
expected verdict,and possible death sentence, in the trial of Saddam Hussein.
For the second time this week, a top Bush administration official huddled with
the Iraqi prime minister.
An Iraqi soldier stands guard at a
checkpoint in central Baghdad, Friday Nov. 3, 2006. The Iraqi government
has banned all vehicle traffic on Fridays fearing attacks on
Many of Saddam's fellow Sunni Arabs, along with some Shiites and Kurds, are
predicting a firestorm of violence if the court sentences the ex-president to
death, as is widely expected. Bloodshed is already high, with police finding the
bodies of 87 torture victims throughout the capital between 6 a.m. Thursday and
6 p.m. Friday.
But most Shiites, including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, are likely to be
enraged if he escapes the gallows. Al-Maliki declared last month he expected
"this criminal tyrant will be executed," saying that would likely break the will
of Saddam's followers in the insurgency.
In a videotape Friday, Defense Minister Abdul-Qader al-Obeidi was heard
issuing the order canceling all military leaves and ordering vacationing
soldiers back to duty. The order took effect at noon Friday and was announced at
a meeting among al-Maliki and senior military and security officials.
While there was no direct reference on the tape linking the cancellation of
leaves with the Saddam trial verdict, there was discussion of imposing a curfew
"All vacations will be canceled and all those who are on vacation must
return," al-Obeidi said.
one point during the meeting, al-Maliki could be heard upbraiding his top
military brass for failing to stop the capital's unbridled violence.
But attacks are not limited to Baghdad. South of the capital, police in Kut
found 13 more bodies Friday, seven pulled from the Tigris River. Elsewhere in
Iraq at least nine others died violent deaths.
The U.S. military announced seven more deaths ¡ª four Marines and three
soldiers killed Thursday ¡ª raising the death toll for November to 11. At least
105 U.S. forces died in October, the fourth highest monthly toll of the war.
Al-Maliki's demand for a speedier transfer of power to his military was
believed to have been among issues he discussed with U.S. National Intelligence
Director John Negroponte in the heavily fortified Green Zone.
Negroponte arrived just four days after National Security Adviser Stephen
Hadley paid an unannounced visit to the Iraqi capital and was heard to say he
had come "to reinforce some of the things you have heard from our president."
The two top U.S. officials came to the Iraqi capital in close succession
after a video conference Oct. 28 during which President Bush and al-Maliki
agreed to set up a five-member committee to coordinate military and political
Hassan al-Suneid, a top al-Maliki aide and lawmaker from his Dawa Party, said
at the time that the Iraqi leader was using the GOP's vulnerability in the
coming midterm congressional elections to leverage concessions from the White
House ¡ª particularly the speedy withdrawal of American forces from Iraqi cities
to U.S. bases in the country.
Al-Maliki had complained bitterly about recent U.S.-Iraqi operations, under
the direction of U.S. officers, saying they were causing undue problems for the
Iraqi people and undermining his authority.
On Tuesday, al-Maliki ordered the end of an American blockade of Sadr City,
the capital's sprawling Shiite slum, and the central Karradah district. The
Americans imposed the blockades the week before in their search for a kidnapped
Al-Maliki and a major political backer, radical anti-American cleric Muqtada
al-Sadr, whose Mahdi Army militia runs Sadr City, charged the U.S. with
collectively punishing the people of the two districts.
In the meantime, the U.S. military has announced that al-Maliki planned to
raise his military force structure by an estimated 18,000 men to a total of
about 144,000. Al-Maliki has claimed he believes the quicker his forces control
the country, the faster violence will diminish.
Gen. George W. Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said last month that he
believed Iraqi forces would be ready to take control of all of the country in 12
to 18 months, with "some level" of American support.
The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad would provide no details of the Negroponte visit
and said it was not announced in advance as a matter of security.
The Iraqi government said the intelligence boss had reassured al-Maliki of
Bush's continued backing.
"They discussed the latest political developments in Iraq and stressed the
importance of Iraqi troop readiness and building them both quantitatively and
qualitatively so they are ready to take control of Iraq's security. Negroponte
reaffirmed the support of President Bush and his administration for the Iraqi
government," the al-Maliki Cabinet said in a statement.
Negroponte served as the ambassador to Iraq before the current envoy, Zalmay
Khalilzad, whose announcement two weeks ago of plans for timelines to measure
the Iraqi government's success in curbing violence enraged al-Maliki.
The increasingly prickly prime minister said at one point that he was a
friend of the United States but "not America's man in Iraq."
All 87 bodies recovered in Baghdad were dressed in civilian clothes and had
been bound at the wrists and ankles, police Lt. Mohammed Khayon said. They
showed signs of torture, a common practice among religious extremists who seize
victims from private homes or from cars and buses traveling the capital's
Such slayings are rarely solved, and Khayon said the police had no solid
information on the victims' identities or their killers.
Shiite militiamen and death squads have been blamed for many of Baghdad's
sectarian killings, which skyrocketed after the February al-Qaida bombing of a
The Sunni insurgency bears responsibility for a vast majority of American
deaths and has conducted vicious attacks against Shiite civilians in a bid to
start a civil war, which now threatens to engulf Baghdad and many regions in
U.S. forces acting on intelligence reports raided a building in Mahmoudiya,
about 20 miles south of Baghdad, killing 13 suspected insurgents, the military
The troops surrounded and stormed the building after those inside refused to
surrender, it said. Five people were killed inside the building, including a man
wearing a vest rigged with explosives, while eight men who fled were gunned down
by troops on the ground and by planes or helicopters circling above.
The military said several of those killed appeared to have been foreign
fighters from outside Iraq.