In Iraq the U.S. has resumed aerial bombing raids on Iraqi targets for the first time in over six months. On Friday, 500-pound bombs were dropped on Tikrit. The bombing resumed on Sunday when U.S. forces bombed portions of Falluja. Friday’s bombing came shortly after Iraqi resistance fighters shot down a U.S. Black Hawk helicopter killing six Americans aboard. The total number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq is just shy of 400. 38 troops have died in the first 10 days of November.
In other Iraq news, the Washington Post reports the U.S. is now considering replacing the Iraqi Governing Council with another form of governing body. The Bush administration is reportedly upset with the failure of the U.S.-appointed Council to address many of the key problems in Iraq. Among the members on the Council is Ahmed Chalabi, the head of the Iraqi National Congress. One U.S. official told the Washington Post, "We’re unhappy with all of them. They’re not acting as a legislative or governing body and we need to get moving." The White House is sending former Ambassador Robert Blackwell to Iraq this week. Blackwell is the new National Security Council official overseeing the occupation.
And the International Red Cross has announced that it is pulling out of both Baghdad and Basra due to security concerns.
At least 17 people have died in Saudi Arabia following a suicide bombing Saturday on a housing complex in the capital city of Riyadh. U.S. and Saudi officials said members of Al Qaeda opposed to the Saudi monarch were likely behind the attack which also injured over 100 people. At the time of the bombing the U.S. had already closed its embassy and two consulates after receiving intelligence that an attack was imminent. In May, 35 people, including eight Americans, died during an attack on a complex that housed foreign workers including many from the private military firm Vinnell. The Wall Street Journal reports that since May Saudi officials have detained 1,500 opponents of the government and have increased its already tight control over the kingdom’s media.
In campaign news, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean has announced that he will opt out of the public financing presidential system. He is the first Democrat to do so in the 30 years since the taxpayer-funded system was set up after Watergate. In other Dean news, two of the most politically powerful labor unions — AFSCME (the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees) and SEIU (the Service Employees International Union) are both planning to endorse Dean this week.
In news from the John Kerry campaign, the Associated Press is reporting that Kerry’s campaign manager Jim Jordan and his campaign chair Jeanne Shaheen have been fired.
Ariel Sharon narrowly persuaded the Israeli cabinet yesterday to approve a prisoner swap with the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah. Under the terms of the deal, Israel would release some 400 Palestinian and 20 Lebanese prisoners, in exchange for one live Israeli civilian, Elhanan Tannenbaum, and the remains of three Israel Defense Forces soldiers. Tannenbaum was kidnapped by Hezbollah from an Arab country in October 2000, shortly after the three soldiers were ambushed and abducted on the Israel-Lebanon border. The three have since been declared fallen in action.
The New York Times is reporting The Bush administration is attempting to prevent a federal court from awarding hundreds of millions of dollars to a group of former American prisoners of war who were tortured in Iraq during the Persian Gulf War. A federal court had awarded the former POWs funds from frozen Iraqi assets.
Former Vice President Al Gore yesterday lashed out at the Bush administration and urged Congress to repeal the USA Patriot Act. Gore said "They have taken us much farther down the road toward an intrusive, Big Brother-style government — toward the dangers prophesied by George Orwell in his book '1984' — than anyone ever thought would be possible in the United States of America."