The Marine Corps has concluded the U.S. military is no longer able to defeat the insurgency in western Iraq or counter al-Qaeda’s rising popularity there. The Washington Post reports the findings appear in a classified intelligence study. The report describes Iraq’s Sunni minority as “embroiled in a daily fight for survival,” fearful of “pogroms” by the Shiite majority and increasingly dependent on al-Qaeda in Iraq as its only hope against growing Iranian dominance in Baghdad. The memo says that “from the Sunni perspective, their greatest fears have been realized: Iran controls Baghdad and Anbaris have been marginalized.”
At the United Nations, Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned that Iraq is almost in a state of civil war.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan: “Well, I think, given the developments on the ground, unless something is done drastically and urgently to arrest the deteriorating situation, we could be there. In fact, we are almost there.”
NBC News announced on Monday that it would begin describing the violence in Iraq as a civil war. NBC became the first television network to make such a decision despite objections from the Bush administration. On Monday, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said, “We’re clearly in a new phase.” The Los Angeles Times reports that at least 524 people have died in Iraq since Thursday.
In Britain, Defense Secretary Des Browne has announced that Britain will begin withdrawing some of its 7,000 troops from Iraq next year.
Des Browne: “By the end of next year, I expect numbers of forces in Iraq to be significantly lower by a matter of thousands. The planning for this has been going on for some months, and I have been pressing our planners to be looking at all the options to make sure that we do not ask a single soldier to remain in Iraq longer than is necessary.”
The South Korean government also approved today a plan to remove half of its troops from Iraq.
In other Iraq news, a suicide bomber attempted to assassinate the governor of Kirkuk earlier today. The governor survived, but the blast killed one person and wounded 18.
On Monday, a U.S. F-15 fighter jet crashed during a bombing mission northwest of Baghdad. The military provided little information on the crash.
The Associated Press Television Network is reporting U.S soldiers shot and killed 11 civilians and wounded five yesterday in a Baghdad suburb. Witnesses told the news agency that the U.S. troops showed up and started firing at their homes.
The Iraqi government has banned journalists from attending sessions of Parliament. A spokesperson for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said that the decision was designed to make sure people speak with one voice to the media.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani traveled to Iran on Monday and has met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Talabani called on Iran to help stem the violence in Iraq and to expand ties between Iran and Iraq. Khamenei told Talabani that U.S. troops must leave Iraq if security is to be restored.
In other news from Middle East, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is heading to the region to hold separate talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The ceasefire in Gaza has entered a third day despite occasional breaches by Palestinian militants. On Monday, Palestinian officials responded to Ehud Olmert’s peace offer.
Nabil Abu Rudeina, spokesperson for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas: “What we are looking for is seeing this issue resolved immediately, the release of all the prisoners, Palestinians and Israelis. This is the starting point, especially after the truce which was agreed upon yesterday. We have to build on these steps, and we hope that this issue should be solved very soon.”
Meanwhile, the Israeli military continues to carry out operations in the West Bank, where Israeli troops seized 13 Palestinians overnight.
In other news on Israel, a United Nations agency is accusing Israel of planting land mines in Lebanon during this summer’s war. The U.N. Mine Action Coordination Center made the announcement after a land mine exploded, injuring two European mine disposal experts and a Lebanese medic. A British de-mining expert was also recently injured in a separate landmine blast.
In news from Washington, the inspector general of the Justice Department has announced plans to investigate the department’s use of information gathered in the government’s warrantless surveillance program. The probe, however, will not examine the legality of the controversial National Security Agency program.
Here in New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg met with African-American leaders on Monday—two days after city police officers shot dead an unarmed 23-year-old man hours before his wedding. Bloomberg said it sounds like police used excessive force in the shooting.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg: “I can tell you that this is, to me, unacceptable or inexplicable how you can have 50-odd shots fired. But that’s up for the investigation to find out what really happened.”
We’ll have more on the police shooting in a few minutes.
Pope Benedict XVI has arrived in Turkey for a four-day visit that has sparked mass protests. This is the pope’s first visit to a Muslim country since his remarks linking Islam and violence. On Saturday, 15,000 demonstrators gathered in Ankara to protest his visit.
Turkish protester: “We, the Alperen group, do not want the pope, who made insulting statements about the Muslim world, to enter this country and to make it dirty. And we will do what we can to avoid this within a democratic framework.”
Turkey has said security for the pope will be even higher than for President Bush’s visit two years ago.
President Bush is heading to the NATO summit in Latvia today. He is expected to join others in urging NATO members to contribute more troops to the war in Afghanistan.
NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer: “We must resource ISAF properly. It is not acceptable that our mission in the south still lacks 20 percent of its combined joint statement of requirements. I’ve spoken out repeatedly, and I’ll do it here again this morning, about national caveats that take away a commander’s flexibility and undermine our operational effectiveness.”
In Sri Lanka, the Tamil Tigers have announced they will resume their struggle to demand the formation of an independent state. Tamil Tigers leader Velupillai Prabhakaran said the 2002 ceasefire has become defunct.
A new study in the journal Medicine has concluded that AIDS will become one of the top three causes of death worldwide within the next 25 years. AIDS is currently ranked fourth behind heart disease, stroke and respiratory infections. The report estimates that at least 117 million people will die from AIDS over the next 25 years.
Officials in Florida are planning to begin testing touch-screen voting machines in Sarasota County today to determine if the system failed during the recent election. More than 18,000 people in the county went to the polls on Election Day but failed to cast a vote in the highly contested congressional race between Democrat Christine Jennings and Republican Vern Buchanan. The undercount was far higher in Sarasota County than in neighboring areas. According to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, if the missing votes had broken for Jennings by the same percentage as the counted votes in the county, the Democrat would have won the race by about 600 votes instead of losing by 368. Christine Jennings is contesting the election result.
And in Ecuador, Rafael Correa held a victory rally Monday following his apparent victory in Sunday’s presidential election. Correa vowed to oppose a new trade agreement with the United States and not to renew a lease for a U.S. military air base in Ecuador. He also criticized the U.S.-backed neoliberal economic model.
Rafael Correa: “The model that is being applied, not only in Ecuador, but throughout Latin America, has been disastrous. This neoliberalism has generated unemployment, it has privatized, and it has converted into merchandise the fundamental human rights like health, education and social security.”
Final election results from Ecuador are still not in. With 74 percent of the polling stations tallied as of Monday night, Rafael Correa had 61 percent of the vote.
And the Supreme Court in the Democratic Republic of Congo has upheld Joseph Kabila as the winner of the country’s first free elections in 41 years.