The death toll from Tuesday’s massive suicide attack in Baghdad has reached 70. Most of the dead were poor workers lured with the promise of a day’s work. Another 200 people were injured. The attack came on a day that claimed the lives of at least 131 Iraqis. Another five U.S. troops were killed.
As Iraq sees escalating violence, the Bush administration has announced it will delay announcement of a revised Iraq strategy until the new year. President Bush had been expected to deliver a major address before Christmas. But on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said the president isn’t ready.
White House Press Secretary Tony Snow: “We do not know when, so I can’t give you a date, I can’t give you a time, I can’t give you a place, I can’t give you the way in which it will happen. All those questions are yet to be answered. But the most important thing is the president continues to be engaged in the business of talking about the way forward.”
The Los Angeles Times is reporting military leaders are expected to recommend President Bush “double down” in Iraq and substantially increase the number of U.S. troops. Pentagon officials will also call for a new offensive against Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr. A new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll says just 12 percent of Americans favor sending more troops to Iraq.
This news comes as The Washington Post reports the Army and Marine Corps are seeking permanent increases in personnel and unfettered access to call up National Guard and reserve troops. Under their request, the Pentagon would have to ease restrictions on the frequency and duration of involuntary call-ups for reservists. Senior military leaders say the changes are needed because the U.S. military is overstretched.
In other Iraq news, The Washington Post is reporting the Saudi Arabian government has warned the Bush administration it might provide financial support to Iraqi Sunni groups fighting Iraqi Shiites if the U.S. pulls out of Iraq. The message was conveyed during Vice President Dick Cheney’s visit to Saudi Arabia last month. The Saudi kingdom is said to be concerned Iraqi Sunnis would face wide-scale attacks from the majority Shiites and that Iran would gain more influence. Meanwhile, the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., Turki al-Faisal, has resigned.
And in other developments in Iraq, an Iraqi cameraman working for the Associated Press was killed Tuesday in the city of Mosul. Witnesses said insurgents killed Aswan Ahmed Lutfallah as he filmed a clash with Iraqi police. More than 120 media workers have died in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion.
In Chile, funeral services were held Tuesday for the former dictator Augusto Pinochet. He died Sunday at the age of 91. Pinochet’s funeral began after thousands of supporters filed past his coffin at Santiago’s Military Academy. One man was briefly detained after he spat on the casket holding Pinochet’s body. The man was identified as the grandson of Pinochet’s predecessor, General Carlos Prats. Prats was killed in 1974 after opposing Pinochet’s ouster of Salvador Allende’s elected government. Prats’ grandson says he considers Pinochet the killer of his grandfather. Meanwhile Tuesday, thousands of Pinochet opponents rallied outside the central palace where Allende was overthrown. Salvador Allende’s daughter, Carmen Paz Allende, was among those in attendance.
Carmen Paz Allende: “There are a lot of feelings. On our part it is sad that he was not tried and did not go to jail.”
In the Gaza Strip, thousands of Palestinians attended a funeral Tuesday for three sons of a senior intelligence official linked to President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement. The boys were killed as they made their way to school on Monday. The incident has renewed fears of all-out civil war between the two main Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas. The boys’ father, Colonel Baha Balousha, appealed for national unity.
Colonel Baha Balousha: “The message that we are sending is that these children are part of the Palestinian society, they are a part of the Palestinian national cause. If they don’t chase the killers and come back to find a shared security program between the Palestinian factions and the Palestinian Authority, then there will be no state nor calm in Palestine.”
The violence continues in Gaza today. Earlier today, a prominent judge linked to Hamas was killed in the town of Khan Younis.
Meanwhile, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled Tuesday Palestinians can sue the Israeli army for damages caused by its attacks on the Occupied Territories. The decision overturns an earlier law that protects the military from damage claims in nearly all of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. More than 100 Palestinian lawsuits are pending.
Outgoing U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan continues his round of exit speeches before he steps down this month. On Tuesday, Annan criticized the international community for failing to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan: “No other conflict carries such a powerful, symbolic and emotional charge, even for people far away. Yet, while the quest for peace has registered some important achievements over the years, a final settlement has defied the best efforts of several generations of world leaders. I, too, will leave office without an end to the prolonged agony.”
In other U.N. news, the Human Rights Council opened a special session Tuesday on the ongoing crisis in Darfur. This is U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour: “The desperate plight of the people in Darfur has for too long been neglected or addressed with what the victims should rightly regard and history should judge as meek offerings, broken promises and disregard. This council has taken the important step of convening a special session to tackle the serious and pressing situation in Darfur. Victims and other vulnerable civilians are entitled to expect from you a credible response.”
In Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has renewed his previous calls for Israel’s elimination.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “I want to tell them (Western counties), just as the Soviet Union was wiped out and today does not exist, so will the Zionist regime soon be wiped out.”
Ahmadinejad spoke Tuesday before a widely condemned conference that is questioning whether the Nazi Holocaust occurred.
Back in the United States, hundreds of immigrant workers were detained Tuesday in what immigration officials called a massive crackdown on identity theft. The workers were arrested at Swift and Company meatpacking plants in six different states. Immigration agents entered the plant and separated immigrants from U.S. citizens. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency says the workers will be charged with using stolen identities. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which represents workers at five plants, says it will seek an injunction to block prosecution of the detained workers. Union spokesperson Jill Cashen said, “Worksite raids are not an effective form of immigration reform. They terrorize workers and destroy families.”
And the last congressional race in the midterm elections has been decided. Seven-term Republican Congressmember Henry Bonilla has lost to Democratic challenger Ciro Rodriguez in a runoff to represent Texas’ 23rd District. Rodriguez’s victory marked the 36th seat to switch from Republican to Democratic control.