President Bush’s top adviser Karl Rove has announced he will step down as White House deputy chief of staff on August 31. Rove’s resignation comes while he is at the center of several congressional investigations. Last month Senate Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy subpoenaed Rove to testify about his role in the politicization of the Justice Department and the firing of nine U.S. attorneys. So far Rove has ignored the subpoena and has refused to testify, citing executive privilege. In addition, two weeks ago Rove skipped a congressional hearing on the allegedly improper use by White House aides of Republican National Committee email accounts. Rove told The Wall Street Journal that he is resigning in order to spend more time with his family. For the past 19 years Rove worked as George W. Bush’s closest political adviser, first in Texas, then in Washington. During that time he earned the nickname of Bush’s Brain.
Iraq’s most senior Sunni politician has accused Shiite militias of waging an unprecedented campaign of genocide against Iraq’s Sunni population. Adnan al-Dulaimi said Shiites were on the brink of total control in Baghdad. He wrote in email to the Associated Press, “It is a war that has started in Baghdad and they will not stop there but will expand it to all Arab lands.” He accused Iran of directing, arming and supporting the militias. The 75-year-old al-Dulaimi heads the Iraqi Accordance Front, the largest Sunni political bloc in parliament. The coalition of parties pulled its six Cabinet ministers from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shiite-dominated government two weeks ago prompting a political crisis.
Nearly half of al-Maliki’s Cabinet is no longer participating in its meetings. On Sunday al-Maliki called for an emergency summit to end the political deadlock.
Nouri Al-Maliki: “We must search for solutions to these political problems that we are suffering from. I have called the main political leaders in the country for a meeting to discuss the main issues in the political process. The first meeting may happen tomorrow or the day after tomorrow with these parties to look first of all at the political process and at the important strategic problems that face the government and the rebuilding of the country. We will then go on to look at the questions relating to the implementation of what we was agreed for the government’s agenda.”
U.S. officials have described the meeting as a make-or-break moment for the Iraqi government.
Meanwhile, residents of the southern Iraqi city of Diwaniya say they fear an all-out war among rival Shiite factions after the local governor and police chief were assassinated. The two officials died on Saturday when a powerful roadside bomb hit their convoy of vehicles. Three of their bodyguards were also killed. Many residents said they believed the men were assassinated by fellow Shiites. Reuters reports the Shiite-dominated south has become increasingly restless as factions vie for control of the oil-rich region, often pitting police loyal to one bloc against militiamen of others.
Here in this country, the White House’s new war czar, Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, has said it is worth considering returning to a military draft.
Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute: “I think it makes sense to certainly consider it, and I can tell you, this has always been an option on the table, but ultimately, this is a policy matter between meeting the demands for the nation’s security by one means or another.”
Lt. General Lute made the comments in an interview with National Public Radio. President Bush picked Lute in mid-May as a deputy national security adviser with responsibility for ensuring efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan are coordinated with policymakers in Washington.
In political news, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney won the presidential straw poll among Republican voters in Iowa this weekend. Only about 14,000 voters took part. The turnout was 50 percent lower than eight years ago. Romney won with about 31 percent of the vote. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee placed second with 18 percent. Former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson announced he would drop out of the presidential race after placing sixth. Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Senator John McCain did not take part in the straw poll.
In Somalia, two prominent radio journalists were assassinated within hours of each other on Saturday in Mogadishu. Both journalists were leading figures at the radio station HornAfrik, and one was also a freelance correspondent for the McClatchy newspapers. Mahad Ahmed Elmi was shot three times in the head by an unknown assailant as he arrived for work on Saturday morning. The killing occurred just 200 yards from the entrance to the radio station. HornAfrik’s co-founder, Ali Iman Sharmarke, died after a land mine exploded under his car. He had just returned from Elmi’s funeral. Colleagues said they were assassinated in retaliation for broadcasts critical of Somalia’s pro-U.S. interim government. The Somali government has repeatedly cracked down on independent media outlets that air critical reports. In June, authorities briefly forced the closure of HornAfrik and two other radio stations that it accused of “supporting terrorism.” On Friday, police stormed the Shabelle radio station and held several journalists for hours.
A U.S.-based women’s rights group is accusing the Filipino government of preventing three of its members from returning home to Los Angeles. The women from the Gabriela Network traveled to the Philippines last month to attend the Women’s International Solidarity Affair. The chair of the organization, Annalisa Enrile, was blocked from traveling home on August 5 and told she was on a watch list. Two other members of the Gabriela Network, Ninotchka Rosca and Judith Mirkinson, are also reportedly on the watch list. On Sunday the women accused the Filipino government of using the recently implemented Human Security Act to turn the Philippines into “a vast prison.”
In South Asia, the death toll from the devastating monsoon floods in India and Bangladesh has risen to 2,000. India announced it would resume air drops of food and aid to flood victims. In Bangladesh many towns remained cut off by flooding.
President Bush is on pace to break a new presidential record for taking vacations. CBS News is reporting Bush has spent all or part of 418 days of his presidency at his estate in Crawford, Texas. He is heading there today for a two-week vacation. The presidential vacation-time record holder is the late Ronald Reagan, who tallied 436 days in his two terms. With 17 months to go in his presidency, Bush is expected to beat that easily. President Bush spent this past weekend in Kennebunkport, Maine, at the Bush family compound. On Saturday he met with newly elected French President Nicolas Sarkozy. When a reporter asked President Bush if he could say something in French, Bush replied, “No, I can’t. I can barely speak English.”
In news from Latin America, leaders from Venezuela and Argentina met in Bolivia on Friday to support Bolivian President Evo Morales plan to nationalize its energy sector. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez pledged to help Bolivia.
Hugo Chavez: “The story of neoliberal globalization was to privatize because that would bring big investments. That’s a lie. Now we have to bring investments, technology. And we are going to look for the gas that lies inside the Bolivian homeland.”
And the Chicago Council on Global Affairs has canceled an upcoming speech by two prominent critics of the pro-Israeli lobby in Washington. John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt were scheduled to speak on Sept. 27 to discuss their upcoming book, “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.” The Wall Street Journal reports the president of the Chicago Council, Marshall Bouton, canceled the event under pressure from critics who were uncomfortable with the academics’ arguments.