Iraqi Critics Questions Size of US Embassy Staff in Baghdad

Monday: 7 Iraqis Killed, 16 Wounded

by , December 12, 2011

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s trip to the United States opened the door to criticism from those who question the ongoing presence of U.S. personnel in Iraq, even if they technically aren’t troops. Diyala province, meanwhile, confirmed it will seek greater autonomy from Baghdad. Also, at least seven Iraqis were killed and 16 more were wounded in new attacks.

While Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is visiting the United States, back home some detractors of ongoing U.S. presence in Iraq made their opinions clear. Parliament Speaker Osama Al Nujaifi and Ammar Al Hakim, who heads the Islamic Supreme Council, separately questioned retaining 15,000 employees at the new U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. A third critic, Sadrist M.P. Jawad Alshahyli, went as far as to describe the group’s purpose being mostly surveillance, not diplomatic, and considers them a threat to Iraqi sovereignty. He thinks they should number no more than the equivalent staff at the Iraqi embassy in Washington, D.C. Embassy spokesperson Michael McClellan, on the other hand, said the large staff reflects the size of Iraq-American relations, but he also added that some staffers could eventually be replaced by Iraqis.

Diyala province’s council has voted to officially seek semi-autonomous region status, claiming mistreatment from Baghdad as the source of the desire. Perhaps coincidentally, a special team from Baghdad arrested a Kurdish councilmember. Relations between Diyala and Baghdad have been strained in recent years, particularly in predominantly Kurdish areas. The province joins Salah ad Din and Basra in seeking greater autonomy.

In Baghdad, two Interior Ministry staffers were shot to death in separate locations. A blast in Ghazaliya lured first responders to a second bombing that left seven wounded, mostly civilians. Five people were wounded in a machine gun attack on liquor stores in Bataween.

An I.E.D. explosion in Wadi Hajar killed two civilians and wounded three policemen.

In Samara, one civilian was killed and another was wounded in a blast.

Two soldiers were killed during a clash at an outpost in Tal Afar.

Read more by Margaret Griffis