|U.S. warplanes destroy a building in Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, June 24.|
In the first four days of the offensive by 10,000 U.S. troops, 68 members of al-Qaeda had reportedly been killed.
In a news briefing June 22, Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno said the offensive, named Operation Arrowhead Ripper, is targeted against al-Qaeda in Iraq and Shia extremists north and northeast of Baghdad. It is part of other operations by U.S. troops in Baghdad and the largely Sunni Anbar province against militias connected with Shiite and Sunni capitalists who have been vying for power in Iraq.
The offensive in Baquba is the largest assault on an Iraqi city since the ground and air attack led by 15,000 U.S. troops on Fallujah against military remnants of Saddam Husseins Baath party regime in November 2004. Unlike in Fallujah, in Baquba the U.S. military is being aided by Baathist groups that have turned against al-Qaeda.
Baathist militias such as the Islamic Army and the 1920 Revolution Brigades, which had been fighting the U.S. military until recently, are now reportedly helping U.S. forces identify al-Qaeda members in Baquba and providing them with valuable information.
An Iraqi Army officer told the Washington Post that these groups are operating under an umbrella group called the United Jihad Factions Council and they have been issued special insignias to distinguish them from al-Qaeda members. There have been reports of fighting between al-Qaeda and the Islamic Army in Baghdad.
In spite of the offensive, waves of bombings continue across Baghdad, showing that Washington is far from stabilizing Iraq.
Four Sunni sheiks were killed while meeting at a heavily fortified hotel in Baghdad used by members of the Iraqi parliament. The bombing was one of five on June 25 that killed more than 40 Iraqis. The sheiks were members of the Anbar Salvation Council, a Sunni tribal group that has cooperated with the U.S. military and Iraqi government in driving al-Qaeda from Anbar province.
For the second time this year, Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Malikis cabinet has approved a draft national oil law to distribute revenues among the competing capitalist factions.
A first draft of the law was approved by Malikis cabinet in February. But leaders of the semiautonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) withdrew their support for it after the central government added a series of provisions that gave Baghdad greater control over oil development.
Malikis cabinet also approved a draft law giving jobs to thousands of former members of Husseins regime who were purged following the U.S.-led invasion.
Both laws are among several nonbinding benchmarks the U.S. Congress has instructed the Iraqi government to try to achieve as part of the $100 billion war appropriations bill approved in May.
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