By Richard A Oppel Jr in the NDT:
BAGHDAD, June 23 “” Eight American servicemen were reported to have died in Iraq on Saturday, bringing the four-day death toll to at least 23 as insurgents continued to use huge roadside bombs to rip through combat vehicles.
The deadliest attack on Saturday killed four American soldiers in combat northwest of Baghdad. Insurgents detonated a roadside bomb near the soldiers” vehicle. An Iraqi working as an interpreter for the Americans was wounded.
Though the military did not specify the location of the attack, American forces have been stepping up patrols and other operations in the area immediately northwest of here as part of new offensives to try to bring some control to the insurgent-dominated belts around the capital. The area northwest of Baghdad had been left largely untouched, American officials say, allowing Sunni militants to use the sparsely populated area as a sanctuary.
Another insurgent attack “” a coordinated strike using rifles and at least one bomb “” led to the deaths of two American soldiers in eastern Baghdad early on Saturday. The soldiers first were struck by the explosion of a roadside bomb, then they were fired upon, the military said. Three other soldiers were wounded in the attack.
In Baghdad, Parliament agreed to delay its summer vacation for one month, until the end of July, so that lawmakers would have more time to try to pass legislation that American officials say is crucial to moving the country past a deep political crisis.
The coalition of Sunni Arab political parties that promised that they would replace the speaker of Parliament, Mahmoud Mashhadani, are now conceding that they may have to stick with him. Mr. Mashhadani has dug in his heels and said that he is not leaving despite widespread discontent with his performance from his own bloc, as well as from many of the Shiites in Parliament. For the moment, he is on leave from his job as speaker.
The media talk of “political crisis” and “widespread discontent” in the Iraqi “Parliament” as though it were the Massachusetts statehouse. My mind keeps going back to that scene in Lawrence of Arabia with the Arab clans crammed into some government building in Damascus hooting and exchanging insults. Not exactly the House of Lords over in Baghdad, I expect.
American and Iraqi forces have begun a major offensive in Baquba to lessen the grip that Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and other militants hold on the city. An Iraqi commander in Diyala, Maj. Gen. Abdul Karim al-Rubaie, said that 53 Qaeda fighters had been killed and 60 arrested. Earlier in the week, American commanders acknowledged that about four-fifths of the top Qaeda leaders had escaped Baquba before the offensive began.