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U.S. Will Not Take Over Iraqi Parliament Security
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U.S. Will Not Take Over Iraqi Parliament Security

Iraq

U.S. Will Not Take Over Iraqi Parliament Security
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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

The U.S. and Iraq are trying to beef up security at the Iraqi parliament building in Baghdad. Yesterday, a suicide bomber killed at least one lawmaker and injured a dozen others. A few hours earlier, an enormous car bomb destroyed a major bridge spanning the Tigris River.

Some Iraqi lawmakers are saying the two bombings call into question the new Baghdad security plan, and they wonder if Iraqi security forces can really protect them.

NPR's Tom Bowman reports.

TOM BOWMAN: Lieutenant General Ray Odierno is the day-to-day ground commander in Iraq. This is how he summed up Thursday's attacks.

Lieutenant General RAY ODIERNO (U.S. Army): Frankly, yesterday was a bad day, a very bad day. But we're going to come back from that.

BOWMAN: Some Iraqi lawmakers are saying the two-month-old Baghdad security plan is dead, that thousands of Iraqi and American troops streaming into the city have not brought them safety. Odierno says such remarks don't help.

Lt. Gen. ODIERNO: What I would say to them, though, is all those statements do are encourage insurgents. They encourage al-Qaida. What we have to do is stick hard together to provide security to the people.

BOWMAN: Al-Qaida in Iraq has claimed responsibility for the parliament attack inside the fortress-like Green Zone. Odierno said it's too soon to say who did that bombing, or the one at the bridge.

Lt. Gen. ODIERNO: We simply don't know who was involved, and we've also seen the reports that al-Qaida in Iraq have, in fact, claimed it. My guess is, based on past events, they are probably somewhat involved but we don't know for sure yet.

BOWMAN: Some Iraqi lawmakers want the Americans to take over security of the parliament building. That job was passed to the Iraqis last year. Again, Gen. Odierno.

Lt. Gen. ODIERNO: It doesn't help them for us to provide that security. They have to do that. And I believe - I have confidence that, in fact, they can and they have the capability and capacity to do it.

BOWMAN: Despite what he calls a very bad day, Odierno says Baghdad is improving in some neighborhoods. A drop in sectarian murders, the opening of two dozen security stations, the presence of troops, new concrete walls all serve, says the general, to make Iraqis feel safer.

Lt. Gen. ODIERNO: Across Baghdad, markets are being hardened with checkpoints and barriers, and merchants have returned to sell their produce. And Iraqis are busy shopping in the markets over Safa and Dora. And there are more projects such as these that will occur in the near future.

BOWMAN: At the same time, Odierno points to developments in volatile Anbar province, west of Baghdad. Tribal sheiks are teaming with the Americans to battle al-Qaida. Odierno says the province has dramatically improved.

But defense analyst Tony Cordesman says the future of Iraq is measured by two competing timetables: one in the United States, another in Iraq. Political reconciliation, training the Iraqi forces to provide security, Cordesman says all this will take longer than Americans have been told.

Mr. TONY CORDESMAN (Defense Analyst, Center for Strategic and International Studies): One great problem we have is that for over four years the administration has constantly been promising quick success. For the American people to follow, someone has to lead. And to lead, you have to explain to the American people and the Congress that to make this work is going to take a period beyond the life of this administration.

BOWMAN: Odierno hinted yesterday at a more extended timeframe. He told reporters, we still have a long way to go to provide security.

Tom Bowman, NPR News, the Pentagon.

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