As U.S. troops prepared their final departure from Iraq, NATO regretfully closed down its small but highly effective training mission here Saturday after negotiations over extending the mission stalled over Iraq granting foreign military personnel immunity from prosecution.
Even as the last vestiges of the international military presence here were leaving, there was high drama in Baghdad's international zone, as troops and tanks surrounded the homes of three prominent Sunni politicians — Vice President Tariq al Hashimi, Finance Minister Rafie al-Essawi and Ayad Samarraie, a former speaker of the Parliament, eyewitnesses said.
Three members of Hashimi's security detail were arrested in recent days on suspicion of involvement in a November suicide bomb attack on the Iraqi parliament, according to an aide to Hashimi.
In a sign that Iraq's political dysfunction was worsening just days after American forces formally ended their mission in Iraq, Maj. Gen. Qasim Atta, spokesman for the Baghdad operations command, was expected to make an announcement that implicated the politicians in the bombing, according to western diplomats.
Osama Nujaifi, the Sunni speaker of the parliament and ostensibly the target of the bombing, had pleaded with the government to postpone any public airing of its evidence, according to an official in the interior ministry.
Earlier Saturday, the Iraqiya party, headed by Ayad Allawi, a political rival who shares power with Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, walked out of the parliament but said it was not quitting the government.
The U.S. Embassy Saturday night urged the Iraqi government to conduct its investigation into the allegations "in a transparent manner in accordance with Iraqi law."
As the political drama was unfolding, NATO and Iraqi officials said that the legal issue in extending the seven-year NATO mission was whether the Iraqi parliament would have to approve a ...