14 killed in at­tacks, rob­bery; mil­i­tants sus­pected

The Washington Times Daily - - World -

BAGH­DAD | At­tacks against al Qaeda’s fa­vorite tar­gets in Iraq killed 14 peo­ple Mon­day as in­sur­gents struck se­cu­rity forces, a gov­ern­ment of­fice and jew­elry stores, demon­strat­ing a con­tin­ued threat from armed groups as the coun­try pre­pares to host a meet­ing of the Arab world’s top lead­ers.

Se­cu­rity of­fi­cials ex­pect al Qaeda to ramp up vi­o­lence over the next few weeks as Bagh­dad pre­pares to host the an­nual Arab League sum­mit at the end of the month.

There was no im­me­di­ate claim of re­spon­si­bil­ity for Mon­day’s strikes, and nu­mer­ous armed groups in Iraq have mixed at­tacks on po­lit­i­cal tar­gets with mon­ey­mak­ing crim­i­nal op­er­a­tions.

But al Qaeda in Iraq for years has been thought to fund it­self in part with cash and gold stolen from jew­elry stores.

Mil­i­tants struck first in a predawn raid Mon­day in the city of Tarmiyah, 30 miles north of Bagh­dad, where po­lice said gun­men in at least two cars at­tacked the lo­cal mayor’s of­fice. Three po­lice­men were killed, po­lice and health of­fi­cials said. The mayor was not in his of­fice at the time.

LONDON | Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron’s visit to the White House on Tues­day is meant to so­lid­ify ties with the United States, par­tic­u­larly in ar­eas of de­fense and trade, ahead of NATO and Group of Eight meet­ings in May, U.S. and Bri­tish of­fi­cials said.

The trip comes 10 months af­ter Pres­i­dent Obama and first lady Michelle Obama met Mr. Cameron and his wife, Sa­man­tha, in London dur­ing a state visit or­ga­nized by Queen El­iz­a­beth II.

The visit also is meant to un­der­score the so­called “spe­cial re­la­tion­ship” be­tween the two coun­tries, even as an­a­lysts strug­gle to de­fine it.

“It ain’t what it used to be, but it’s still spe­cial, per­haps just not as salient,” said Charles A. Kupchan, a for­mer Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil di­rec­tor on Euro­pean af­fairs and a pro­fes­sor at Ge­orge­town Univer­sity.

Ob­servers be­gan ques­tion­ing Mr. Obama’s com­mit­ment to the spe­cial re­la­tion­ship when he re­moved a bust of Bri­tain’s wartime prime min­is­ter, Win­ston Churchill, from the White House shortly af­ter his in­au­gu­ra­tion in 2009. He also was crit­i­cized when he gave for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Gor­don Brown a col­lec­tion of clas­sic Amer­i­can films that do not work on Bri­tish DVD play­ers.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Cameron will fly to Ohio Tues­day evening to at­tend an NCAA men’s bas­ket­ball game at the Univer­sity of Day­ton. Last year, the two lead­ers played ping-pong against stu­dents in South London.

The first lady and Mrs. Cameron will stay in Washington to take part in an event with fifth­graders from lo­cal schools to cel­e­brate the up­com­ing Sum­mer Olympics in London and pro­mote Mrs. Obama’s anti-obe­sity pro­gram.

On Wed­nes­day, a group of 12 stu­dents from an all-girls high school in North London that Mrs. Obama vis­ited in 2009 will go to the White House to meet Mrs. Cameron and the first lady.

The trip to Ohio will mark the first time a for­eign leader will fly aboard Air Force One and is meant as a sign of the coun­tries’ “spe­cial re­la­tion­ship” and the two lead­ers’ “per­sonal bond,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told re­porters last week.

Mr. Obama also will host a state din­ner for the Camerons on Wed­nes­day evening.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Cameron will con­tinue a con­ver­sa­tion be­gun in Bri­tain last year on the fu­ture of the U.s.-bri­tish mil­i­tary part­ner­ship as they pre­pare for a NATO sum­mit in Chicago on May 20. They also will dis­cuss plans for a meet­ing of the G-8 in­dus­tri­al­ized na­tions at the pres­i­den­tial re­treat, Camp David, on May 18.

The two lead­ers are also likely to talk about Iran, the Greater Mid­dle East, the Euro­pean debt cri­sis and the es­tab­lish­ment of stronger trade ties with Asia and other emerg­ing mar­kets.

“There re­ally is a feel­ing that in re­cent years the two sides have been dis­tracted — Bri­tain over Europe and the U.S. over wars in the Mid­dle East — and there is a real need to fo­cus on what is im­por­tant long term and what is strate­gic,” said Xe­nia Dor­mandy of the Royal In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Af­fairs, widely known as Chatham House.

Last month, Mr. Cameron’s of­fice said Bri­tish troops will re­lin­quish their lead combat role in Afghanistan by the end of 2013 un­der plans drawn up by the NATO-LED al­liance. Mr. Obama has set the end of 2014 for a U.S. troop with­drawal from Afghanistan.

“Cameron will want to en­sure the two coun­tries have their timeta­bles for with­drawal of troops in 2014 from Afghanistan in sync,” said Nick Kitchen, an an­a­lyst at the London School of Eco­nom­ics.

The White House is also likely to ad­dress con­cerns over the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment’s aus­ter­ity mea­sures, par­tic­u­larly de­fense cuts.

In Septem­ber, the Bri­tish De­fense Min­istry re­leased the 2010 a Strate­gic De­fense and Se­cu­rity Re­view, which em­pha­sized leaner op­er­a­tions and more reliance on al­liances and part­ner­ships.

Fac­ing sim­i­lar fis­cal con­straints, the United States an­nounced in Jan­uary a re­duc­tion in its de­fense bud­get as part of a broader re­align­ment of eco­nomic and se­cu­rity fo­cus on the Asia-pa­cific.

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