US hands over Sunni patrol groups in Baghdad; Iraqi security forces suffer increased casualties; Diplomats try to talk down North Korea on nukes; Taliban leader said to be "fit and well"; and more

Top of the Agenda: Iraq Handover

Starting today, about 54,000 members of Iraq's Sunni "Awakening" councils--the patrol groups that had cooperated with the United States to fight militants in exchange for arms, money, and training--will be transferred (al-Jazeera) to the payroll of the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government. The handover marks the beginning of a major operational shift in the country. The initial 54,000 fighters represent only the Awakening councils in Baghdad province, but the ultimate goal (AFP) for the United States is to transfer control of (and fiscal responsibility for) all 100,000 of the group's members to the Iraqi government.

The AP reports a shift in operational power coincides with shifting casualty figures. The article says the number of Iraqi security forces killed rose by nearly a third last month, compared to the same month last year. U.S. casualties, by contrast, fell by almost half (Reuters) during the same period, and Iraqi civilian deaths also fell.

Background:

  • A CFR.org Backgrounder says the councils, which also go by the name "Sons of Iraq," might help bring short-term stability, but also threaten to increase tribal and sectarian divides in the country.

 

Pacific Rim: North Korea Talks

Senior U.S. diplomat Christopher Hill is in North Korea to try to prevent the unraveling of the country's denuclearization agreement. After taking steps to disable its nuclear facilities, Pyongyang has ceased cooperation to protest U.S. refusal to lift sanctions and remove North Korea from its state sponsors of terrorism list.

Simultaneously, military officials from North and South Korea will hold their first bilateral talks (Yonhap) in more than eight months.

Japan: The Asahi Shimbun reports business confidence in Japan has fallen to its lowest point in five years.

 

Elsewhere:

Senate set to vote on revised bailout plan.

Taliban denies death of senior leader Baitullah Mehsud

This is an excerpt of the CFR.org Daily News Brief. The full version is available on CFR.org.

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