Afternoon Roundup

Iran Focus: US postpones talks with IRI on Iraq.
London, Mar. 27 – The United States has postponed direct talks with Iran on the situation in Iraq, a British daily [the Guardian] claimed on Monday.

The talks were postponed after Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and other Iraqi ministers demanded that no negotiations take place over their heads, the Guardian wrote, quoting American officials in Baghdad.

The daily said that talks between Washington and Tehran could not take place until a new Iraqi government was formed.

ITM on yesterday's raid.
The Iraqi government, or more precisely the UIA part of it is obviously so outraged by the joint US-Iraqi army raid on al-Mustafa husseiniya that took place in eastern Baghdad yesterday.

Actually the reactions to this incident are so intense compared the reactions when 30 or 4 beheaded or strangles bodies are found on nearly daily basis in Baghdad in a way that it makes me question the intentions of this part of the government even more; this incident has received more attention and was met by more objections that it deserves, or to be more accurate; other more worrisome and tragic deaths in Iraq are receiving far less attention that they should be. Everyday there are new dead bodies found in and around Baghdad yet no one bothers to open an investigation. Why is this one receiving special treatment? ...

The raid on the husseiniya is not going to be investigated because those killed were Iraqis or Shia, the government will open an investigation because those killed were Sadrists and because Muqtada feels this raid was targeting his militia and fears that letting this one go without making enough noise will probably encourage the Americans to carry out more raids.

Now let's check out stories from the various concerned/involved parties; there's the interior ministry and national security ministry which are largely based on 'eyewitnesses' and statements from Sadr's men in the parliament. These source claim that Iraqi and American soldiers stormed the husseiniya and murdered 20 [unarmed] worshippers (37 in another story). So called eyewitnesses told local media that the soldiers locked the worshippers in one room, lined them against a wall and shot them dead. ...

Of course the MNF website has a different story (hat-tip: fourth rail):

Iraqi Special Operations Forces conducted a twilight raid in the Adhamiyah neighborhood in northeast Baghdad to disrupt a terrorist cell responsible for conducting attacks on Iraqi security and Coalition Forces and kidnapping Iraqi civilians in the local area.

As elements of the 1st Iraqi Special Operations Forces Brigade entered their objective, they came under fire. In the ensuing exchange of fire, Iraqi Special Operations Forces killed 16 insurgents. As they secured their objective, they detained 15 more individuals.

Anyway, footage from the scene shows burned vehicles outside the husseiniya, empty smoke grenades and inside the place there were empty shells of BKC machine gun (the main gun mounted on most of the Iraqi army vehicles) the BKC is not a one-GI carried gun but is rather used as a supportive-fire kind of weaponry and if soldiers were to execute [unarmed] people this would not be their gun of choice because AK-47s or pistols could do the job with less noise and are much easier to carry and it makes more sense to think that this weapon was fired by the people who were hiding inside the husseiniya especially that this gun is abundant at the arsenals of militias. ...

Right now the Sadrists are trying to make a 'national crisis' out of this case, obviously to make some political gains at the expense of their political opponents and to support their accusations against the US military and US embassy.

Read the full analysis at the link.

AFP via Iran Focus: Rice to meet with Chirac in Paris.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will meet with French President Jacques Chirac in Paris during a European swing this week focusing on the Iranian nuclear crisis, the State Department said Monday.

AP via Yahoo has more.
Moussaoui says he planned to hijack fifth plane:
Al-Qaida conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui testified Monday that he and would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid were supposed to hijack a fifth airplane and fly it into the White House as part of the attack that unfolded Sept. 11, 2001.

Moussaoui's testimony on his own behalf stunned the courtroom. His account was in stark contrast to his previous statements in which he said the White House attack was to come later if the United States refused to release a radical Egyptian sheik imprisoned on earlier terrorist convictions.