By Kevin Liptak
President Barack Obama's meeting Friday with Iraq's leader will include discussion of how to counter a fresh rise in suicide bombers affiliated with al Qaeda, a senior U.S. official says.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is slated to visit the White House at the end of the week for a meeting with the President as tensions rise between Iraq's Shiite majority and its Sunni minority. Violence has been on the upswing - on Wednesday, a suicide bomber killed at least nine people and wounded 25 others at a police checkpoint west of Mosul. In all, more than 6,000 people have been killed in attacks this year.
A bipartisan group of senators harshly criticized Maliki in a letter to Obama on Tuesday, writing that the recent security deterioration in Iraq was partially the Prime Minister's fault.
"Unfortunately, Prime Minister Maliki's mismanagement of Iraqi politics is contributing to the recent surge of violence," the senators wrote. Signatories included Republicans John McCain, James Inhofe and Bob Corker, and Democrats Carl Levin and Robert Menendez.
"By too often pursuing a sectarian and authoritarian agenda, Prime Minister Maliki and his allies are disenfranchising Sunni Iraqis, marginalizing Kurdish Iraqis, and alienating the many Shia Iraqis who have a democratic, inclusive, and pluralistic vision for their country," the lawmakers continued.
By Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon Correspondent
The United States has obtained intelligence indicating that Iran "may be planning" a retaliatory strike against the American Embassy in Baghdad if the United States launches a military strike against Syria, a senior U.S. official told CNN.
He said that Iran has "a lot of Shi'a friends" in Iraq that would be willing to carry out an attack.
The official was responding to a Wall Street Journal report that the United States intercepted an order from Iran to militants in Iraq to attack the embassy "and other American interests in Baghdad," if the United States struck Syria militarily for alleged chemical weapons use.
The State Department had no comment on the report, but added it had not taken any action in terms of security at U.S. diplomatic posts in Iraq.
By CNN's Greg Clary
The military's equivalent of the Supreme Court overturned the conviction Wednesday of a Marine found guilty of murdering a civilian during the Iraq war, saying he was interrogated after asking for a lawyer.
A court originally sentenced Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III to 15 years in prison for the murder of 52-year-old Hashim Awad in April of 2006.
Prosecutors said Hutchins, who led a Marine squad that dragged Awad from his home, shot him in the face several times and then placed a shovel and AK-47 near his body to make it appear he was an insurgent burying roadside bombs.
By Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon Correspondent
In a move that could send small numbers of U.S. military trainers back to Iraq, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has asked his top Middle East commander to look at ways the United States could boost military sales, assistance and training in that country as well as in Lebanon and Jordan as Syria's civil war continues to affect its neighbors.
Any deployment of U.S. forces would have to have those countries' approval, and so far there is no indication that Iraq or Lebanon would agree to accept U.S. troops.
By Kevin Liptak
Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday in Baghdad that he pressed Iraq's leaders to take steps prohibiting Iranian planes from delivering arms to Syria's besieged government, which is battling rebels backed by financial support from the American government.
Iranian planes must fly through Iraq's airspace in order to reach Syria with deliveries of weapons and supplies. The flights are occurring almost daily, according to a senior State Department official accompanying Kerry on his stop in Baghdad.
"Anything that supports President Assad is problematic," Kerry told reporters, referring to Syria's leader. "And I made it very clear to the prime minister that the overflights from Iran are, in fact, helping to sustain President Assad and his regime."
Kerry's previously unannounced trip to Iraq came after he joined President Barack Obama on a trip to Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan. This week marked the ten-year anniversary of the beginning of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, and the first time since 2009 that a U.S. secretary of state has visited the country. Obama last went to Iraq in April 2009.
By Pam Benson
The arrest of Osama bin Laden's son-in-law, who had been living in Iran for the past decade, has once again raised questions about whether the Iranian government is providing a haven or barrier to the terror group.
Al Qaeda and its members held under "house arrest" in Iran over the past decade have had a complicated relationship with the Tehran regime, one which allowed the detainees to often times continue supporting the terror group's operations in the region.
Current and former U.S. officials say al Qaeda in Iran managed to be fairly active in facilitating the movement of money and people into Pakistan where the core leadership has safe haven in tribal areas.
"They helped move people in and out of FATA through Iran for operational reasons," one former senior counter-terrorism official told CNN.
By Jennifer Rizzo
Ali Mussa Daqduq, a Lebanese militant accused of involvement in the murder of several U.S. soldiers in Iraq, was released by Iraqi authorities Friday morning, Daqduq's lawyer, Abdulalmehdi al-Mutairi, told CNN.
Daqduq has arrived in Lebanon, his lawyer said.
"Thank God, he arrived in Lebanon a few hours ago after he left Iraq this afternoon" al-Mutairi told CNN. "There is no legal reason for his detention. He should have been released months ago".
An Iraqi court cleared Daqduq in May, saying there wasn't enough evidence against him, an official with Iraq's judicial council told CNN.
The automatic appeal following that ruling affirmed the acquittal in June, according to al-Mutairi.
U.S. officials say Daqduq organized a kidnapping in the Iraqi city of Karbala in January 2007 that left five U.S. soldiers dead.
By Suzanne Kelly, Pam Benson and Elise Labott
U.S. intelligence believes that assailants connected to al Qaeda in Iraq were among the core group that attacked the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, a U.S. government official told CNN.
That would represent the second al Qaeda affiliate associated with the deadly September 11 attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
Previously, intelligence officials said there were signs of connections to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the North African wing of the terror group.
The revelation that members of al Qaeda in Iraq are suspected of involvement in the Libya attack comes at a time when there is a growing number of fighters from that group also taking part in the Syrian civil war.
By Paul Cruickshank and Tim Lister
(CNN) - The latest in a flurry of messages from al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri shows his growing interest in exploiting violence in Syria. In a 35-minute audio address posted on jihadist forums on Wednesday, Zawahiri claimed the United States was actually supporting the Assad regime to prevent an Islamist state from taking its place.
"Supporting jihad in Syria to establish a Muslim state is a basic step towards Jerusalem, and thus America is giving the secular Baathist regime one chance after another, for fear that a government is established in Syria that would threaten Israel," Zawahiri said, according to a translation provided by the SITE Monitoring Service.
It is not the first time Zawahiri has cast a covetous eye over events in Syria.
In February, he used most of an address to try to graft al Qaeda onto the growing insurgency.
By Jennifer Rizzo
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States waged the "war on terror," a continued combat campaign that has lasted more than a decade. Thousands of Americans have been killed and almost 50,000 troops have been wounded in the wars waged in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Perhaps the most lethal uses of force by insurgents have been improvised explosive devices. Blast injuries from these bombs including the loss of limbs, traumatic brain injury, and severe burns are prolific among wounded troops.
But service members are surviving these extreme injuries that would have proved fatal decades earlier. A warrior wounded in battle now has a 50% better chance of surviving than in any previous war, according to the Defense Department, which credits some of this advancement with improved body armor, better doctor and medic training, and an efficient and timely evacuation system. According to the Air Force the military for example is able to get a wounded service member back to the United States in three days or less if needed, compared to the 10 days it took during the Gulf War and the 45 days it took during the Vietnam War.
Just like in preceding wars, medical research has churned out advancements to better heal the wounded and prevent more from dying on the battlefield.