Monday, November 27, 2006

Dangerous Summit

As violence in Iraq continues to mushroom, President Bush travels to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Wednesday and Thursday. Bush is coming under increasing pressure from the new Democratic Congress to reduce the U.S. troop presence in Iraq. But Maliki might push Bush for more support as he tries to govern a country torn by sectarian strife.

The gathering is fraught with danger for Maliki. Both Shiite and Sunni leaders have criticized the prime minister; one prominent Sunni religious leader warned that the violence in Iraq could swell throughout the Middle East if the global community continues to back Maliki. Adding to the tension, Shiite politicians led by anti-U.S. cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who form a key constituency for Maliki, are threatening to boycott the government if Maliki goes ahead with Thursday's meeting.

THE OTHER WAR: Bush is to attend a two-day NATO summit focused on Afghanistan. The president takes a look at the alliance's new members in Eastern Europe, arriving tomorrow in Tallinn, Estonia, and then heading to Riga, Latvia, for the summit and a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.

1 YEAR, 11 MONTHS: The 2008 presidential campaigns get a little more activity this week. On Wednesday and Thursday, outgoing Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (D) is traveling to four sites to launch his presidential campaign. Former senator John Edwards (D-N.C.), meanwhile, is signing copies of his book in such presidential hot spots as Manchester, N.H., tomorrow. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is also promoting his book.

When the Republican Governors Association begins its annual conference Wednesday in Miami, there will be several potential presidential candidates present -- led by outgoing Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a top 2008 contender. But GOP governors might not be in a happy mood: Democrats picked up six statehouses -- and a majority of the governorships -- in the Nov. 7 election.

ECONOMIC ENERGY: As the economy heads into one of its busiest seasons -- holiday shopping time -- new data will shed light on how parts of the economy are holding up as growth slows. In particular, market observers will look at reports on the housing market and consumer spending.

-- Zachary A. Goldfarb

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