Iran’s prime minister increases power after political crisis
BAGHDAD — When Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki rounded up hundreds of former Baathists, accused the vice president of running a hit squad and threatened to use the apparatus of state to target other top Sunni leaders, some rivals and critics said that al-Maliki’s authoritarian streak had finally antagonized enough of Iraq’s political class to jeopardize his hold on power.
Instead, al-Maliki appears to have emerged from a potentially destabilizing political crisis with even more power over the Iraqi state and more popularity among his Shiite constituents, many people here said.
“People trust him more and more after this,” said Rahman Tal Jukon, a retired businessman in Hilla, a town in the Shiite-dominated south where expressions of support for al-Maliki, once tepid, are now more common and enthusiastic. “He is a brave man. He has guts.”
Al-Maliki’s political calculus, pushing to the edge of a full-blown crisis, appears to have paid off, though worries remain that Iraq is sliding toward one-man, one-party rule under al-Maliki.
—Tim Arango, The New York Times
Murdoch hacking inquiry expands to UK officials
LONDON — The officer leading a police investigation into Rupert Murdoch’s British newspapers said Monday that reporters and editors at The Sun tabloid had over the years paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for information not only to police officers but also to a “network of corrupted officials” in the military and the government.
The officer, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers, said emails obtained by the police showed that there was a “culture at The Sun of illegal payments” that were authorized “at a very senior level within the newspaper” and involved “frequent and sometimes significant sums of money” paid to public officials in the Health Ministry and the prison service, among other agencies.
The testimony was a sharp new turn in a months-long judicial investigation of the behavior of Murdoch-owned and other newspapers, known as the Leveson inquiry. It detailed financial transactions that showed both the scale and the scope of reported bribes, the covert nature of their payment and the seniority of newspaper executives accused of involvement.
—Sarah Lyall, The New York Times
Plot to kill Putin is uncovered, Russian TV reports
MOSCOW — Russian television reported Monday that the Ukrainian and Russian intelligence services had worked together over many weeks to thwart an assassination attempt on the Russian prime minister, Vladimir Putin.
The announcement came less than a week before the Russian presidential election Sunday, raising questions about the timing of its release, in part because two suspects were arrested weeks ago. Putin, the dominant figure in Russian politics, is widely expected to return to the presidency, which he held for two terms before becoming prime minister in 2008.
The report by the government-controlled broadcaster, Channel One, said the two suspects were arrested in the Ukrainian city of Odessa, after surviving an explosion inside an apartment there on Jan. 4.
A third man died in the blast, which occurred while the suspects were mixing chemicals for an explosive device, according to the report. Authorities said the three men had been dispatched to the city by the Chechen terrorist leader Doku Umarov, Channel One reported.
—Michael Schwirtz and Ellen Barry, The New York Times