Apologies for the sporadic posting. The past three days have been a flurry of monitoring the developments of Iraqi elections, held this past Sunday (including at a polling station at a hotel in Ballston, not to far outside DC). Thus far it appears Prime Minister Maliki did pretty well with Iyad Allawi, a secular Shia, close behind. But the preliminary results won't be released until tomorrow and they're only with 30% of the vote counted for each province, so hold off any granular analysis until then. One thing to watch out for was that Shia militias attacked Baghdad throughout the day on Sunday. This meant some secular and Sunni people didn't end up voting, and turnout in Baghdad was only 53% versus the expected turnout of around 70%. With the majority of "electoral college" votes, Baghdad is a key province to watch to see what will happen in the country as a whole.
In Israel, Vice President Biden's visit has been a mixed bag. The purpose of the visit is clearly reconciliatory, and while Biden made lots of nice statements, he got a return to meta-talks out of it. Until today of course when Israel decided to go ahead with 1600 more homes in the West Bank and the PA decided that was a dealbreaker. As with all peace talks, be cautiosly optimistic but don't read too much into talking about talking. That being said, Netanyahu has proven his credentials as a hawk and is in a strong position political-capital-wise to broker a peace deal with Palestinians.