The NYT and WP provide reports from Baghdad on Robert Gates's visit there. The new defense secretary he's hearing much blunt talk from U.S. generals, all of whom there seem to oppose surging more troops into Iraq. WP correspondent Tom Ricks, who's traveling with Gates, provides the better report. USAT stuffs an AP story on the Gates visit.
The NYT and WP also report on the Iraqi province of Najaf being handed over to Iraqi security forces during a ceremony featuring Iraqi troops biting the head off frogs and eating the heart of a live rabbit.
The other Iraq-related coverage in the papers:
NEW YORK TIMES
White House correspondent Jim Rutenberg writes a witty critique of Bush's choice of words and phrases at his newser today and how they compare with previous rhetoric. The phrase du jour: "We're not winning; we're not losing." A fun read.
From Cairo, Mona El-Nagger reports on Al Qaeda number two Ayman Zawahri's latest videotaped taunts and threats, including this statement: "You (the U.S.) are trying, in a panic, to find an exit from the disasters surrounding you in Iraq and Afghanistan." He calls on the U.S. to withdraw from all Muslim countries and to negotiate peace with al Qaeda, or al Qaeda will continue attacking the U.S.
Thom Shanker reports on the U.S. and Britain beefing up their naval presence in the Persian Gulf in an effort to rattle trouble-making Iran.
In a DC-datelined story, David Stout provides a brief report of Saddam Hussein defense attorney Ramsey Clark saying the U.S. will shame itself and prompt more bloodshed in Iraq if the U.S. allows Saddam to be executed.
From Oak Brook, Illinois, Susan Saulny provides a short dispatch wondering whether an Iraqi-American fugitive will surface at his mansion there after escaping prison in Iraq, where he faces corruption charges related to his time as Iraq's minister of electricity.
The NYT provides an editorial headlined "Rudderless in Iraq" that says we've reached a "dead end" in Iraq and calls on Bush to "move quickly (to) define a new direction while he still has any choices left."
From Baghdad, Sudarsan Raghavan reports on the worsening feud between two top Iraqi Shia clerics, Sadr and Hakim. With Hakim now siding with the U.S., and the U.S. deeming Sadr enemy number one in Iraq, the divide between the two clerics is more stark than ever.
Ann Scott Tyson and John White report on John Abizaid's four-year term and his likely legacy following his plans to retire as Central Command chief next spring. The correspondents also note the top general in Iraq, George Casey, likely soon will leave there, leading to speculation that Casey will replace Abizaid at Centcom, with General David Petreaus likely moving to Iraq as Casey's successor.
Aside from the Bush story noted above, an editorial and an op-ed.
The USA Today editorial's sub-headline says it all: "Plan would have been wise in 2003; it now carries whiff of desperation."
The op-ed comes from American Enterprise Institute resident scholar Frederick Kagan, whose headline is: U.S. cannot accept defeat: New strategy to win would show president's wisdom, not stubbornness."
WALL STREET JOURNAL
Only the Bush story noted above.
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR
Nothing aside from the Bush story noted above, headlined in the CSM "Bush moves to supersize military."