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MediaWatch:Print
Daily Column
US Papers Fri: Kurds' Defiance Making Enemies
A fallen comrade remembered; Female lawmaker blacklists Sunnis; Troops stay put
By CHRIS ALLBRITTON 02/01/2008 01:52 AM ET
It's a light day today, with The New York Times leading the pack. USA Today throws in a good profile of a female Shi’ite rocket scientist who is earning the wrath of the Americans for her sectarianism. And the Washington Post sticks close to home, focusing on President George W. Bush and his pledge not to bring any more troops home because of political pressure.

Over there
For the U.S., things could be going better on the political front. Alissa J. Rubin reports for the Times that the Kurds are starting to lose power in Baghdad, thanks to their go-it-alone policies that are antagonizing both Shi'ite and Sunni Arabs. Because of this, the U.S. is often forced to choose between the Kurds, their natural ally in Iraq, and the Iraqi Arabs, whose government America helped create. Shi'ite politicians are openly saying the Kurds are not as powerful as they used to be. All this adds up to yet another division: Kurds against Arabs, on top of a Sunni-Shi'ite division. Rubin does a good job of explaining the various issues causing tensions, but neglects to look ahead as to what it might mean to U.S. foreign policy or Iraq as a whole. Does Arab-Kurdish acrimony threaten to grow into something larger? Will it spell disaster for the U.S.? Or will it just be a nettlesome problem that can be worked out? She doesn't say.

Rubin also writes movingly of a small ceremony at Camp Victory for Maj. Douglas A. Zembiec, who died last may in a firefight in Baghdad. A U.S. service member also died Thursday, killed by an IED in Baghdad.

USA Today's Charles Levinson finds an interesting story. Bassima al-Jaidri, a 69-year-old female Iraqi rocket scientist, holds Iraq's security forces in the palm of her hand. She's in charge of a committee that determines who can join the police or the Army. She's also a Shi'ite, and some senior U.S. military officials say she's abusing her power to keep Sunnis out of the forces. She shrugs off the criticism. "I have had a long struggle with men," she replies with a smile. "I can handle the American officers." If she is keeping Sunnis out, which she doesn't really deny, one can understand where she's coming from. Her aunt and uncle were trampled to death in 2005 during a Shi'ite religious festival when rumors of a Sunni suicide bomber swept the crowd. More than 1,000 people died. She was systematically humiliated and discriminated against under Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated government, even though she had the most advanced degrees. She wanted to work on missile trajectories. The military, dominated by men and Sunnis, didn't even give her a desk and deemed her unworthy because she's a woman and Shi'ite. She has little sympathy for Sunnis. "The Sunnis decided to take orders from al-Qaeda and were excluded from politics in Iraq. That's not our fault," she said. American officials complain because they send her lists of names -- often heavy with Sunni men -- and only the Shi'ites get approved. She says the Americans are bringing "unvetted" people into the security forces and that Iraqis will determine who gets to guard the country.

At the Pentagon
Gordon Lubold of the Christian Science Monitor reports on a report from retired Marine Gen. Arnold Punaro, who is chairing the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves. The panel's report, released yesterday, calls for a modernization of the Guard and Reserve, refashioning the forces into operational partners with the active-duty military. The drive is the lack of capacity to deal with a major attack or disaster on the U.S. mainland. Among the recommendations to integrate the 1.2 million "weekend warriors": standardized training, more resources, expanding the Pentagon's ability to mobilize them. The general in charge of the National Guard Bureau be made a four-star rank. And the reforms are needed. Deployments are up five-fold since 2001, with the Army Guard and Reserve seeing seven-fold increases. In 2004, nearly one-third of all service members in Iraq were guardsmen or reservists. Because of this increased deployment, units are lacking in equipment; 88 percent of Army Guard units aren't combat ready.

Ann Scott Tyson of the Washington Post has the story, focusing more on Punaro's assessment that home-front units are lacking in capacity. Guard and reserve units lack $48 billion in equipment because of deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Michael Abramowitz of the Post picks up on President George W. Bush's comments in the State of the Union on Monday night, reporting that Bush said Thursday that he would not be "pressured" into making further troop cuts beyond the five combat brigades scheduled to come home by the middle of summer.

IN OTHER COVERAGE

Wall Street Journal
No Iraq coverage today.

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