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US Papers Saturday: Money, Money, Money
Maliki Offers Cash to Bad Guys, Shortchanges Refugees; US Bounties a Bust
By EASON JORDAN 05/17/2008 02:00 AM ET
Put two Washington Post pieces together, and here's your take away: The flush Iraqi government is generous with bad guys with guns but is stingy with millions of desperately needy Iraqi refugees.

While The Post offers several Iraq-related reports today, The New York Times provides relatively bland Iraq coverage and The Wall Street Journal largely skips Iraq aside from minor references in the latest Obama-McCain-Bush foreign policy trash-talking report.

The Post's Ernesto Londoño reports Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki is offering insurgents in the northern city of Mosul a 10-day amnesty during which they can turn in weapons in exchange for cash. It's unclear from the reporting whether any insurgents are surrendering weapons as Iraqi security forces press their fight, dubbed "Operation Lion's Roar," in the last al-Qaeda in Iraq stronghold. Meantime, Londoño reports, a terror attack in Anbar province this week has prompted locals to wonder whether al-Qaeda in Iraq is shifting its operations from Mosul back to the Fallujah area. Can you say whack-a-mole?

The Times's Baghdad-datelined, Andrew Kramer-bylined Iraq wrap-up tops with the Maliki offer of amnesty and money-for-guns in the Mosul area before providing reporting on a Baghdad attack on an Iranian embassy convoy. The Iranian government is holding the U.S. accountable as the occupying power in Iraq, while the U.S. says its forces had nothing to do with the attack. Arguably the most important element of the story: the Maliki government's relationship with Iran is becoming increasingly strained.

Why isn't a full-fledged correspondent reporting from Mosul, where there's an Iraqi surge underway and likely a big fight nearing?

While the Iraqi government has plenty of money to buy guns from bad guys, it's hardly so generous with desperately needy Iraqi refugees -- roughly two million in Iraq and two million in nearby countries. From Washington, The Post's Walter Pincus reports the Iraqi government's Scrooge-like concern for Iraqi refugees has prompted the international community to do the same, leaving the refugees doubly screwed. It's a disgrace.

A fascinating story inexplicably missing from the three big papers today: the U.S. and Iraqi governments have decided to put the kabosh on the comeback of Ahmad Chalabi. According to reports by McClatchy and Time, the controversial INC figure with more lives than a cat ticked off Maliki, who decided to cease all contact with Chalabi. U.S. officials followed suit, say the reports. The Times, The Post, and The Journal need to get in the game on this story.

The Post scoops with a page one story headlined "Bounties a Bust in Hunt for Al-Qaeda." The short of it: evil-doers remain at large despite huge U.S. government cash rewards for tips leading to the capture of the worst of the bad guys. The biggest paid reward to date: $30 million to the tipster responsible for pinpointing Saddam Hussein's whereabouts. Meantime, huge reward offers are doing little to help track down Al-Qaeda leaders believed to be in Afghanistan and Pakistan. One omission in this report: making no mention of the USA Today exclusive of a week ago that "The Bush administration has slashed its reward for the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq from $5 million to $100,000 because it feels he's lost effectiveness and is no longer worth such a steep price." That intriguing nugget deserved mention in this Post story.

The latest in the Obama-McCain-Bush verbal slugfest over Iraq and other sticky foreign policy matters -- who's a manlier man? -- can be found in these Times, Post, and Journal stories.

USA Today and The Christian Science Monitor have no weekend editions.

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