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Daily Column
US Papers Tue: Iran Says US Presence a Problem
US says more detainees "hardened" jihadis; Body building grows popular in Iraq
By CHRIS ALLBRITTON 06/10/2008 01:53 AM ET
Wow, so remember how I've been complaining about the lack of news on Iraq? Talk about greasing a squeaky wheel. Today's offering of news is large and varied, with every paper getting in on the action. Dig in; it's filling today.

Over there

Nazila Fathi and Richard A. Oppel Jr. of The New York Times report that Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said U.S. troops are the main reason Iraq is still in turmoil. And that, he says, is Iran's real reason for opposing a long-term security agreement between Iraq and the U.S. Khamenei just has the Iraqis' best interests at heart! Very sweet of him. Actually, as we all know, Iran is just nervous about a dug in American military presence next door -- which some analysts thought was the real point of the Iraq war all along. It wasn't about oil or al Qaeda, but about turning Iraq into a kind of West Germany in the new Cold War shaping up in the region. Also, on Monday, three people were killed and we wounded by a car bomb in central Baghdad. Gunmen also killed three people during a robbery at two gold shops. Three unidentified bodies were found in the capital. In Mosul, gunmen killed two sheikhs from Tal Afar.

Walter Pincus of the Washington Post reports the U.S. is sending up to 30 detainees a day to the main detention centers in Iraq, but that they're more likely to be "hardened" jihadis held for longer periods of time than the prisoners taken at the beginning of the surge last year. "Division commanders have gotten much better at determining that the guy's a real, legitimate ... imperative security risk," said Maj. Gen. Douglas Stone Jr., the former head of the Iraq detention program. Of course, that's the Americans saying they're getting better at catching bad guys. There is no evidence presented in this story -- other than Stone's assertion -- that the U.S. has finally figured out how to tell a real jihadi from someone who is just trying to support a family or even someone wrongly picked up.

Ernesto Londoño and Saad al-Izzi of the Post report that bodybuilding, long an obsession in Iraq, has become a booming industry. Why? Because the increased security allows young men to go to gyms (and take supplements and steroids illegal in the U.S.), which means they bulk up and get hired as ... security guards. This is an interesting story, but does it really warrant front-page play?

Ben Sisario has a short piece in the Times on the recovery of a cache of stolen artifacts from the National Museum of Iraq that were returned to the Antiquities Ministry on Monday. Eleven cylinder seals made from agate and alabaster dated from between 3,000 and 2,000 B.C. were found in Philadelphia last month and turned over to the Iraqi embassy in Washington. The museum says out of 15,000 items stolen, about 6,000 have been returned.

Military matters
The Times's Thom Shanker pens an analysis on the selection of the two new Air Force leaders, writing that it shows Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is trying to shift the Air Force away from a Cold War mentality and toward the war on terror and counter-insurgency.

Peter Eisler of USA Today writes that lawmakers are concerned about the Pentagon's plan to sell 4,000 sets of high-tech night-vision goggles to Iraq. They're worried the goggles might be stolen or smuggled to insurgents or Iran. Given the slap-dash handling of weapons in 2004 and 2005, that sounds like a reasonable concern. The Pentagon says there's nothing to worry about.

Home front
The Christian Science Monitor's Jill Carroll reports on a controversial tactic to heal younger vets of combat stress: using older vets from the Vietnam war who have themselves recovered from PTSD. Why is it controversial? Carroll never says, and given that both Canada and the UK have been adopted similar programs, it seems more like common sense than controversial.

The Post's Steve Vogel has a good feature on what happens when the wounded troops arrive at Andrews Air Force Base. It's the first stop for troops returning home -- often suffering grievous injuries.

Washington doings
Howard LaFranchi of the Monitor reports that the proposed security pact is drawing fire from both the Iraqi Parliament and the U.S. Congress. Both branches of government say the White House and the prime minister's office are too tight-lipped about details of the negotiations. Lawmakers from both countries want more transparency. Yeah, good luck getting that. The nugget in this is that it's the long-term basing rights the U.S. is pushing for that seems to be causing the most trouble. But there will be no permanent bases. No, sir. No, indeed.

IN OTHER COVERAGE

Wall Street Journal
Kimberly Kagan and Frederick W. Kagan, architects of the surge, take (premature?) victory lap on the op-ed page of the Journal. (Of course.) It's about what you'd expect from these two.

Washington Post
Media reporter Howard Kurtz has a big story on Richard Engel, of NBC, who says he was coming under tremendous pressure to report good news stories in 2007. Pressure from news executives, that is. And now he's under fire from the White House for editing an interview with President George W. Bush. He was also invited into the Oval Office to dispense advice to the president on Iraq. (Should that really be journalists' job? Advising presidents on matters of war?) "I didn't say anything I wouldn't have said on the air," Engel responds. "He was asking, and I was telling him. I couldn't wait to get it off my chest." Really? Engel was willing to say -- on air -- that Iraq should be divided into three states and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice "doesn't have the juice" to fix Iraq? Please. Why didn't he say it then? That sounds like empty boasting from Engel, mixed with giddiness over being summoned by the president.

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