The Post's Amit R. Paley and Karen DeYoung have the lead story today on the continuing leaks on how the negotiations between the U.S. and Iraq are going, focusing on the fact that the talks have become an acrimonious public debate. Top Iraqi officials want a radical reduction in the U.S. role, where American forces are confined to bases unless asked for help. The U.S., however, is -- allegedly -- asking for 58 bases, control of the air space up to 30,000 feet, immunity for American troops and contractors and a carte blanche to conduct military operations. Yeah, I can see how the Iraqis wouldn't like that. "The Americans are making demands that would lead to the colonization of Iraq," said Sami al-Askari, a Shi'ite politician who is close to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. "If we can't reach a fair agreement, many people think we should say, 'Goodbye, U.S. troops. We don't need you here anymore.'" This story covers a lot of ground that's been overturned in the past week, but it provides a good summary of the state of play on the talks. The Iraqis complaining the most, however, don't seem to be involved in the talks while the negotiators say things are going better. Dial-a-quote Iraqi parliamentarian Mahmoud Othman says the Americans have backed down on some demands. Private contractors no longer get immunity, detainees would be turned over to the Iraqis, U.S. troops would operate only with the agreement of the Iraqi government and Washington would promise not to use Iraq as a base for attacking other countries. Another lead negotiator says the Americans are being more flexible. So what's going on? Are the angry Iraqis leaking the real negotiations details or trying to put pressure on their countrymen not to give ground?
Andrew E. Kramer of The New York Times reports that the leader of Saddam Hussein's tribe, Sheikh Ali al-Nida, was killed by a bomb attached to his car after he spoke publicly about reconciling with the government in Baghdad. There are few other details.
Nicholas Seely of the Christian Science Monitor writes that not all Iraqi refugees in Jordan are struggling. Some are actually doing quite well as they take advantage of Jordan's security, infrastructure and open investment climate to make a new life and a small fortune. Some are small shops and some are larger enterprises building on long-standing ties to Jordan.
Charles Levinson of USA Today writes that Maliki is being seen as stronger than ever after the Basra campaign, willing to take on Shi'ite militias and soothing disaffected Sunnis. There are a few Sunnis quoted as approving of the prime minister, but Levinson engages in some pretty dear wishful thinking on the part of Basra. He writes that after a near-death experience with a mortar shell, Maliki ordered 20,000 more troops into the fight, which -- along with U.S. and British assistance -- turned the tide. Um, the Iranians brokered the peace and it left the Mahdi Army still in control of large swaths of Basra immediately after the battle. At best the Iraqi forces fought the Mahdi Army to a draw; they didn't defeat them. Had the Iranians not stopped the fighting, Maliki would be a political corpse right now. USA Today has been taking a decidedly more upbeat tone of late, but this is a bit much.
The Times's Eric Scmitt reports that Col. Levonda Joey Selph pleaded guilty to bribery and conspiracy in a fraud case that involved Selph steering $12 million in military contracts for warehouses in Iraq to an unidentified contractor. Based on previous court papers, the contractor was probably Lee Dynamics International.
Gregg Zoroya of USA Today reports that the Pentagon wants to make it harder for combat commanders to send medically unfit troops to war zones. The proposal from CENTCOM would add 16 medical conditions that would bar troops from deploying. Since 2003, the U.S. has sent about 43,000 "non-deployable" troops to Iraq and Afghanistan.
IN OTHER COVERAGE
William Kistner writes that with Father's Day coming up this weekend, let's pay some attention to the dads who stay at home while their wives go to war. Those marriages have the most stress on them and have the highest divorce rates in the military. Why? Possibly because the traditional support system is geared toward wives staying on base and men have a hard time entering that social network.
Wall Street Journal
No Iraqi coverage today.