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US Papers Mon: Two or Three More Years
Iraqi Benchmarks; Casualty Figures; Dems Gear Up
By SETH SMITH 01/08/2007 01:39 AM ET
A few interesting and important stories on Monday. First, an interview with Lt. Gen. William T. Odierno, who manages day-to-day operations in Iraq. John Burns has the NYT story, in which Odierno said that an additional two to three years will likely be necessary to accomplish U.S. goals in Iraq. Odierno also announced the U.S. resolve to crack down in both Sunni and Shia neighborhoods. Josh Partlow of the WP also interviewed Odierno, though his story is more wide-ranging than Burns’, incorporating U.S. casualties, a brief item on a Sunday meeting between Moqtada Al Sadr and Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani, and Odierno’s remarks on Sadr, which sounded more conciliatory than those of other U.S. officials. Rick Jervis has the USA Today account, in which he stresses Odierno’s hope to start redeploying U.S. troops to Baghdad’s outskirts in the next few months. One thing that went unnoted in any of the stories is that Odierno’s remarks on the plan to stabilize Baghdad departed significantly from those of aides to Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki in a Sunday WP story, also written by Partlow. The Maliki aides said that the effort would begin in Sunni areas of Western Baghdad, giving the government more leverage in bargaining with Shia militias.

Michael Gordon and Jeff Zeleny, also writing in the NYT, fill in details on benchmarks the Iraqi government will be expected to achieve under President Bush’s new Iraq strategy, expected to be announced Wednesday. The three most important pieces are allowing more Sunni participation in government, creating a mechanism for distributing oil revenues, and reforming the current process of de-Baathification. No penalties for non-compliance have yet been revealed, and the article notes that several of the U.S. demands are carry-overs from a previous list of demands. One interesting tidbit mentioned in passing near the end of the article has U.S. troops operating under different rules of engagement during the expected operation.

In the WP, Sudarsan Raghavan takes a look at the Iraqi Health Ministry’s official figures for violent deaths of civilians and police and military personnel in 2006. Casualties more than tripled in the second half of the year, from 5,640 to over 17,000. The numbers are not final, and are expected to increase. The article notes that the United Nations submitted a much higher estimate of around 28,000 civilian deaths.

NEW YORK TIMES

Thom Shanker profiles Adm. William J. Fallon, set to take over as top commander in the Middle East. The article offers a good background on Fallon, but has little new to say about Fallon’s appointment itself, which has led some to believe that the U.S. is gearing up to confront Iran, which would rely heavily on the use of the Navy.

Kirk Semple examines soccer fandom as one of the few remaining bastions of national unity in Iraq. Even soccer is not immune to the security situation, however, and the situation has deteriorated to the point that many clubs cannot travel outside their home turf to play for fear of violence.

WASHINGTON POST

Ann Scott Tyson has the Sunday talk show roundup, with House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Delaware Senator and ’08 presidential candidate Joe Biden coming out guns blazing against President Bush’s expected plan to increase troop levels. Pelosi raised the specter of denying funding requests for troop increases, though she was careful to say that funding would be maintained for current levels. Republicans appearing on the programs showed qualified support for Bush’s “New Way Forward.”

Jonathan Weisman outlines Democrats’ plans to challenge the Bush administration on Iraq, beginning with a series of hearings to be held over the next few weeks. Democrats had originally hoped to push their domestic agenda in the new Congress’ opening days. A veritable who’s who of senior administration officials are expected to testify, beginning Wednesday.

Shankar Vedantam uses the tools of political science to explain why wars are fought despite the fact that opposing armies are often mismatched. His answer is that imperfect information about an enemy’s and one’s own ability to withstand casualties is usually a major sticking point, in that one side may be better endowed in manpower and firepower, but also more averse to casualties, and thus likely to end up losing the war.

Columnist Jackson Diehl questions Washington’s use of U.S. political horizons in trying to shape Iraqi realities. Diehl writes that if Iraq is like other countries emerging from dictatorship, the process of stabilization will take much longer than the short six month or one year time frames upon which most Washington-based policies are based.

Guest columnist Wesley K. Clark calls for a “surge” of diplomacy rather than troops. Clark argues that Iraq’s problems can be better solved politically than militarily.

USA TODAY

David Jackson plays catch-up on reporting that appeared in other papers over the weekend, outlining President Bush’s expected plan to send 20,000 troops to Iraq, and Democratic opposition to said plan.

WALL STREET JOURNAL

An unsigned editorials offers support for President Bush’s new plan for an increased troop presence. The editorial blames outgoing Generals Casey and Abizaid for failing to rein in Baghdad violence, while letting Bush off the hook. It also claims that a plan to secure Baghdad has never been attempted.

Guest columnists Bing West and Eliot Cohen advocate a stronger policing of Baghdad, with insurgents and militia members apprehended and sent to prison or killed. The writers argue that simply adding more troops with no plans to take the killers off the streets will not succeed; thus the necessity for policing rather than military operations.

Guest columnist Abraham Verghese has a column about how the ubiquity of voyeuristic technologies like the cell phone videocamera has made us into a nation and world of voyeurs. Verghese argues against popular outrage about Saddam Hussein’s hanging, writing that hanging is an indecent act to begin with, so to ask that it be carried out in a decent manner is ridiculous.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

Raymond Barrett tells the story of dangers facing convoys carrying supplies from Kuwait into Iraq. Hauling supplies in the war zone has always been a perilous business, and one expert claims that insurgents and militias might concentrate their attacks on convoys as a way of waiting out an expected onslaught in Baghdad.

Howard LaFranchi has President Bush caught between advocates of a sustained and large troop increase on one side and mostly Democratic opposition to sending additional troops on the other. Both sides agree that sending 20,000 additional troops, as Bush is expected to announce, will do little to quell the violence in the long term.

Gail Russell Chaddock has a roundup of recent Iraq developments, including Democratic opposition to troop increases, plans for hearings and some Republicans’ wavering support for the war.

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