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MediaWatch:Print
Daily Column
US Papers Sat: Reaction to Spying Charges
The White House denies: The Iraqi government is dismayed
By DANIEL W. SMITH 09/06/2008 02:00 AM ET
Most of today’s stories are continuations of stories covered yesterday, but things continue to develop. It's almost all the Post. The subject material is really limited to the reaction to information released yesterday about a new book that claims the U.S. government has been spying on the Iraqi government, and also some discussion of the U.S. military in Iraq.

From Baghdad
Yesterday, Steve Luxenberg of the Washington Post broke the story about claims in Bob Woodward’s upcoming book, “The War Within: A Secret White House History, 2006-2008”, that American officials have been spying on the Iraqi government for some time, from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on down. In response, the Iraqi government reacted with concern and dismay on Friday, and warned that it could affect negotiations over the continuing American troop presence in the country. Ali al-Dabbagh, a government spokesman said, “If it is a fact, it reflects that there is no trust and it reflects also that the institutions in the United States are used to spying on their friends and their enemies in the same way,” he continued. “If it is true, it casts a shadow on the future relations with such institutions.” Ernesto Londoño, also of the Washington Post, gives the most information and background on the story.
He (al-Dabbagh) also indicated that the concerns may run deep enough for Iraqi negotiators to seek guarantees in the continuing discussions to frame a long-term security agreement governing the continuing presence of American troops in Iraq. The White House press secretary, Dana M. Perino, said early Friday that the White House “would not comment on any of the assertions in the book,” adding that “we have a good idea of what Prime Minister Maliki is thinking, because he tells us very frankly and very candidly, as often as he can.”... “This rumor is dangerous if it is true, and it will shake the credibility of the U.S. and what it stands for about building democracy and a free world,” said Faleh al-Fayadh, a member of Dr. Jaafari’s new party, the National Reform Movement. He pointed out that Iraq “faced such things during Saddam’s era, things such as random arrests and spying without warrants.” But, he added, “This is something that the U.S. is supposed not to do, and then talk about creating democracy.”
New York Times’ report by Stephen Farrell includes interesting quotes by White House press secretary. She said, early Friday, that the White House...
“would not comment on any of the assertions in the book,” adding that “we have a good idea of what Prime Minister Maliki is thinking, because he tells us very frankly and very candidly, as often as he can," When pressed on whether she was denying the spying allegations, Perino said: "I didn't deny it. I said I declined to comment on it."
Dan Eggen, from the Post, gives further White House reaction from Washington.
In a seven-paragraph statement, national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley disputes several of the book's main themes, reported in a Post article published yesterday, calling Woodward's portrayal of Iraq war policy "at best incomplete." Hadley says that Bush "acknowledged the violence in his public statements and discussed what we were doing about it" in 2006 and that "there were positive developments that suggested our strategy at the time might work" until that fall. Hadley quarrels with the contention that Bush was largely detached from an internal Iraq strategy review in late 2006, saying the president "drove the process." He also says it is "not true" that the review was kept secret to avoid damaging GOP chances in the midterm elections. "The president wanted a private internal review process precisely so as not to politicize the process," writes Hadley, who conducted the review. "If he had wanted to boost the Republican chances in the election, he would have publicly announced both the strategy review and the decision to change his Secretary of Defense."
Stateside
Joby Warrick and Robin Wright of the Washington Post report that “U.S. Teams Weaken Insurgency In Iraq”, with a story about the Joint Task Force, a U.S. military-led team that includes intelligence and forensic professionals, political analysts, mapping experts, computer specialists piloting unmanned aircraft, and Special Operations troops. Progress is being made, says Warrick and Wright, and they begin their report by illustrating their point with an example of an elusive insurgent leader, known as “The Tiger”, a man Pentagon officials describe as the kidnapper of American journalist Jill Carroll and also as one of a dwindling number of veteran commanders of the Sunni insurgent group known as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). On August 11, U.S. troops kicked down his door and arrested him.
Aiding the U.S. effort, the officials say, is the increasing antipathy toward AQI among many ordinary Iraqis, who quickly report new terrorist safe houses as soon as they're established. Fresh tips are channeled to fast-reaction teams that move aggressively against reported terrorist targets -- often multiple times in a single night. "Wherever they go, they cannot hide," said a senior U.S. defense official familiar with counterterrorism operations in Iraq. "They don't have safe houses anymore." The rapid strikes are coordinated by the Joint Task Force, a military-led team that includes intelligence and forensic professionals, political analysts, mapping experts, computer specialists piloting unmanned aircraft, and Special Operations troops. After decades of agency rivalries that have undermined coordination on counterterrorism, the task force is enjoying new success in Iraq with its blending of diverse military and intelligence assets to speed up counterterrorism missions. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen said in a recent interview that the cells produce intelligence that nets 10 to 20 captures a night in Iraq. "We're living in a world now where targets are fleeting," Mullen said. "I don't care if they're on the ground, in the air, on the sea or under the sea -- you don't get much of a shot, and you've got to be able to move quickly."
The Washington Post’s Ann Scott Tyson and Karen DeYoung continue their coverage from yesterday of the Pentagon’s recommendation on a modest drawback of U.S. troops in Iraq. There is not a lot of new information in the piece, but it further details the process that led to the recommendation. They report that, although the Joint Chiefs of Staff pushed for a speedy withdrawal, General David H. Petraeus was in favor of a more cautious route. The agreement between them is called a “compromise”.
Senior military officials said the "consensus" proposal incorporated the final recommendation of Petraeus. He called for withdrawing 7,500 to 8,000 troops from Iraq by the end of January, including an 1,100-man Marine Corps battalion and a Marine aviation squadron of several hundred strong to depart this fall, an Army combat brigade of up to 4,000 soldiers to depart in mid-January, and more than 1,000 support troops, such as logisticians and forces, assigned to handle detainees. The Pentagon plan also calls for bolstering the U.S. force in Afghanistan to counter a growing insurgency, deploying a Marine battalion there in November to replace one that is departing, and sending an Army brigade of 3,500 to 4,000 troops there early next year.

Wall Street Journal, no Iraq coverage.

Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, no Saturday Editions.
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