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Daily Column
US Papers Wednesday: Bush Speech Spin
Battle on Haifa Street; Calling Up National Guard
By SETH SMITH 01/10/2007 01:32 AM ET
President Bush's speech on Iraq and the Democratic reaction dominate the U.S. media. In the WP, Glenn Kessler and Jonathan Weisman run down President Bush's latest pronouncements, including concern for Saudi Arabia and other Middle East allies, and the emerging Democratic legislative strategy to block troop increases. The Senate will vote next week on a non-binding resolution opposing the increase. Two members of the Massachusetts delegation, Senator Ted Kennedy and Rep. Edward Markey, have introduced a resolution that would force Bush to seek congressional approval for any troop increase or increased spending. Also in the WP, Dana Milbank has a piquant account of Republican Senator's dancing around the question of troop increases, focusing on Senator John Sununu. The NYT's Jeff Zeleny and Carl Hulse focus on the politics of the emerging Democratic proposals, noting that Republicans will be forced to go on the record with there support of lack thereof for Bush's latest plan. At least ten Republican Senators and an unknown number of Republican Reps are expected to vote against troop increases. Writing in USA Today, Tom Vanden Brook and Jim Michaels have the interesting detail that, according to three administration officials, "Bush is also considering turning over responsibility for security in all provinces to Iraqis by November." The article also includes a helpful bulleted list of the Jack Keane-Robert Kagan plan upon which the expected troop increase is apparently based.

The day's other big story is the battle between Sunni insurgents and combined U.S. and Iraqi forces on central Baghdad's Haifa Street. In the WP, Sudarsan Raghavan and Joshua Partlow have a veritable play-by-play account of Tuesday's fighting. More than 1,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops and hundreds of Sunni insurgents were involved in the fighting. At least 50 suspected insurgents were reported killed. The fighting resembled conventional urban warfare more than the hit-and-run attacks that have come to characterize the insurgency. As has often been the case, competing narratives quickly emerged, with some Sunnis saying that the fighting was an attempt to further cleanse Baghdad of Sunnis. Marc Santora's NYT story gives a history of violence on Haifa Street since the U.S. invasion.

NEW YORK TIMES

David S. Cloud and Thom Shanker report that troop increases now will likely lead to the call-up of six National Guard combat units in early 2008. The deployment of reserve units is expected to stir further controversy about the already controversial plan.

WASHINGTON POST

Michael Abramowitz, Robin Wright and Thomas Ricks have President Bush publicly breaking with top military commanders in pursuing troop increases. The article also has some officials saying that the strategy was adopted in part because it was not included in the Iraq Study Group's report.

Peter Carlson profiles Adam Tiffen, a Washington, D.C. lawyer that served in Iraq and blogged about his experience.Tiffen has encountered difficulty in transitioning back to civilian life, and has watched as the area he worked to subdue in Iraq, near Saba Al Bor, returned to chaos after U.S. troops pulled out.

Paul Farhi has a history and examination of the use of the word "surge" to describe a troop increase, and its more Democrat-friendly counterpart, "escalation."

Iraqi Vice President Tariq Al Hashimi has a guest column urging the U.S. not to give up on Iraq. Al Hashimi, a Sunni, urges a more confrontational approach to the (Shia) militias operating in Iraq, and urges the U.S. not to leave Iraq subject to the will of its neighbors, by which one suspects he means Iran, though he does not say so.

Columnist Harold Meyerson compares President Bush and Karl Rove to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, writing that all three understand the need to mobilize their bases, often at the expense of their political opponents. With Bush soldiering on with his polarizing policies, Meyerson writes, why should Maliki be expected to change his apparent game plan and agree to go after his "base", the Mehdi Army?

Columnist David Ignatius frets that just as the U.S. is gearing up to get serious about counter-insurgency the political will to take decisive action is fraying. The column provides a Cliff Notes version of General Petraeus counterinsurgency ideas, but has little to say on the question of whether they are workable in light of the situation in Iraq and the U.S. overstretched military.

USA TODAY

Emory University Professor Don Campbell has a column skewering President Bush for his handling of the war. Campbell goes on to compare Bush to Lyndon Baines Johnson in their mutual inability to "speak with candor" to the U.S. population.

WALL STREET JOURNAL

Greg Jaffe and Yochi Dreazen write on expected reduced funding for reconstruction in Iraq, with the limited funds to be channeled to locals. The micro-finance plan has spawned skepticism among some in the military. The military has been more supportive of a plan to recentralize the economy by reopening factories, after attempts to decentralize in the invasion's immediate aftermath.

Guest columnist Edward N. Luttwak argues that the Bush administration policy has failed in Iraq, but has set into motion a regional splintering along sectarian lines. This divide-and-rule dynamic of setting populations against one another means that Sunnis in some states and Shias in others have come to rely on the U.S. Luttwak argues that this will make it easier for the U.S. to manage its interests in the region.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

Linda Feldmann explains the difficulties facing the Bush administration in selling its new Iraq plan. Just 10 percent of Democrats and 21 percent of independents support the president's handling of the war, according to pollster John Zogby.

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