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US Papers Friday: "Outright Hostility"
Bush and Dems on Collision Course; Iraqis Unimpressed
By SETH SMITH 01/12/2007 03:20 AM ET
As expected, the Bush plan was not embraced warmly by Congress' new Democratic majorities or its remaining Republican moderates. The NYT lede-all, by Thom Shanker and David S. Cloud, has strong opposition in the Senate and lukewarm support from Republicans in the House. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates faced tough questioning, with Gates saying that the new strategy would be reviewed if the Iraqis failed to live up to their promises. Anne Kornblut provides more depth in a second article. The WP's Michael Abramowitz and Jonathan Weisman note that no member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee expressed support for the new plan. Rice is quoted as saying that, "I think knows that his government is on borrowed time" and Gates announcing that there is no timeframe for the troop increase. Both the WP and NYT articles have the latest on legislative maneuvering, with Republicans in the House sounding particularly dire in the WP piece. USA Today's Barbara Slavin focuses on Rice's defense of the administration's increasing bellicosity toward Iran. Yochi J. Dreazen and Neil King Jr. report in the WSJ that the White House is pinning its hopes for avoiding Congressional censure for its troop increase plan on a mix of Democratic disarray and cagey Republican legislative maneuvering. Administration officials also say they have enough money remaining to fund at least the beginning of any increase.

The reaction of Iraq's citizens, if not its politicians, has also been harsh. The Iraqis interviewed by Scott Peterson of the CSM are profoundly pessimistic about the plan's ability to succeed. Robin Wright and Joshua Partlow of the WP find apathy at the teahouse, and a mixed bag when questioning Iraqi politicians about the plan. A spokeswoman for Al Maliki takes issue with Bush's threats to Iran and Syria. The NYT's John F. Burns and Sabrina Tavernise read resentment into Maliki's no-show at a scheduled press conference and the lukewarm response from other officials.

NEW YORK TIMES

David E. Sanger, Jim Rutenberg and Michael R. Gordon piece together details of the debate within the Bush administration over what new strategy should be adopted. Bush was reportedly attached to the idea of withdrawing from Baghdad entirely at the beginning of the process, but later gave up on the idea.

Reporting from Irbil, James Glanz has a detailed account of the U.S. raid on an Iranian diplomatic installation there early Thursday that led to six arrests. Kurdish authorities in the area strongly condemned the raid, as did Iran.

Mark Mazzetti leads with threats of renewed Shia radicalism in his article on departing Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte's presentation to lawmakers on Thursday. Intel professionals now believe that Iran is attempting to worsen sectarian strife in Iraq, rather than the previous strategy of maintaining relative stability while keeping the U.S. off-balance.

Sheryl Gay Stolberg notes war-weary troops' underwhelming response to Bush's lunch speech in Fort Benning, GA. The speech differed little in its details from the address he gave Wednesday night.

David S. Cloud reports on the Pentagon's loosening of rules governing the deployment National Guard members and reservists. Many Guards and reservists are expected to be called back to the military in the next year, despite having already served a tour in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

Thom Shanker frames Wednesday's Bush speech as a vindication for General Eric K. Shinseki, who in the run-up to the war testified to Congress that many more troops would be needed to subdue Iraq. Shinseki was harshly criticized by the Pentagon's civilian leadership after his testimony, and left the military soon after.

Raymond Hernandez relays the grief of the family of Corporal Jason L. Dunham, who on Thursday posthumously received the Medal of Honor, the highest military honor in the U.S. Dunham was killed when he jumped on a grenade to save the lives of two men serving with him in Iraq.

A short article features the courthouse confession of "Chemical" Ali Hassan Al Majid, Saddam Hussein's cousin, who admitted to ordering the death of Kurdish "saboteurs" during the late 1980s.

Well-respected and hyper-prolific military analyst Anthony H. Cordesman provides an in-depth analysis of some key phrases from President Bush's Wednesday speech. Cordesman is generally pessimistic on the new plans chances of succeeding.

WASHINGTON POST

Sudarsan Raghavan travels with U.S. troops on a mission to Baghdad's Hurriya district. Over the course of their journey, the troops questioned the ability of Iraqi troops to "stand up" and doubted whether their mission is succeeding.

Dafna Linzer and Walter Pincus have intel chiefs giving a "bleak assessment" of the world's conflict zones, some of which are at the center of U.S. foreign policy. The Iraqi military is infiltrated by Shia militias, and is unprepared to combat Sunni insurgents, Al Qaida or the militias, according to the annual worldwide threat assessment presented to lawmakers on Thursday.

Ann Scott Tyson and Josh White report on Defense Secretary Robert Gates proposal to add 92,000 troops to the Army and Marines. The increase would cost $10 billion per year and take five years. A second Gates proposal, to allow for the involuntary call-up of reserve units that have previously served in Iraq, is likely to set off a political firestorm, and possibly further entrench the public's opposition to the war.

Peter Baker traveled with President Bush to Fort Benning, where he sought to rally the troops to his new strategy. The reception Bush received was notably less enthusiastic than in past meetings with the military rank-and-file, according to Baker.

Dana Milbank provides color commentary on Secretary Rice's meeting with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, including Senator Johnny Isakson's invocation of Kenny Rogers' "The Gambler" in describing Bush's strategy.

Mary Otto chronicles the difficult relocation of one Iraqi family, from Baghdad to Northern Virginia. The family was forced into a homeless shelter owing to high rental prices in the D.C. metro area, but was eventually able to get back on its feet.

An unsigned editorial questions how diplomacy can solve pressing problems in the Middle East if Iran and Syria continue to be ostracized. Particularly in light of the president's gamble on a troop increase, a gamble on diplomacy is well-advised, according to the editorial.

Guest columnist Zbigniew Brzezinski criticizes Bush's new strategy for a number of perceived faults. Brzezinski derides the addition of troops as a "political gimmick" and wonders what will happen when the Iraqi government inevitably, in his view, fails to live up to its commitments.

Columnist E.J. Dionne passes along the thoughts of a young officer serving in Iraq. The officer believes that Iraq needs a political, not military accommodation, and explains why in detail.

Columnist Eugene Robinson worries that the Bush administration's may be planning to strike Iran, despite or perhaps because of difficulties the U.S. faces in Iraq.

Columnist David Ignatius talked to Democratic Congressman Rahm Emanuel and dutifully recorded his thoughts on the best way for Democrats to capitalize politically of Republicans' current weak position.

USA TODAY

Tom Vanden Brook goes over the elements of the expected new push for security in Baghdad. Ultimately, success or failure lies with the ability of Iraqi forces to succeed where they have failed in the past, according to the piece.

Rick Jervis reports on optimism emanating from some Iraqi officials, who claim that some progress has already been made in ameliorating the political stalemate. Cited are a determination that a cabinet shake-up will take place, an agreement to negotiate with political parties that maintain militias, in hopes of getting them to disarm, and plans for a parliamentary debate on whether to ease rules barring former Baath party officials from joining the government.

From Fort Benning, GA, Larry Copeland gauges the reaction of military families to Bush's new proposal. Some appear skeptical, though most remain committed to their mission.

David Jackson and Bill Nichols have the Bush team's weekend schedule, with Bush set to appear on 60 Minutes and Vice President Dick Cheney on Fox News Sunday.

An unsigned editorial challenges Democrats to come up with credible alternatives to Bush's plan, and to explain why those alternatives will lead to a more successful resolution of the war.

Guest columnists Andrew C. McCarthy and Clifford D. May from the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies use stark language to convey their distaste for Democrats' alleged intentions to "micro-manage the war." They claim to welcome criticism of the president's prosecution of the war, but then insinuate that critics give aid and comfort to the enemy.

A sample of Thursday editorials concerning Bush's speech from newspapers around the country is provided.

WALL STREET JOURNAL

Jay Solomon reports on the intensifying effort to counter alleged Iranian meddling in Iraq. Along with Thursday's high profile raid on a diplomatic office in Irbil, intel agencies have stepped up monitoring of suspected Iranian agents. The new moves have inspired fear on Capitol Hill and in Arab capitals that the U.S. may foment a regional war.

An unsigned editorial applauds the Bush administrations determination to stamp out alleged Iranian and Syrian meddling in Iraq. The editorial goes on to support armed incursions into those countries, as necessary.

Columnist Daniel Henninger comes down in favor of a troop increase. Henninger also serves up a heaping helping of praise to General David Petraeus.

Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich pen a guest column likening the effort to bring stability to Baghdad to Giuliani's effort to reduce high crime rates in New York. The duo recommends a program focused on job creation and civic improvement as a means of helping the country get back on its feet.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

Howard LaFranchi writes that Bush's change in strategy amounts to little more than a tactical shift, and one with limited chances for success. After noting various viewpoints about the new plan, the article's kicker quote, from the Cato Institute's Ted Galen Carpenter, gets at its "inherent contradictions": "Either it is an unimaginable disaster if the US leaves without victory, in which case you stay no matter what for national security reasons, or this commitment is 'not open-ended' which implies we would withdraw at some point with or without victory," he says. "You can't have it both ways."

Brad Knickerbocker's article probes the expected increase in violence as troops attempt to quell the violence in Baghdad and Anbar province. Knickerbocker also briefly mentions the fears or hopes of some that the new moves are meant to put Iran squarely in the U.S. crosshairs.

An unsigned editorial provides a tacit warning to Iraq's political and sectarian leaders that the next U.S. president may not be quite so indulgent as Bush. Thus there is limited time to pull the country back from the brink.

Mackubin Thomas Owens, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College, has a guest column arguing that Bush's plan has a chance to succeed. The column marshals little evidence in support of its central thesis.

Jeffrey Shaffer has a column pointing out that reconciliation is a difficult process.

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