The killing of an American woman in Iraq dominated coverage in the two major East Coast dailies, along with articles probing the uncertainty of the results of the Bush escalation, and continuing tensions between the Bush and Maliki administrations, even as they prepare for a joint offensive in the Iraqi capital.
Damien Cave rounds up yesterday’s violence in Iraq, leading with the ambush of a convoy that killed Andrea Parhamovich, an American civilian worker, and her three bodyguards yesterday. Ten Iraqi civilians were killed in the southern Baghdad neighborhood of Dora. Cave provides details of the scene of both attacks, and interviews individuals who knew the dead. Noteworthy in the article: While Cave writes that US officials will look to both incidents as justification for the Bush escalation plan, the residents of Dora that he interviewed fear for their neighborhood in a US assault, worried that US lockdown will prevent Iraqis from attending their jobs. Details also are emerging of an incident of US operations in Dora on Dec. 25 in which American soldiers raided a 76-year old man’s home and fatally shot him.
Christopher Maag surveys the life of Andrea Parhamovich for the Times, noting her impressive accomplishments, and writing that she had opposed the US invasion of Iraq “from the start.”
The Post’s Ernesto Londoño and Joshua Partlow write up a summary of the days events in Iraq, also leading with the ambush on Parhamovich’s convoy. No big scoops, but they advance the story by noting that unverified claims had emerged that the group Islamic State in Iraq had conducted the attack. In their roundup they also note that the Sadrist movement now acknowledged that the Iraq government had arrested over 400 Mahdi Army members as claimed, but that these arrests did not take place in the last few days. (The Times ran a more thorough piece on these arrests yesterday, but did not include a Sadrist response.) Having devoted the first half of the article to the killing of one American, Londoño and Partlow close with one sentence noting the deaths of fifteen Iraqis.
Michael R. Gordon files a Times military analysis from Washington. While the US onslaught upon certain Baghdad neighborhoods is sure to be massive, the number of US troops committed does not add up to the numbers provided in the Pentagon’s recently released counterinsurgency guidelines. Even with the addition of Iraqi forces, the numbers don’t add up, and furthermore, the level of military readiness and political willingness of Iraqi forces to fight on the side of the American occupation is unknown. Gordon writes that US military planners are gambling that other alleged battlefield advantages will make up the difference. The Pentagon does not expect fighting to spill over into all areas of Baghdad, for example. Gordon’s piece is must-read material, if only for the insight into the gamble that even US military planners know they are making. While the Pentagon’s new manual is itself only a play book, and not a guaranteed recipe for crushing armed popular resistance, the assumption that the resistance in Baghdad will be subdued with a lower commitment of troops than Pentagon guidelines require highlights the unpredictability of the end result of the Bush escalation plan.
Also on the theme of the unpredictability of the upcoming offensive, Walter Pincus and Ann Scott Tyson of the Post record speculation among Washington’s military and intelligence officials that the anticipated confrontation pitting the US and Iraqi forces against the Mahdi Army may not occur. While some have portrayed the Bush escalation plan as an apocalyptic showdown for the future of Iraq, others expect the Mahdi Army fighters to lay low and resurface later when conditions are more favorable. This may be leading some US military brass to attempt to ratchet down public expectations: "I for one am personally very concerned that expectations have been raised so high that people are going to look for some kind of immediate results in the next 30 to 60 days and are not going to see it," says Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, spokesman for the U.S military command in Iraq.
Neck and neck in their coverage thus far, the Times puts one past the Post with James Glanz’s report from Baghdad that Iraq is reviewing its diplomatic protocols with Iran. Iranian officials visiting Iraq will be required to submit detailed itineraries, coordinate their visits with the Iraqi government, and pledge not to support armed groups within the country. Glanz does not specify exactly the reason that the Iraqi government has enacted this review, but reading between the lines we might speculate that after a series of US raids allegedly targeting Iranian officials operating in Iraq, the Iraqi government is attempting to manage the US-Iran confrontation in Iraq in a way that still props up the image of Iraqi sovereignty. Glanz quotes Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari, who seems more aware of the sensitive nature of the changes in protocol with Iran than the Americans pressuring for the change: “On the one hand we understand the U.S. position,” he says. “On the other hand, I understand my geographic position as well." "After the raids, Zebari said, the Iranians “come to us and we are incapable of responding.”
In other coverage:
Columnist Charles Krauthammer, a cheerleader for the war since the beginning, looks at its result and does not like what he sees. His solution? Threaten the Maliki regime with US withdrawal from Baghdad if it does not implement the US agenda in Iraq. Krauthammer argues that this way, Maliki’s government, fearful of facing chaos in the capital without US backing, would toe the US line and clamp down on such forces as the Mahdi Army. Yet Maliki may know something that Krauthammer does not: The Iraqi central authority that the American occupation authorities helped design may be so weak that Maliki’s implementation of US demands of confrontation with Iraqi militias will actually bring about the chaos that Krauthammer would wield as a threat.
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR
Daniel Schorr’s column, entitled “The Kurds as Charlie Brown” mentions earlier false promises offered to the Kurds of Iraq. In 1973 and 1990 the US encouraged Iraqi Kurds to rebel against Saddam Hussein’s regime. Both times the US abandoned the Kurds to be massacred. Schorr writes, “it is with a certain chutzpah that the current Bush administration presumes to tell the presumably autonomous Kurds what relations they may entertain with other countries of the region, including America's enemy No. 1, Iran.” Noting that the recent American raids in Kurdish country capturing Iranian officials violates Kurdish autonomy, he closes, “The Kurds appear to be finding themselves in an arena of contest between the US and Iran for dominance in the Middle East. And once again, the Kurds are being stiffed by their American friends.”
President Bush and his war in Iraq are plumbing new depths of unpopularity. But where are the mass demonstrations? Brad Knickerbocker of the Monitor compares the antiwar movement today with that of a generation ago, noting that, four years into the war in Iraq, antiwar activism has yet to achieve Vietnam-era levels. He suggests that the lack of a draft, the smaller number of US deaths compared to Vietnam, and the distance of many Americans from the real costs of the war has led to a smaller antiwar movement, but looks ahead to a possible increase in activity with the implementation of the Bush escalation plan.
WALL STREET JOURNAL
No new Iraq reporting before IS deadline.
No new Iraq reporting before IS deadline.