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NY Times Report from Embedded Team Causes Heartache, Controversy
01/31/2007 11:14 PM ET
Here is the report on the Editor & Publisher Web site.

The current embed rules:

mnf_i_media_ground_rules5may06_1.pdf

As a curious aside, the US military advice on dealing with the media:

05mediaguidewithtabpgscrpmrks5X7.pdf

Daily Column
Scores Die on Shi`i Holiday; Anti-Iran Talk Surges
By GREG HOADLEY 01/31/2007 02:11 AM ET
The anti-Iran drumbeat continues to sound as US officials involved in Iraqi affairs ramped up their allegations of Iranian involvement in Iraqi affairs. As one Times reporter put it, “The debate about Iraq is increasingly becoming a debate about Iran.” The major papers also report on violence marring the observance of `Ashura, and the two big dailies run articles on Republican efforts to counter the bipartisan anti-escalation challenge. A few more details have trickled out regarding Sunday’s fighting near Najaf.

From Baghdad, Marc Santora reports on violence in Iraq coinciding with the Shi`a holy period of `Ashura. More than fifty Iraqis died in attacks yesterday. At least 23 Shi`a observers of the `Ashura traditions were killed in a bombing in Balad Ruz, near Baquba, and a roadside bomb killed at least 12 worshipers traveling in procession in Khanqin, northeast of the capital. Gunmen opened fire on minibuses containing Shi`a pilgrims in Baghdad, killing four. In `Adhimiya, a predominantly Sunni area, at least 10 civilians were confirmed killed by mortar shells, with the count expected to go much higher. Santora writes that security was tight in the holy cities of Karbala and Najaf, with thousands of police present, and US and UK jets and choppers overhead. Santora also reports that the official counts from Sunday’s extraordinary fighting near Najaf stands at 263 alleged Soldiers of Heaven fighers killed, 210 wounded and 502 arrested. A video released by the government shows prisoners being taken away in blindfolds, and another video shows stacks of bodies of militia fighters allegedly killed in the battle.

Filing from Baghdad, Ernest Londoño and Saad Sarhan also lead with the day’s violence, picking up on an attack that doesn’t make it into the Times report: in Baladruz, Diyala Province, a suicide bombing killed 17 in a Shi`i mosque where worshippers had gathered to observe `Ashura. They report that Iraqi officials are still piecing together details of the Soldiers of Heaven movement, including its beliefs, motivations, financing and leadership. One Iraqi official claimed that al-Qaeda in Iraq had provided funding. Others said that the group had planned to travel under cover of the `Ashura pilgrimages to Najaf to mount an attack on Tuesday on the Shi`i religious hierarchy there.

The sheer sophistication of the Jan. 20 attack at Karbala in which attackers posed as US soldiers to infiltrate security has led US and Iraqi officials to probe for an Iranian hand in the affair, James Glanz and Mark Mazetti write from Baghdad. US military and Iraqi government sources both have speculated that an Iraqi group alone could not have had the wherewithal or technical abilities required to make such an attack successful. Speculation centers on a putative relationship between elements within the Mahdi Army and the Iranian security apparatus. However, Glanz and Mazetti are careful to point out that US and Iraqi officials “offered no direct evidence of a connection” to Iran, and in an interesting choice of words, they write “The focus on Iran could be seen as convenient from the point of view of the Bush administration, which has been engaged in an escalating war of words with Iran.”

Jim Michaels submits a shorter piece for the USAT in which a US officer accuses Iran of supplying weapons to Iraqi militias. He quotes Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno: "We have weapons that we know through serial numbers ... that trace back to Iran." Iran has denied that it is arming Iraqi militias.

Helene Cooper writes in the Times that the appointment of Negroponte to the post of Deputy Secretary of State signals that “the debate over Iraq is increasingly becoming a debate over Iran.” Negroponte is known to share Pres. Bush’s aggressive views on US-Iran policy.

From Washington, Carl Hulse and Thom Shanker report that White House loyalists in the Senate are strategizing to avoid the approval of bills that would reject Bush’s Iraq escalation plan. As alternatives to the two bipartisan opposition measures under consideration, GOP Sens. McCain and Graham, and Independent Sen. Lieberman have drafted a bill that would force the Iraqi government to adhere to benchmarks and includes language supporting Bush’s troop increase. They have received support from Sens. McConnell, Cornyn, and Vitter. Senate GOP White House allies were also reportedly caucusing for the 41 votes necessary to prevent the bipartisan bills from coming to vote. Also on the Hill, Iraq Study Group leaders testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, disputing the White House contention that Bush’s proposed Iraq policy takes into account the Group’s conclusions. The Iraq issue also ran through Adm. Fallon’s confirmation hearing to become head of US Central Command, which includes most of the Middle East. Democrat Sen. Feingold has said he would soon introduce a bill that would withdraw funding for most US presence in Iraq after six months.

In some contrast to the Times report, Jonathan Weisman and Shailagh Murray write in the Post that GOP strategy is “balkanizing” with no fewer than five bills competing for Republican votes and the GOP leadership unable to bring the Republican caucus to rally around a single bill. “Resolutions are flying like snowflakes around here," Sen. Specter quipped. In addition to the McCain-Graham-Lieberman bill mentioned above, Weisman and Murray report that Sen. Isakson has introduced a bill and Sens. Cornyn and Gregg are each considering proposals. The two reporters note “Democrats, who are united in their desire to stop the escalation, are regarding the Republican divisions with some glee.”

Murray also reports in the Post that Sen. Obama yesterday proposed legislation that goes farther than the anti-escalation measures proposed so far, which would require full US withdrawal of combat forces from Iraq by March 31, 2008. The bill would allow for a US presence for “counterterrorism” activities and to train Iraqi forces, and would allow for the withdrawal to be halted temporarily if the Iraqi government met “benchmarks” proposed by the Bush administration. She notes that Obama’s position contrasts with that of other Democratic presidential hopefuls Clinton and Edwards. In election season, one wonders if the Democrats can conduct their own Iraq debate without “balkanizing.”

In other coverage:

NEW YORK TIMES

Niel A. Lewis and Scott Shane report that infamous ex-Times reporter Judith Miller testified in the Libby trial yesterday,

Times editors print a staff editorial calling on the Bush administration to do much more for refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan, especially those that have worked for the US as interpreters, guides, and contractors. They call for more slots to be opened to Iraqis seeking refugee status in the US, greater funding of UN relief efforts, and streamlined entry requirements for those who have been in the employ of the US in their occupied home countries.

WASHINGTON POST

On Page D1 of the Post, Griff Witte and Renae Merle file an important story: US auditors have found that faulty oversight of American spending in Iraq has resulted in fraud and abuse of public funds by several contractors in Iraq. The special inspector general for Iraq has released reports accusing such contractors as Parsons and DynCorp of over-billing for substandard or uncompleted work, leading to tens of millions of dollars of waste and fraud.

Zachary Goldfarb reports for the Post that Democratic leaders have agreed to President Bush’s proposal to create a bipartisan panel that would advise the president on counterterrorism and the war in Iraq. Democrats initially rejected the proposal when it was made clear that Bush expected to appoint all members of the panel. A compromise was struck when President Bush agreed to allow Democrats to appoint their own members on the body.

As Tony Blair nears the end of his tenure, David Ignatius reflects on the British PM: “When he leaves office as Prime Minister, probably this summer, his political legacy will be summed up in one ruinous word: Iraq.”

Former Post reporter Fred Barbash contributes an op-ed considering the upcoming constitutional clash as the Congress tests its power to influence war making.

Adm. Fallon’s confirmation hearing to lead CENTCOM gets a write-up by Ann Scott Tyson and Glenn Kessler, who report that Iran policy figured heavily in the discussion, with Fallon revealing himself to be rather hawkish on the subject. On Iraq, Fallon said that a military solution could not be imposed on the country and that political progress had to accompany military operations.

WALL STREET JOURNAL

The Journal prints a staff editorial entitled “Progress in Baghdad” which supports the Bush administration’s Iraq plan and argues that Iraq is “inching in the right direction.” Journal editors dismiss criticism of Iraqi forces over the recent fighting near Najaf and point to “widespread reports” that militias are “fleeing” the capital in anticipation of a crackdown, and suggest that PM Maliki has the full support of the Iraqi parliament.

David Rivkin and Lee Casey contribute an op-ed on the constitutional issues at stake in the proposals to be debated in Congress, concluding that Congress has the authority to “cripple the president's ability to fight a war (accepting the political consequences), but it cannot supervise his own constitutional authority as commander in chief, effectively transferring those functions to Congress.”

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

John Hughes, former Monitor editor, contributes an op-ed in which he argues that “American preoccupation with Iraq and the Middle East is permitting China and Russia to extend their influence in other crucial areas of the world with little fear of US reaction.” He mentions recent Chinese and Russian diplomatic initiatives in Africa, Latin America, and India, and the two countries’ relationships with Iran. Hughes also predicts that “In order to avoid a political debacle for the Republican Party in next year's elections, Mr. Bush will almost surely slash the US troop presence in Iraq to a modest force by mid-2008.”

Daily Column
Details Emerge on Najaf Fighting; Group Was Heavily Armed
By GREG HOADLEY 01/30/2007 01:50 AM ET
Both big East Coast dailies lead Iraq coverage with more information about Sunday’s raid near Najaf. Consensus is emerging that the battle did not, in the main, concern foreign fighters, as had been first reported, but rather members of the millenarian Shi`i organization Soldiers of Heaven, whose aim in the attacks was to assassinate senior Shi`i clerics in Najaf, viewed by the group as usurpers.

The impressive extent of the attack mounted by the Soldiers of Heaven group is now becoming clear. Marc Santora of the NYT reports that the hundreds of fighters had dug in with tunnels, trenches, and blockades, and their captured arsenal included heavy weaponry. The responding Iraqi units were overwhelmed by the obscure but extremely effective militia and had to call for air and ground reinforcement from the US and UK. Santora reports that the performance of the Iraqi units has reinforced doubts about their effectiveness in the upcoming operations in Baghdad. He also confirms the rumors that US ground troops as well as air forces participated in Sunday’s fighting near Najaf. Previous accounts had only confirmed US aircraft involvement. Santora also reports that British jets were involved in bombing raids. Najaf’s governor said on television that the Soldiers of Heaven had ties with the Saddam regime going back to the 1990s, and Iraqi officials suggested some connections between the group and Ba`thist loyalists in the logistics of the attack. Estimates also vary for the number of Soldiers of Heaven fighters killed, with claims ranging from 120 to 470. Twenty five Iraqi security force members died in the fighting, and as reported yesterday, two US soldiers died when their helicopter was downed.

The Post also leads its Iraq coverage with the Soldiers of Heaven, as Joshua Partlow and Saad Sarhan file from Baghdad. They report that Shirwan al-Wahli, Iraqi national security minister said that the group included some Sunni and foreign fighters, and that "based on the level of training, support and financing, it obviously has received support from outside Iraq." There is a curious divergence of interpretation in Times and Post reporting related to the events in Najaf: Whereas the Times reports that the Iraqi forces’ performance casts a pall upon their reputation for effectiveness, Partlow and Sarhan report that “Iraqi and U.S. military officials characterized the attack as a positive signal that the Iraqi security forces were able to lead a major battle and were willing to target extremists from the same Muslim sect that runs the central government,” as though Iraqi forces would have allowed the millenarian attackers to assassinate members of the Shi`i hierarchy simply because the assailants were members of a Shi`i tradition.

“But who were the militants?” asks Dan Murphy in his analysis of the events filed from Cairo for the Monitor. Murphy’s article suggests that the simple Sunni and Shi`i labels might oversimplify the political situation in Iraq, in light of Sunday’s fighting.

Jim Michaels reports in the USAT on a story that has been underreported in the big dailies. The Maliki government has conducted purges of some leadership positions in the Iraqi security forces, increasing Sunni representation among the commanding officers of the national police, perhaps in preparation for the anticipated crackdown in Baghdad on some powerful Shi`i militias.

In other coverage:

NEW YORK TIMES

Denise Grady reports that the US Veterans Affairs Administration has changed the definition of “wounded” in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to include only injuries sustained from “hostile” forces during combat. “Nonhostile” injuries, such as accidents, and physical and mental illnesses are excluded from the definition, resulting in a drop in the official tally of wounded soldiers from 50,508 to 21,649. Grady writes that the “hostile” and “nonhostile” wounded counts are available from other Pentagon sources and notes pending legislation in the Senate to improve health data collection on US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan in order to better meet the needs of the tens of thousands of wounded soldiers returning from the theater.

WASHINGTON POST

Michael Abramowitz reports that in an NPR interview President Bush insisted that there were no differences between his assessment of the Iraq war and VP Cheney’s, suggesting that Cheney’s characterization of the war in Iraq as marked by “great successes” was a reflection of the VP’s innate optimism. On Sunday’s fighting near Najaf, Bush said, “This fight is an indication of what is taking place, and that is the Iraqis are beginning to take the lead . . . So my first reaction on this report from the battlefield is that the Iraqis are beginning to show me something.” Bush also continued the administration rhetoric on Iran, saying "I take the Iranian nuclear threat very seriously even though the intel on Iraq was not what it was thought to be.”

Ann Scott Tyson reports that additional US troops on their way to Iraq as a part of the Bush escalation plan may find themselves short of supplies such as armor kits and vehicles, according to Army and Marines officials. The up-armored Humvee and other vehicles are in short supply. US military officials said they expected the shortage to be made up by increased use of the equipment already in the theater, perhaps at the expense of combat effectiveness and safety.

Jonathan Weisman and Ann Scott Tyson write an obituary for Army captain Brian Freeman, 31, of California, who was killed in last week’s attack on Karbala. They write that Freeman had quietly met Sens. Dodd and Kerry while they were in Iraq late last year and explained to them his criticisms of the conduct of the Iraq war, including the use of soldiers for operations that they were untrained to conduct. Freeman also later emailed Dodd about civilian contractors’ abuse of Iraqi interpreters. The Senators have both said that they were impressed with Freeman during their meeting and expressed regret over his death. They have both said that his killing had strengthened their resolve to bring an end to the war.

Dan Eggen reports for the Post that Wesam al-Delaema, a Dutch national born in Iraq has pled not guilty in the first case of an alleged Iraqi fighter tried in US civilian courts. The case against Delaema centers on a 2003 videotape in which he appears discussing weapons. Delaema insists that he had been kidnapped and was forced to participate in the recording under duress. The case also features a complicated extradition agreement with the Dutch authorities, which may account for the trial occurring in civilian, rather than military, courts

Sen. Lugar, ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Commitee, contributes an op-ed in today’s Post suggesting that the new Bush plan is not a “hail Mary pass” but rather an episode in a US presence in the Middle East that will continue long into the future. He suggests that the US invasion of Iraq has strengthened Iran, which has in turn strengthened the United States, as regional allies turn to the US, fearful of a stronger Iran. He prioritizes US regional ambitions over the achievement of a perfect outcome in Iraq, and suggests that in the best case scenario, the US could maintain bases in Iraq from which to exercise its military power in the region.

WALL STREET JOURNAL

In his column, Bret Stephens runs down the list of proposals on the table for US Iraq policies and argues that the Bush plan is the lesser of the evils.

Longtime advocate of Bush policy Fouad Ajami contributes a long op-ed meditating on the implications of the new realities in Iraq.

USA TODAY

Kathy Kiely reports that, while they do not all agree, Congress’s Vietnam veterans’ positions on the Iraq war are informed by personal experiences in combat in Southeast Asia.

Adam Goodheart and John Bohrer contribute an op-ed exhorting the Bush administration to do more for Iraqi refugees, especially those who have fled, or will flee, the country because they had worked with the US occupiers.

Insight
Says U.S. "Has No Strategic Interest" In A United Iraq
01/29/2007 5:45 PM ET
The Associated Press reports that the former U.S. envoy to the United Nations John Bolton said in an interview published in France that the United States has "no strategic interest" in a united Iraq.

Bolton, who resigned last month from his temporary appointment as U.N. ambassador, also told the French daily Le Monde that U.S. President George W. Bush's administration acted too slowly to hand power over to Iraqis after toppling Saddam Hussein in 2003.

"We did a disservice to Iraqis by depriving them of political leaders," Bolton was quoted as saying, adding that the Coalition Provisional Authority that initially ran Iraq allowed terrorists to regroup. Bolton was speaking in English, and the interview was published in French. An English-language copy of the interview was not available.

Daily Column
Heavy Fighting near Najaf; Combatants Still Unknown?
By GREG HOADLEY 01/29/2007 01:50 AM ET
The big East Coast dailies lead their Iraq coverage with the story of the big battle near Najaf in which 250 militants were killed. However, accounts still differ as to the identity of the combatants. It’s clear that Iraqi ground forces and US aircraft were involved. The identity of the militant group is reported differently in different papers, and the USAT suggests that US ground forces may have participated in the battle. Several articles gear up for Senate debates this week, and the Times gets a scoop with a long-awaited interview with the Iranian ambassador to Iraq.

Iraq may have seen one of its “deadliest battles in years,” Damien Cave reports for the Times. A 15-hour battle raged between gunmen and Iraqi government forces near the village of Zarqaa, in the Najaf area. The Iraqi forces called in US air strikes. 250 militants were killed in the fighting, and a US helicopter was downed, killing two on board, and at least two Iraqi policemen were also killed. Cave points out that there is confusion at this point as to who the militants even were: Asad Abu Ghalal, governor of Najaf Province, has said that the men were foreign fighters from as far away as Pakistan and Afghanistan, preparing to disrupt the observance of the Shi`i holy day of `Ashura. However, Cave writes that two senior Shi`i clerics have said that the fighters were members of a Shi`i splinter group that Saddam Hussein had helped create in the 1990s to weaken the Sadrist movement. Cave also runs down other news from Iraq: Two GIs died; 17 Iraqis were killed in two car bombings in Kirkuk. In Baghdad, one Iraqi was killed in a bomb on a minibus; and four were killed by gunfire. 54 bodies were recovered, many with marks of torture. Finally, so-called “Chemical” Ali Hassan al-Majid, Saddam’s cousin, admitted in court that he ordered the destruction of Kurdish villages in the 1980s, claiming that they were “full of Iranian agents.”

Joshua Partlow and Saad Sarhan report on the fighting near Najaf for the Post. As to the confusion over the identity of the fighters in Najaf, they report that official Iraqi sources identified the men as members of “Soldiers of the Sky,” apparently an apocalyptic Shi`i splinter movement based in southern Iraq, who had planned an operation meant to initiate the purification of the earth, including the destruction of the shrine of `Ali in Najaf in order to prepare the return of the occulted twelfth imam.

Jim Michaels and Zaid Sabah of the USAT file from Baghdad to about the fighting near Najaf, noting that an Iraqi man said he saw a US convoy en route to Najaf, which suggests that US ground forces may also be involved in the fighting.

Cave also writes in today’s NYT on the death of five Iraqi schoolgirls, ages 12 through 16, killed in by a mortar shell that hit their school courtyard yesterday. He provides tragic eyewitness accounts, and reports that education in Iraq is suffering as the safety of students and teachers cannot be guaranteed.

From Baghdad, the NYT’s James Glanz reports that Iran’s ambassador to Iraq, Hassan Kazemi Qumi has granted an interview with the press in which he outlined Iran’s ambitious plans for involvement in Iraq. Glanz suggests that Iran is reaching out to Iraq in areas where the US has failed to live up to expectations, such as the reconstruction of the country and training of the security forces. Iran has also received approval to open a branch of its national bank in Baghdad, which is said to be the first wholly foreign-owned bank in the country. Qumi rejected US claims of Iranian involvement in Iraqi militias, saying that the US has not offered conclusive proof, but rather circumstantial evidence. Glanz quotes several Iraqi officials who express differing views on the Iranian role in Iraq.

In other news:

NEW YORK TIMES

In his third article of the day, Damien Cave prints a slice-of-life account of one side of the front line, chronicling a day embedded with a US platoon during operations in the Haifa Street area of Baghdad last week. Enthusiasts of war journalism will enjoy the read. Also noteworthy is the mutual misunderstanding between the US soldiers and their Iraqi counterparts, as well as the reliance of the platoon on locals for tips, even as the motivation of some Iraqis for bringing an American raid on other Iraqis might not have been what the members of the platoon had assumed.

Jim Rutenberg rounds up the weekend talk shows, observing that many programs featured GOP Senate critics of Bush’s Iraq strategy. He quotes Sens. McConnell, Specter, Brownback, and Hagel, all of whom offered some degree of criticism of the White House in interviews this weekend.

Adam Cohen, assistant editor of the paper, pens an op-ed arguing that the Bush administration is underestimating Congress’s constitutional authority to intervene in war-related matters. He suggests that “we may be headed toward a constitutional clash, with the administration trying to read powers into the Constitution — as it has with its “enemy combatant” doctrine and presidential “signing statements” — that the Founders did not put there.”

Bob Herbert writes up in his op-ed column his observations from Saturday’s protest at the National Mall, suggesting that the people he saw were not “fringe” activists, as they are often portrayed. “The public is way out in front of the politicians on this issue,” he writes. He quotes one woman who was present at the protest, Donna Norton of Petaluma, Calif., who said “I have a daughter in the reserves and a son-in-law on active duty. I feel very, very strongly about this.”

WASHINGTON POST

Shankar Vedantam writes in the Post on recent studies in political science that examine armed conflict between great powers and weaker enemies. According to this research, the batting average of great powers in conflicts against smaller foes is not that impressive, which Vedantam suggests might be sobering reading for US war planners responsible for Iraq strategy.

Sen. Clinton’s attacks in Iowa on the Bush Iraq record drew White House ire, Anne E. Kornblut and Dan Balz report in the Post.

Al Kamen slips two Iraq news items in his “In the Loop” column. Hector C. Patiño, a KBR contractor from San Antonio, was killed by US and Australian military guards while on his garbage truck route in Baghdad’s “Green Zone” on January 13, “when he failed to respond to commands to stop” at a checkpoint. The US Army is seeking a Contractor to manage a tour of Superbowl XLI players and cheerleaders to “deployed sites” in Iraq and Kuwait.

National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley contributes an op-ed entitled “Baghdad is Key,” in which he defends the Bush escalation strategy for Iraq, arguing, “The new plan for Baghdad specifically corrects the problems that plagued previous efforts.”

In his column, Robert Novak suggests that the failure of Sens. Biden and Warner to merge their two anti-escalation proposals into a single measure might mean that neither of the competing bipartisan bills will have enough votes to overcome a filibuster. “Conceivably, the Senate might pass no resolution at all,” he writes.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

Gail Russell Chaddock of the Monitor recaps the political and constitutional issues facing Congress as it debates Iraq policy.

Mark Rice-Oxley files from London on “hint of dissonance” between the US and Britain over Iraq. As the US is bringing more troops into the country and initiating block-by-block fighting, Britain has indicated its interest in beginning its withdrawal from Iraq. Tony Blair is expected to stand down shortly, and the Bush administration’s surprise departure from the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, which Blair had accepted, seems to have revealed how little influence the UK has in Washington’s policy making.

Kieth Crane of RAND contributes an op-ed arguing that Iraq’s militias can be “put out of business” by cutting off access to their alleged sources of funds.

WALL STREET JOURNAL

Scot Paltrow picks up on an important story in the Journal that the other big dailies haven’t looked at in a while: Hearings on fraud and waste in the government’s Iraq contracts will begin on Saturday in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. These hearings, led by committee chair Rep. Waxman, are expected to be the first of a series of Democratic inquiries and oversight procedures regarding White House Iraq policy. Paul Bremer is among those scheduled to be called.

USA TODAY

Fredreka Schouten reports in the USAT that Sen. Biden has suggested that less than twenty percent of the Senate will support the president’s Iraq plan in upcoming debate.

Full Text
Read it Here: "The Human Cost of War"
01/28/2007 7:46 PM ET
Newsweek fronts "Blawk Hawk Down," profiling the 12 Americans killed when their helicopter went down a week ago in Diyala province northeast of Baghdad. Correspondent Weston Kosova writes the cover story with contributions from reporters Arian Campo-Flores in Decatur, Gretel C. Kovach in Pflugerville, Babak Dehghanpisheh in Baghdad, Stefan Theil in Heidelberg, Dan Ephron, Eve Conant, Richard Wolffe, Daren Briscoe, Jonathan Mummolo and Steve Tuttle in Washington and Andrew Murr, Sarah Childress and Karen Breslau. Click here for the full story.

Daily Column
Antiwar Demonstrators Converge on DC, Face Counterprotest
By GREG HOADLEY 01/28/2007 01:56 AM ET
Antiwar protestors in Washington yesterday were the top Iraq story in the two big East Coast Sunday editions. Iraq-datelined reporting was more scant than usual, although Times reporter Sabrina Tavernise sends in her farewell dispatch. Op-ed sections delivered a more provocative discussion of Iraq policy issues, and two columnists scrutinized the Iraq record of Sen. Clinton.

Marc Santora and Damien Cave of the NYT file from Baghdad with a brief story rounding up news from Iraq, noting the death of 20 Iraqi civilians in separate attacks, including 15 in a double car bombing in Baghdad. The two reporters write that attacks have increased against predominantly Shi`a areas of the city, suggesting that this is coordinated with the approach of tomorrow’s Shi`a holiday of `Ashura, commemorating the martyrdom of Husayn, grandson of the prophet Muhammad. However, they quote an Iraqi member of parliament who suggests that such attacks against civilians are on the rise because the militias that would otherwise retaliate to them are laying low in anticipation of the upcoming US-Iraqi assault. Eight Iraqi civilians were kidnapped in Baghdad’s Karrada district, and seven US soldiers were announced dead. A US airstrike killed 14 alleged Iraqi fighters in Diyala province.

Ernesto Londoño sends in a brief report from Baghdad, leading with the US military’s announcement that seven GIs were killed in the last three days. He runs down the day’s violence: In addition to attacks mentioned in the New York Times report, Londoño reports that 45 bodies with shotgun wounds were recovered in Baghdad; Saied Hussein al-Alwani, a Ramadi councilmember was abducted and murdered, allegedly for cooperation with US forces; two rockets hit the “Green Zone,” and the US consulate in Hilla was hit with mortar fire.

Ian Urbina reports on yesterday’s protests at the National Mall in opposition to the Bush plan to increase the number of US troops in Iraq. The protests, organized by the coalition United for Peace and Justice, attracted “tens of thousands” of people, Urbina writes, including active-duty armed service members and veterans. A smaller counterdemonstration in support of Bush’s policies also featured service members and veterans.

Michael Ruane and Fredrick Kunkle report on Saturday’s demonstrations for the Post. They also describe the turnout in the “tens of thousands,” while noting that there was no official crowd count. They suggest that while there were activists from a wide range of political backgrounds, the most poignant antiwar voices, in their view, were those of servicemembers’ families. They also note the smaller counterdemonstration, which appears more anti-Jane Fonda than pro-George Bush.

Megan Greenwall profiles on the student protestors who were present at the DC demonstrations for the Post.

In other coverage:

NEW YORK TIMES

As the NYT’s Sabrina Tavernise prepares to depart Iraq, she files a long article for the Week in Review section considering the “unraveling” that she has observed in Iraqi society since she began reporting from there four years ago. She describes the transformation of once bustling neighborhoods into silent ghost towns, the attrition of Iraq’s middle classes, and the sectarian cleansing of mixed areas. She suggests that the Bush escalation plan “might have a chance to work,” but one has to question the assumption that a foreign occupying power can solve the social problems of Iraq better than the Iraqi people can themselves.

David Sanger runs down US Iran policy for the Times, noting that the Bush administration rhetoric on Iran has become very similar to its rhetoric on Iraq in the lead-up to the invasion. He queries the administration’s motivations as well as those of the Democratic opposition, as the US presents an increasingly confrontational face towards Iran. Sanger reviews recent administration Iran moves, writing that “it is the military component of the strategy that carries the biggest risks.”

In his op-ed column, David Brooks floats another American plan to remake Iraqi society. He argues that “logic, circumstances and politics are leading inexorably toward soft partition,” or the physical segregation of Iraqi society along ethnic and sectarian lines. Citing Bosnia as an example of a successful “soft partition,” Brooks calls for the US, UN, Iraqis, and Iraq’s neighbors to support this policy. However, partition doesn’t always result in peaceful Bosnias, it has also resulted in even bloodier conflict and exacerbated ethnic cleansing as in the partition of Ireland, Palestine, and India. The Iraqi people may wish to have greater input in this process than Brooks has allowed.

Frank Rich casts a critical eye in his op-ed column upon the Iraq records of three prominent Democratic senators, Clinton, Obama, and Webb. Of the three, he is most impressed with Webb’s record on the war, and he indicts Sen. Clinton in the strongest terms for being “a follower of public opinion on the war, not a leader,” and suggests that she has continued to put her presidential ambitions ahead of principle in her Iraq positions, when, according to Rich, the country needs more Webb-style directness from its opposition leaders.

WASHINGTON POST

Michael Shear profiles Virginia’s Sen. Warner, suggesting that the Vietnam era influences the senator’s postions on Iraq. Warner has grabbed headlines lately as the chief backer of one of the bipartisan measures opposing Bush’s latest Iraq gambit. A powerful but enigmatic Republican, Warner has been a “more-than-occasional irritant” to GOP leadership, he writes, having challenged the Bush administration on Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Warner is quoted on his regrets about the Vietnam War, during which time he served as Navy secretary: “The Army generals would come in, 'Just send in another five or ten thousand.' You know, month after month. Another ten or fifteen thousand. They thought they could win it. We kept surging in those years. It didn't work."

Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton is a main topic of the day in the op-ed pages. Echoing Frank Rich in the Times, columnist David Broder writes a similar critique of Sen. Clinton’s Iraq positions, focusing more on recent posturing. “Caution is commendable,” he writes, “but she is sometimes faulted for being too calculating.”

Columnist Robert Kagan, an important advocate for the Iraq war since before the invasion, also dismisses recent antiwar legislation in Congress as “posturing.” Kagan asserts that continuing US military involvement in Iraq is in the US national interest, and expects worse sectarian violence if the US were to withdraw than if it were to continue the occupation of Iraq. He also suggests that al-Qaeda would use a destabilized Iraq as a base from which to attack the United States.

USA TODAY

Sunday blues.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

Sunday, bloody Sunday. Nothing.

WALL STREET JOURNAL

Silent and grey.

Daily Column
Fast-tracking the "Surge," Maliki's Drawdown Talk, Bush-Whacking
By EASON JORDAN 01/27/2007 01:55 AM ET
Today's papers feature mini-scoops, solid reporting, a miss or two, and a double dose of NY Times Bush-whacking.

Comments by Defense Secretary Robert Gates during a Pentagon news conference yesterday resulted in starkly different reports in the NY Times and the Washington Post today. In a report headlined “Gates Working to Accelerate Deployment,” the Washington Post's Ann Scott Tyson quotes Gates at a Pentagon news conference as saying he's working to fast-track the deployment of US forces to Iraq. This development seems to have been overlooked altogether by the NY Times (unless I’m missing it), whose David Cloud report on Gates's comments mostly examined the stark differences between Gates and Rumsfeld when it comes to news conferences. The Cloud report, which focuses more on style than substance, includes this choice paragraph:

“I have no idea,” Mr. Gates said in response to a question about the number of Iranian operatives in Iraq. If posed to Mr. Rumsfeld, such a question might have prompted a long discourse about “known knowns” and “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns,” the subtext of which was that the press was slightly ridiculous for even asking.

Now on to the rest of what's in the papers.

NEW YORK TIMES

Playing catch-up after the Washington Post’s scoop yesterday, Mark Mazzetti and David Cloud report on President Bush and his deputies justifying American actions against Iranian operatives in Iraq. The exclusive nugget in this report: the US ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, will hold a Wednesday news conference at which he’ll supposedly present a damning dossier of evidence against the Iranians in Iraq.

From Baghdad, Marc Santora reports on the horrific bombing at the Baghdad pet market, where 15 people were killed, as were many animals. “In the chaos after the blast, snakes slithered through bloody streets where animal carcasses were jumbled with human remains,” Santora reports.

From Washington, Kate Zernike reports on Iraq-related Hill developments, including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer saying “Congress might consider legislation revising the authorization it game President Bush in 2002 to use military force in Iraq.” Buried in this story is a sentence that calls for a reality check: Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki telling US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during her surprise Baghdad visit that Iraqi forces are ready to take on the country’s security. Either that’s a misquote or he’s delusional.

Former NY Governor George Pataki -- a potential Republican president candidate -- broke ranks with President Bush by opposing boosting US forces in Iraq unless the Iraqi government does more to prove itself worthy. Raymond Hernandez reports Pataki’s remarks came during a speech at Georgetown University.

A double dose of Bush-whacking on the editorial pages today.

First, in a column headed "Daffy Does Doom," Maureen Dowd rips both Bush and Cheney. She describes the vice president as beyond delusional and says of the duo: “It requires an exquisite kind of lunacy to spend hundreds of billions destroying America’s reputation in the world, exhausting the U.S. military, failing to catch Osama, enhancing Iran’s power in the Middle East and sending American kids to train and arm Iraqi forces so they can work against American interests.”

The paper offers an editorial of its own, entitled "Bait-and-Switch White House." The gist of it: Bush’s State of the Union olive branch of bipartisanship ended a day later with Cheney telling CNN that whatever Congress does on Iraq, “it won’t stop us.” The editorial says, “We were left asking, once again, Who exactly is running this White House.”

WASHINGTON POST

"Bush Defies Lawmakers to Solve Iraq," reads the headline of the report by Michael Abramowitz and Joanthan Weisman. This story covers Bush decribing himself as the “decision maker,” quotes Defense Secretary Gates as saying “Any indication of flagging will in the United States gives encouragement” to the enemy, and quotes a GOP Bush loyalist, Mitch McConnell, as saying time is running out for the president on Iraq.

From Baghdad, Ernesto Londoño scoops with Iraqi PM Maliki telling Nancy Pelosi that he'd like the U.S. to reduce its troop presence in Iraq by 50,000 by the end of the year.

Walter Pincus reports General Petraeus's thought of perhaps using the Iraqi Facilities Protection Service (FPS) force of 150,000 men as part of Plan Baghdad is causing concern on Capitol Hill because the FPS is renowned for its sectarian allegiances and was not long ago described by Iraqi PM Maliki as big trouble.

From Ramadi, Joshua Partlow reports on US forces teaming up with tribal sheikhs to reduce violence and increase the number of police recruits in troubled Anbar province. One potential problem: Some in the area believe the tribal sheikhs are “gangsters.”

From Washington, Michael Ruane reports on plans for a big anti-war march in DC today, with speakers including Jane Fonda, Danny Glover, Susan Sarandon, and Jesse Jackson.

Hamil Harris pens an obit for Army 1st Class Sgt. Floyd Lake who was among those killed when a US chopper crashed in Iraq's Diyala province last weekend. He previously worked at the National Guard headquarters in Arlington and was one of four soldiers from the DC area killed in that helicopter crash.

WALL STREET JOURNAL

No original reporting.

USA TODAY

No weekend edition.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

No weekend edition.

Daily Column
24 Iraqis Slain in Karrada Blasts; DC Prepares for Protest
By GREG HOADLEY 01/26/2007 01:41 AM ET
The Washington Post scores a major coup as Dafna Linzer reports the stunning front-page story that President Bush has authorized US forces to kill Iranian agents in Iraq. Linzer writes, “In Iraq, U.S. troops now have the authority to target any member of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, as well as officers of its intelligence services believed to be working with Iraqi militias. The policy does not extend to Iranian civilians or diplomats. Though U.S. forces are not known to have used lethal force against any Iranian to date, Bush administration officials have been urging top military commanders to exercise the authority.” The authorization to “kill or capture” was granted last fall, and has met opposition from members of the US intelligence community, and from some State and Defense Department officials. Linzer’s report reveals the extent to which Bush administration insiders are determined to antagonize Iran, and suggests just how near the two countries are to the verge of open hostilities. By far the most important story of the day and a big scoop for the Post.

In a companion piece to Linzer’s report, Joshua Partlow profiles Iranian influence in post-Saddam Iraq, noting a deepening economic relationship and the long prewar relationship between Iran and some of the Iraqi parties in power today. He also discusses some Iraqis' resentment of the Iranian role in Iraqi politics, and the delicate position of the Iraqi government as tensions flare between the US and Iran.

From Baghdad, Ernesto Londoño reports for the Post that at least 24 Iraqis died in two car bomb blasts in the central Baghdad district of Karrada yesterday. At least fifteen other Iraqis and one coalition soldier were killed by bombs and explosive devices. Maliki said that upcoming security initiatives would “target everyone” and insisted that Iraqi forces would lead the operations. Two rockets were fired on the US Embassy compound inside the “Green Zone,” causing minor damage.

Marc Santora reports for the Times from Baghdad on verbal confrontations in the Iraqi Parliament yesterday. Prime Minister Maliki and other Iraqi members of parliament traded insults and accusations, revealing worsening sectarian misgivings in Parliament against the backdrop of the bloody past week and the impending security crackdown in Baghdad. The report also includes an interview with an eyewitness to the scene of the Karrada attacks.

From Capitol Hill, the Monitor’s Gail Russell Chaddock summarizes the debate in the Senate as the bipartisan measure opposing Bush’s Iraq plan moves from the Foreign Relations Committee to the full chamber. The language of the bill will be controversial as Senators choose between versions that might attract GOP support, and versions that will send a strongly worded message against the Bush plan.

Senate Republicans still loyal to the White House are scrambling to draft legislation that will allow their fellow GOP lawmakers to voice frustration with the Iraq war without allying with Democrats, writes Jonathan Weisman in the Post. A major legislative showdown is expected in early February, and this weekend antiwar groups will mount a campaign of demonstrations and television ads intended to pressure Congress to oppose the Bush escalation plan.

Brad Knickerbocker writes for the Monitor that as many as 300,000 protesters may gather Saturday in Washington to protest the escalation of the Iraq war. Organizers report that the target of the demonstration is not President Bush per se, but rather the Democratic leadership, who will be urged to take a more assertive antiwar stance. Knickerbocker also reports on the efforts of the organizers to exclude the anarchist and socialist segments of the antiwar movement from taking a public role in the event.

Jeff Zeleny and Carl Hulse also report on the upcoming demonstrations, describing the political sophistication of the antiwar and veterans’ groups organizing the anti-escalation campaign. Four members of Congress are slated to attend the rally in DC. The article also rounds up some Congressional action, noting that GOP Sens. McCain and Cornyn were backing bills to support the administration’s escalation plan.

Carol D. Leonnig and Amy Goldstein write in today’s Post that a former Cheney press aide testified in the “Scooter” Libby trial yesterday, saying that the vice president personally led the effort to discredit Ambassador Wilson. The article provides some insight into the role of the VP’s office in the build-up to the Iraq war.

Scott Shane sends a dispatch from the Libby trial for the Times, with an eye for the surreal. Shane quotes from yesterday’s testimony of the CIA’s former top official in Iraq, who alleged that the White House had tried to shift blame for the Iraq war onto the agency.

Neil Lewis of the Times also sends in a Libby trial report, noting that Cheney’s former press aide Cathie Martin contradicted Libby’s sworn statements in her testimony when she attested that she had told Libby and Cheney that Joseph Wilson’s wife worked for the CIA before the date that Libby said he learned that information from a reporter.

In other coverage:

NEW YORK TIMES

Paul von Zielbauer reports for the NYT that a US soldier was sentenced to 18 years in prison for the murder of two unarmed captive Iraqis. Private Corey Clagett, 22, will be eligible for parole in five years. He is one of four soldiers charged with crimes related to the killing of the Iraqi prisoners last May. According to the charges, the Iraqis' bonds were cut; they were ordered by their four captors to run, and were then shot from behind as they fled. The military investigation will move next to the squad leader.

From San Salvador, Marc Lacey files a profile of the mother of the first Salvadoran soldier to die in Iraq. Natividad Ramos was killed in 2004 in Najaf. El Salvador is the only Latin American country with troops in Iraq. Lacey’s account of the close relationship between the United States and El Salvador touches on issues that may explain the willingness of the Salvadoran leadership to ignore domestic opposition and continue the unpopular deployment.

Thomas Friedman spends the last few paragraphs of his op-ed column criticizing the administration’s military buildup against Iran, advocating regional negotiations to resolve the Iraq crisis.

WASHINGTON POST

Shailagh Murray profiles Sen. Hagel for the Post, including his record of criticism of the war in Iraq, as the Nebraskan considers a run for the White House.

Gary Anderson contributes an op-ed in which he impersonates a Mahdi Army strategic planner who concludes that the best strategy is to wait out the US-Iraqi assault.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

In his column, Daniel Schorr writes that Bush did not change many minds with his State of the Union address, and that the president may be losing “relevance.” He argues that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s approval of a nonbinding resolution in opposition to the escalation plan “makes Bush look like a lame duck indeed.”

USA TODAY

Emily Bazar of USAT submits a piece on the dangers facing humanitarian organizations working in Iraq. She writes that there is far less international relief assistance in Iraq than the humanitarian crisis would require, and that the numbers of groups willing to bear the risks of working in Iraq is shrinking.

Richard Willing provides a brief report on the Libby trial for the USAT.

WALL STREET JOURNAL

No original Iraq reporting today.

Daily Column
Senate Bill Advances; Mahdi Army Cuts a Deal?
By GREG HOADLEY 01/25/2007 02:12 AM ET
Joint US-Iraqi fighting on Baghdad’s Haifa Street and the possibility of a brokered deal with Sadrist militias were the two biggest stories out of Iraq today in the US papers. Meanwhile, testimony continued in the Libby trial and a Senate bill opposing Bush’s escalation plan gathered steam.

Mahdi Army supporters in the Sadr City area of Baghdad might agree to keep their weapons out of sight if US and Iraqi forces can meet key demands, Sabrina Tavernise writes from Baghdad for the Times. According to an unnamed senior Iraqi official, contacts between the mayor of the area, Rahim al-Daraji, and a British general might have averted a major military offensive in the district of two million inhabitants. The demands include increasing police presence in Sadr City, bringing more jobs and construction projects to the areas, and releasing prisoners in US and Iraqi custody. US ambassador Khalilzad has signaled that such a mutual understanding has not been cemented, but could be possible.

Damien Cave and James Glanz file for the Times from Baghdad about a recent US-Iraqi offensive in the area of the city known as Haifa Street. The report questions the experience and battle readiness of the Iraqi units, who will be performing more joint operations with US forces as the Bush plan is implemented.

Ernesto Londoño and Joshua Partlow report for the Post on the Haifa Street fighting, rounding up other news from Iraq. Baghdad police said that in the past day they had discovered 17 corpses bearing gunshot wounds to the head. At least 14 Iraqis died from bombs and mortar shells yesterday, and three US soldiers were announced killed.

Just one day after President Bush pleaded with Congress to give his plan “a chance,” Jeff Zeleny reports for the NYT that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has approved the nonbinding bipartisan resolution opposing the president’s escalation plan in Iraq. The vote was 12-9, with all Democrats on the committee voting in favor, and all but one Republican, Sen. Hagel, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, voting against. The full Senate will now consider the bill. Cheney said on CNN that congressional resolutions “won’t stop us.”

Jonathan Weisman reports in the Post on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote, pointing out that the partisan nature of the 12-9 vote does not fully represent the deep Republican misgivings about the Bush plan. In deliberations, many GOP members of the committee spoke out against the Bush escalation plan for Iraq. The White House and senior GOP members are working to minimize Republican opposition to the president’s policies. Weisman also registers Democratic divisions as well: Democratic Sen. Dodd was defeated in his attempt to amend the bill to include more binding measures.

Kathy Kiely sends in a report on the Senate developments for USAT, noting that to pass the bill may need at least 60 votes as GOP Sen. McConnell has threatened a filibuster.

David Rogers rounds up the Senate action for the WSJ, with a less sanguine outlook on the possibility of bipartisan opposition measures.

On the front page of the Post, Peter Baker writes up the Cheney CNN interview, noting that the VP struck “a far more combative tone” than Bush had the night before in the State of the Union address. Unlike Bush, Cheney went so far as to characterize the US invasion of Iraq as marked by “enormous successes.” He used the word “hogwash” to disagree with Wolf Blitzer’s premise when he questioned if “blunders and failures” in Iraq have harmed the White House’s credibility.

In other coverage:

NEW YORK TIMES

Neil A. Lewis reports on yesterday's testimony in the Libby trial, noting that the ex-CIA members’ accounts of events contradicted those of the defendant.

In his op-ed column, David Brooks fears genocidal violence in Iraq and advocates a policy of “soft partition,” details of which to be explained in his next column.

WASHINGTON POST

Carol D. Leonnig and Amy Goldstein report on the Libby trial for the Post, writing that “The second day of trial testimony continued to throw back the curtain on a Bush administration beset with rivalries, self-interested alliances and attempts at blame-shifting. Those efforts were particularly intense during the summer of 2003, with U.S. troops in Iraq still unable to find the weapons of mass destruction that President Bush had cited to justify a preemptive war.” It is still unclear how much, if anything, will be revealed about the administration’s Iraq policy during the time in question. A top CIA official appeared yesterday, testifying that he had been asked by Libby for information on the Wilson mission to Niger.

The Post prints a staff editorial entitled “Congress’s Iraq Quagmire,” which points out the contradictions between senators’ endorsement of Gen. Petraeus to lead the US escalation plan in Iraq, and bills in the Senate which oppose that plan. Noting several reasons for skepticism about the plan, the paper’s editors call on Congress to play a watchdog role over US military action rather than pass nonbinding measures.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

Lisa Abend and Geoff Pingree report for the Monitor that a Spanish court has opened its case against three American soldiers accused of killing Spanish journalist José Couso when they directed tank fire at Baghdad’s Palestine Hotel in April 2003.

Under the headline "What Can Bush Achieve in Two Years?," Linda Feldmann and Peter Grier evaluate Bush’s State of the Union address for the Monitor. They plow little new ground, but offer a useful summary and analysis. “The 800-pound gorilla in the wider policy mix is Iraq,” they write.

The Monitor also prints excerpts from worldwide reaction to the Bush address, including two quotes from Iraqi members of parliament.

WALL STREET JOURNAL

The Journal prints a staff editorial supporting the Bush escalation plan and criticizing members of the Congress for attempting to both “micromanage” the war and avoid blame for failure in Iraq at the same time. After criticizing Democratic and Republican lawmakers in turn, they add, “In addition to being feckless, all of this is unconstitutional.”

Daniel Henninger in his column argues that the real problem with Bush’s Iraq policy is the “pessimism” of those who oppose it.

USA TODAY

Richard Willing submits a Libby trial roundup.

Daily Column
Reactions to Speech, Chopper Down, Petraeus Hearings
By GREG HOADLEY 01/24/2007 02:40 AM ET
Last night’s State of the Union address dominates Iraq coverage today, but both major East Coast dailies are brimming over with Iraq-related articles. The Post sneaks in the best read of the day on page D1 and USA Today surprises with a detailed front-page bio of Prime Minister Maliki.

David Sanger and Jim Rutenberg present yesterday’s State of the Union address for the Times, writing that the president’s modest domestic proposals were overshadowed by Iraq issues. Sanger and Rutenberg point out that Bush was unable to spin positively his vision of Iraq’s future, or wax about the democratization of the Middle East that was to spread from occupied Iraq. Instead, he pointed to the reverse: Bush said the US “must not fail” in Iraq, because a country “overrun by extremists on all sides” would destabilize the region. Bush also did not make explicit military threats against Iran, which Sanger and Rutenberg attribute to the US military’s deep immersion in the Iraq occupation. Bush did warn Democrats not to undermine his Iraq escalation, and warned the Iraqi government that “our commitment is not open-ended.”

Jeff Zeleney writes up Sen. Webb’s response for the Democrats in the NYT. On Iraq, the ex-marine and Reagan-era Navy secretary attacked the Bush administration policies, but Zeleney writes that Webb briefly engaged the issue of alternative strategies in Iraq.

Michael Shear profiles Webb’s response for the Post, quoting the providing this quote from the senator: “We need a new direction . . . . Not one step back from the war against international terrorism, not a precipitous withdrawal that ignores the possibility of further chaos, but an immediate shift toward strong, regionally based diplomacy.”

Kathy Kiely rounds up Webb’s response for the USAT.

While predictable Washington coverage occupied much of the A sections, on page D1, Steven Mufson of the Post scores the day’s must-read, with an article on the current state of the Iraqi petroleum industry, and the continuing wrangling over the national petroleum law. Giant oil firms salivate over Iraq’s choice reserves, and some foreign firms have even entered into agreements with the Kurdish authorities to explore and produce in the northern deposits. The balance of power between the regions and the central authority over the right to broker such contracts and over the distribution of oil proceeds. A consensus may be emerging over the legislation, but has not been achieved yet. Meanwhile, multinationals do all they can to better their chances at scoring a contract. By far the most important article of the day.

The USA Today features Rick Jervis’s front-page detailed profile of Prime Minister Maliki, including his background in the Da`wa party, his anti-Saddam activism during the Ba`thist period, and the divisive effect of that background in today’s Iraq. A very useful read that makes clear some of the contradictions in the US’s relationship with the Maliki government, and the unintended consequences of allowing the Iraqis to have input in picking their own leader.

With the daily news from Iraq, Marc Santora and James Glanz file from Baghdad for the Times, reporting that five Blackwater security contractors were killed when their helicopters came under fire. One chopper crashed, and its crew of four were killed, and the gunner of the second chopper was killed by gunfire. The Blackwater chopper had been hired to provide guard an official convoy for the State Department. After devoting over half of their article to the details of the death of five Western civilians, Santora and Glanz note that 27 Iraqi civilians were found killed, and multiple bombings killed at least seven.

Ernesto Londoño, Joshua Partlow and Karen DeYoung also file from Baghdad for the Post on the downed Blackwater helicopter. They report that two unconfirmed claims of responsibility have appeared online, from the Ansar al-Sunna and the Islamic Army in Iraq. The accounts differ greatly, although the Ansar al-Sunna website furnished images of the ID of a Blackwater employee who had been confirmed killed in the incident. The troika also report that the US has announced that it holds four individuals suspected of participating in the recent attack on the mayor’s office in Karbala. They also report that three GIs were announced killed, bringing the total to at least 29 over the weekend.

From Capitol Hill, Carl Hulse and Jeff Zeleny report for the Times on discussions in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee over the possibility of merging two competing bipartisan measures opposing the Bush escalation plan into one bill, with the goal of registering broad opposition to the administration’s plan. Sen. Levin, cosponsor of one of the bills expressed his interest in combining the two bills. Sen. Warner, lead author of the second bill said he was not prepared to combine the two bills until after the Foreign Relations Committee approved wording of the bills. Warner’s bill calls for benchmarks to assess progress in Iraq and for rules of engagement to keep US troops from participating in sectarian struggles. It also explicitly affirms the president’s authority as commander-in-chief. Meanwhile, another GOP senator has announced support for the Warner bill.

Senators Biden and Hagel contribute an op-ed in the USA Today arguing in favor of their bill.

Timesman Michael Gordon files from Washington on Gen. Petraeus’ testimony in his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services committee. Most interesting in the article are a few new details about the escalation plans that Petraeus provided in response to questioning: It has been recommended by Gen. Odierno, in charge of day-to-day operations in Iraq, that five battalions be deployed in Baghdad and two battalions in Anbar Province. The five Baghdad-bound brigades are not scheduled to arrive in full until May, although Petraeus has asked for a swifter schedule. Petraeus is counting on civilian contractors to guard government buildings as a means of economizing the use of GIs. Petraeus would consider suspending US deployment as a means of pressuring the Maliki government, and he expected by May to know if the US strategy was working. The general also revealed his concern over the lack of a unified command structure for upcoming joint US-Iraqi operations. Gordon writes that Petraeus declined to take a position on the various bills in Congress opposing the war.

Ann Scott Tyson of the Post also writes up the Petraeus confirmation hearings, noting that Petraeus stated to the committee that he did not believe that more troops were necessary to implement the US plan in Iraq than those already under discussion as part of Bush’s strategy.

Tom Vanden Brook reports on the Petraeus hearings for the USAT.

Peter Grier of the Monitor files from Washington with a piece discussing Gen. Petraeus’s Senate hearing and the setting of the battle pieces for the “new round” in Iraq. Grier offers no major scoops but his article provides a useful status check as the escalated fighting in Baghdad approaches, including a frank assessment of some of the dilemmas of current US policy.

In other coverage:

NEW YORK TIMES

Damien Cave files from Baghdad with an important article checking the pulse of the much vaunted Iraqi parliament. Monday, the body had its first quorum in months, with the return of the Sadr bloc to participation. However, aside from the recent boycott, the parliament has not become the vital center it was predicted to be. Absenteeism is high among members of all regions and sects; many members even reside outside of Iraq while continuing to collect their $10,000 monthly stipend. Negotiations over key legislation take place outside of parliament, with the body rubber stamping deals cut in secrecy between powerful interests. Unwieldy constitutional rules prohibit the body’s functioning. However, the biggest issue that the parliament faces is irrelevance. As Cave points out, “The country’s dominant issue, security, is almost exclusively the policy realm of the American military and the office of the prime minister.”

Thomas Friedman in his column wishes Iraqis adopt a Martin Luther King, Jr. style, basing his argument on the false assumption that Iraq’s difficulties can be attributed to “Muslim nihilism.”

WASHINGTON POST

Walter Pincus reports briefly on Senate testimony regarding a new draft classified National Intelligence Estimate which concludes that the Maliki government will find it "very difficult" but perhaps "not impossible" to bring stability to Iraq.

Thomas Ricks of the Post excerpts some of the remarks made by Warner to Petraeus at the Senate hearing, admonishing the general to steer clear of political debates.

Christian Davenport and Leef Smith of the Post profile men from Maryland and Virginia who were killed in Saturday’s Black Hawk helicopter crash northeast of Baghdad.

In opinion, Stephen Sestanovich contributes an op-ed considering lessons from the Korea and Vietnam Wars for Bush’s Iraq strategy.

David Ignatius endorses the appointment of Gen. Petraeus to lead US forces in iraq in his op-ed column, writing that “The smartest thing Petraeus has done is to draw Congress into his confidence, as co-manager of the new strategy.”

Columnist Harold Meyerson writes a forceful indictment of President Bush’s Iraq policies, closing with the line, “This is foreign policy as nonsense, as the American people have apparently figured out.”

Daily Column
GOP Senators Submit Opposition Bill; Baquba Mayor Abducted
By GREG HOADLEY 01/23/2007 02:18 AM ET

As Washington readied for the State of the Union address, Iraq experienced one of the bloodiest days of the year so far. Eighty-eight people were killed and 150 wounded in a double car bombing attack in a Baghdad market Monday, Marc Santora reports for the New York Times. Gun battles followed, in which an Egyptian man alleged to be filming the attacks was killed. The mayor of Baquba, alleged to be associated with pro-Ba`thist groups, was abducted by unknown armed gunmen who then burned down his offices. In the predominantly Shi`a town of Khalis 15 were killed and 39 wounded in a coordinated bomb and mortar attack. An attack in Tal Afar killed three policeman and wounded nine. A Sunni mosque in Dora neighborhood of Baghdad was bombed, which Santora suggests may be retribution for an attack on a Shi`i mosque in the same area last week. A group claiming to speak for al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia claimed responsibility for downing a US Black Hawk over the weekend.

Santora hits a double today in the Times with the publication of his account of three days embedded last week with an Army company in Baghdad. The story makes an interesting read for the experience of the daily lives of US soldiers in Baghdad. Most striking are the tenuous relationships that the company has with Iraqi soldiers, and with the Iraqi locals. It is also noteworthy that in spite of the Pentagon’s emphasis on the importance of intelligence in the upcoming operations in the capital, the quality of the company’s intelligence about their surroundings is limited by the quality of the tips they receive from local residents.

Joshua Partlow and Naseer Nouri of the Post file from Baghdad on the day’s violence, providing a richer account than the Times’ report with the inclusion of reaction from eyewitnesses and survivors. They also quote several Iraqis who seem to be withdrawing their support from the Maliki government in the wake of recent attacks.

Ernesto Londoño and Hasan Shammari file a story regarding events in Diyala Province, describing “a tale of two Iraqs, one inching toward stability, the other engulfed in chaos.” During the very moments while US military officials had assembled a press conference inside the “Green Zone” to promote the results of operations against one underground armed organization, the mayor of Baqubah, the province’s capital, was kidnapped in a raid by another armed group. While the press conference was unfolding, complete with a video uplink to US commanders in the province, and DVDs with raw footage of the operations, armed men were storming the mayor’s offices, abducting him, and setting the building alight. The Post reporters also note a fascinating twist: One Baquba councilman “wondered whether the mayor had been set up. Some high-ranking city officials who should have been at work had left unexpectedly, he said, adding that the parking lot behind the building was unusually deserted.”

Thomas Ricks submits a front-pager that advances the story of the strategy for the coming US assault in Baghdad. Gen. Petraeus, who will lead the operations, has suggested that he plans to occupy neighborhoods that are less likely to offer stern resistance first, and then move on to more hostile areas. Ricks notes that this could lead to early periods of relative calm followed by stiff setbacks in the US campaign. US planners are wary of what this anticipated spike in violence might mean for support of the war. The rest of Ricks’ report considers factors which have been reported earlier, such as the unknown response of the various Iraqi militias to the US escalation, and the participation and effectiveness of Iraqi forces.

Ricks also assembles a short list of “errors” in the prosecution of the Iraq war identified by Gen. Petraeus in his written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

In Washington coverage, the Post readies for tonight’s State of the Union address with an article by Peter Baker and John Cohen, who describe Bush’s position before a skeptical Congress and a skeptical US public. Citing recent unfavorable polling data, they suggest that the president will have difficulty garnering public support for his Iraq strategy, and so will focus on domestic issues in the address.

Also filing from inside the Beltway, Jeff Zeleny and Carl Hulse report for the Times that influential GOP senator John Warner has introduced, with bipartisan support, a bill in the Senate that would reject the Bush plan for Iraq. The language of the bill is calibrated to both express disagreement with the Bush Iraq plan and to compete with another bipartisan measure already advanced in the Senate, sponsored by Senators Levin, Biden, and Hagel. While the bills are very similar, Zeleny and Hulse write, “Mr. Warner’s proposal says the Senate ‘disagrees with the ‘plan’ to augment our forces,’ while the other resolution states that it is ‘not in the national interest of the United States to deepen its military involvement in Iraq, particularly by escalating the United States military force presence.’ On the House side, minority leader Boehner introduced a bill that would require the White House to submit monthly progress reports on fixed goals in Iraq. “Where were the Republicans the last four years?” asked a Rep. Pelosi spokesman in response. Zeleny and Hulse close the article with a nod from Sen. Kennedy, who suggests that most significant is not the precise wording of the measures but the fact that such bills are garnering significant Republican support.

The Journal’s David Rogers also submits an article on the new Warner bill, with the observation that while there is potential for the development of a broad bipartisan consensus against the president’s escalation plan, there is also potential for the whole debate degenerating “into the sort of political word games and posturing that so often bring ridicule on the Senate.”

Jonathan Weisman of the Post also writes up the day’s action on Capitol Hill, noting that three GOP senators who have expressed support the Warner bill are up for reelection in 2008.

David Jackson and Richard Wolf of the USA Today write a similar roundup of legislative developments.

In other coverage:

WASHINGTON POST

In opinion, Liz Cheney contributes a column criticizing Hillary Clinton’s stance on the Iraq war.

USA TODAY

Tom Vanden Brook submits a brief report on the Pentagon’s efforts to develop electromagnetic jamming techniques that can block the detonation of explosives. The catch: The jammers block US military communications in the combat theater. Vanden Brook describes a quasi arms race between increasingly sophisticated detonation techniques used against US troops and US efforts to develop technologies to counter. The Pentagon spent $1.4 billion on jammers in 2006.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

No new Iraq reporting.

Daily Column
Sadrist Bloc Demands Timetable for US Withdrawal
By GREG HOADLEY 01/22/2007 02:04 AM ET

The remarkable attack at Karbala is the lead story in both big East Coast dailes, while the Washington Post carries some important details about the Sadrist Bloc's end of its boycott of parliament.

Damien Cave files from Baghdad for the NYT to advance the story of the deadly weekend in Iraq in which 27 US soldiers were killed. Most interesting are the new details he reports regarding Saturday's fighting in Karbala, gathered presumably with the help of an unnamed "Iraqi employee of The New York Times in Karbala." The attack, which left five GIs dead, may have been so effective because attacking fighters impersonated US soldiers, complete with "uniforms, American flak jackets, guns and a convoy of at least seven GMC sport utility vehicles, which are usually used by American officials in Iraq." This allowed the attackers to pass through checkpoints and launch their attack on offices where the targeted US and Iraqi officials were located. Repelled by US forces, the attackers then fled toward Babil Province to the north, where four of the vehicles were later recovered. This was the first time that US forces had been impersonated in such a manner. Cave notes the anxiety among military officials that the convincing disguises could pose dangers for US and Iraqi soldiers in the upcoming assault on Baghdad's neighborhoods. Cave also runs down the rest of the day's violence, reporting that at least seven Iraqi civilians were killed in a bomb attack, a UK soldier died near Basra, three Iranians were detained in Mosul, and in Kirkuk Province an attack on oilfield guards ignited one oil well.

Ernesto Londoño of the Post also leads his front-pager with the the Karbala attack, providing some detail that does not appear in the Times: At the opening of the twenty-minute attack the gunmen detonated sound bombs to create panic, and then stormed into a room where US and Iraqi officials were gathered to discuss security for the upcoming Shi`i holy day of `Ashura. He continues to report that the Pentagon had announced that the first 3,200 of 21,500 additional troops headed for Iraq had reached Baghdad. He reports that at least sixteen Iraqis were killed by a bomb attack on a Baghdad and by four planted explosive devices. Londoño's report also provides detail unavailable in the Times about the return of the Sadrist bloc to the parliament. Falah Hasan Shenshel, a Sadrist member of parliament, announced that a parliamentary committee and the body's speaker, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, had agreed to several of the Sadrist's demands in order to bring the bloc back into parliamentary participation. Londoño quotes Shenshel, saying that the agreement includes "establishing a timetable for the buildup of Iraqi troops and the withdrawal of U.S. troops, and a condition that the presence of foreign troops would not be extended without a vote by the assembly, Shenshel said. U.S. troops should retreat from Iraqi cities and return to their bases by the end of August, he said." The Post does not print an analysis of the breaking story of the agreement, but it is noteworthy that the smooth functioning of the current Iraqi parliament is now predicated on the Sadrist demand of scheduling a formal US withdrawal in the coming months.

Peter Grier's article in the Monitor sums up much of what information is available on the coming US offensive in Baghdad and adds a couple of new details: "Surge" is a misnomer, as new US forces will arrive incrementally. Baghdad will be divided into nine military districts; in each will be deployed a contingent of Iraqi forces with an "embedded" US battalion. Analysts have expressed skepticism over the statements of Baghdad and Washington that Iraqi forces will take on the heaviest fighting duties. In areas that have been cleared of resistance, "joint security sites" or "miniforts," will be established, perhaps even in single buildings, in which US and Iraqi forces responsible for the neighborhood will be based. Grier also expects that, if the military's new counterinsurgency guidelines are to be believed, intelligence and propaganda operations will be central to the operations, though Grier does note that the Pentagon has already decided to depart from the new guidelines in deciding that the number of troops on the battlefield will be less than that perscribed in the handbook.

In other coverage:

NEW YORK TIMES

"Mr. Gates, it turns out, is a hawk," writes David Cloud in his brief profile in the Times of Secretary of Defense and former CIA director Robert Gates. "But a hawk may not be all he is." Cloud writes that Gates is more in favor of negotiating with adversaries of the US than his predecessor Donald Rumsfeld, but prefers negotiations backed by the "leverage" of the threat of force. Hence Gates' support for an escalation of US forces in Iraq: He has said that he they are a source of leverage over the Maliki government in that the US presence could be scaled down if the Iraqi government is not cooperative in implementing US aims. However, as Cloud notes, "Perhaps the biggest test of Mr. Gates’ influence will be whether the United States follows through on this threat if Mr. Maliki does not comply with those promises."

WASHINGTON POST

The Post also runs a page A1 article by Anthony Shadid on the disappointment of the few Arab public figures who supported the US invasion of Iraq. Most interesting in the piece is the unanimity with which the individuals whom Shadid profiles place their blame for the failure of the neoconservative program for transforming the Middle East on poor execution by US administrators, rather than on any problem endemic to agenda itself. Shadid unfortunately does not call the reader's attention to the contradictions inherent in the "Arab neocon" endorsement of the goal of spreading democracy through military force, nor to the Faustian bargain inherent in the decision to publicly embrace the expansion of US hegemony in the Middle East, nor to the warm welcome extended by Western neoconservative organizations to Arab intellectuals who advocated in favor of the Bush administration's policies.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

Mark Moyar contributes an op-ed about revisionist scholarship on the history of the Vietnam War, closing with the admonition: "So, has Iraq become another Vietnam? For all the apparent similarities – and differences – it is much too early to tell. For all the books on the Iraq war, many critical facts are not yet known. As with Vietnam, it may take 40 years or more to uncover them. Most important, we do not yet know how Iraq will end."

USA TODAY

USA Today's David Jackson interviews President Bush, who warms up some talking points for Tuesday's State of the Union address. No bombshells here; Bush insists that his Iraq plan will succeed, states his support for the Maliki government, and refuses to speculate on a withdrawal date for US forces.

WALL STREET JOURNAL

No Iraq reporting today.

Daily Column
Reports Insurgents Shot Down US Chopper; What is "Plan C"?
By EASON JORDAN 01/21/2007 01:12 AM ET
The two big east coast papers lead with Saturday being the third most deadly day for U.S. forces in Iraq since the war began in March 2003. In all, 20 killed, including all 13 aboard a Black Hawk helicopter that crashed in Diyala province northeast of Baghdad. While there’s no official U.S. word regarding the cause of the crash, NY Times correspondent Damien Cave quotes unnamed Iraqi authorities as saying Iraqi insurgents shot down the chopper. In the Washington Post, Ernesto Londono's report goes further, quoting an Iraqi by name in the area who says insurgents used a heavy machine gun to shoot down the helicopter while the insurgents were in the midst of planting roadside bombs. In another episode reported by both papers, five U.S. troops were killed in Shia-controlled Karbala Saturday, with two others killed elsewhere.

NEW YORK TIMES

Helene Cooper and David Sanger report a story that pops up every few days in one form or another: that the Bush administration is warning Iraqi officials to step up and deliver on their promises or run the risk of seeing the U.S. "surge" of forces and spending reversed. The juicy nugget in this story is buried several paragraphs down: U.S. officials are considering a “Plan C” that might kick in if Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki fails to honor his promises, with the U.S. then shifting its support from Maliki to his Shia rival, Adel Abdul Mahdi, a long-time U.S. favorite.

The de facto insurgent TV network Al Zawra is profiled by Marc Santora and Damien Cave. As reported elsewhere previously, the banned satellite network shows and praises attacks on U.S. forces, Shia militias, and others. The station is run by a former Iraqi official who’s accused of stealing U.S. aid money and using it to fund the station. He now lives in Damascus, and it’s believed the station transmits from somewhere within Iraq. Iraqi and U.S. authorities have failed thus far in their effort to locate and shut down the station’s transmitter. On the Times Web site, there's this 54-second clip reel of Al Zawra coverage.

A U.S. Army colonel's career has been derailed after being reprimanded for allegedly issuing improper orders to his soldiers that were perhaps a contributing factor in the deaths of four Iraqis who were wrongfully killed during a raid in May. Paul von Zielbauer reports Colonel Michael Steele gained renown for his portrayal in the book and the movie “Black Hawk Down.” The reprimand has effectively ended his military career.

In a column headlined “Lying Like It’s 2003,” Frank Rich says when it comes to Iraq, Bush and Cheney and their deputies are habitual liars committed to leading the U.S. down the wrong path. Rich calls on those “who fell for ‘shock and awe’ and ‘Mission Accompmlished’ in 2003 to not let history repeat itself in 2007. Facing the truth is the only way forward in Iraq.”

Columnist Nicholas Kristof says the Bush administration has botched the relationship (or lack thereof) with Iran, likely costing U.S. lives in Iraq and heightening the prospect of a U.S.-Iranian military conflict.

WASHINGTON POST

In a page one story, Michael Abramowitz and Peter Baker provide rich detail in explaining how President Bush brushed aside most recommendations and objections regarding how to go forward in Iraq and instead unilaterally crafted the plan to "surge" 21,500 U.S. forces into Iraq. A key Bush ally: Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman, whose “Be bold” recommendation to the president inspired Bush to plot the “surge” scheme despite recommendations to the contrary from U.S. military commanders and Iraqi leaders.

In what appears to have been a late add to the Sunday Post, Karen DeYoung reports a story headlined "Sunni-Shiite Fight Flares in Broadcasts." It profiles not only the al-Zawra TV also featured in the Times today but also an on-camera spat featuring the station’s founder during a debate with a Shia leader on Al Jazeera. While the Times was unable to reach the al-Zarwa founder for comment, the Post succeeded. Mishan al-Jabouri spoke with the Post in a phone interview from Damascus. Jabouri is fast becoming a hero in the Sunni world – or so he claims. The U.S. and Iraqi governments are making determined efforts to shut down the TV station, with mixed success, DeYoung reports.

In a column headed “A Chance For Unity in Iraq,” David Broder writes that the soon-to-be top U.S. general in Iraq, David Petraeus, is bright and charming enough that he may be able to rally Congressional leaders on Iraq in ways President Bush clearly cannot. Petraeus’s Senate confirmation hearing is slated for Tuesday, the same day as President Bush’s State of the Union address.

Post Ombudsman Deborah Howell agrees with readers who complained about the Washington Post's failure to provide a stand alone story about a White House Medal of Honor ceremony honoring Cpl. Jason Dunham. National Editor Scott Vance takes responsibility for the oversight.

WALL STREET JOURNAL

Dark Sundays.

USA TODAY

Dark weekends.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

Dark weekends.

Daily Column
"Enjoyment Marriages" or "Legal Prostitution"?
By EASON JORDAN 01/20/2007 01:40 AM ET
The Washington Post provides a fascinating page one feature, the New York Times alone explains why a supposed big story probably isn't, both papers provide a “poisonous” quote in a "sound bite war," and the Wall Street Journal limits its original Iraq content to an interview with a war-backing Democratic senator.

The Times and the Post report on a key aide to Moqtada Sadr being arrested in a joint Iraqi-U.S. operation. While at first glance this is a big deal and a key test for the Maliki government (which previously has called on the U.S. to back off Sadr’s crowd), Times correspondent Sabrina Tavernise provides key nuggets that suggest the arrest isn’t as significant as the headline might suggest. She writes of the detained aide:

“His involvement in crime became well known in the neighborhood and in recent months Mr. Sadr disavowed him. He went into hiding, and in October had all but stopped answering his cellphone and responded only to previously arranged agreed-upon patterns of rings.”
That context is missing from Ernesto Londono's Washington Post report, which notes Maliki had no advance knowledge of the arrest.

NEW YORK TIMES

From Baghdad, James Glanz reports Iraqi leaders are close to an agreement on an oil law that ensures the Baghdad central government has the upper hand with Iraqi oil, distributing revenues and deciding which companies will be allowed to explore for oil. What the story excludes is any reference to the fuss about whether foreign oil companies will be allowed to retain a high percentage of oil field profits – unconfirmed reports of which have generated much chatter among Iraqis and Iraq-watchers.

From Tallil Air Base in southern Iraq, David Cloud reports the top commander in Iraq says he thinks the U.S. "surge" might be reversible as early as late summer, when General George Casey says would be the earliest to expect sustained positive results from the boost in troop strength.

Carl Hulse and Jeff Zeleny says Republican Senator John Warner and other centrist senators are drafting an Iraq resolution that wouldn't be as tough on Bush's "surge" plan as draft resolutions explicitly opposing boosting troop strength in Iraq. Down in the piece is the spat between the White House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose comments (see below) drew a rebuke from the White House, which branded her remarks "poisonous" and part of a Democrat-instigated "sound bite war."

Usually on Saturdays we note the weekly Maureen Dowd Iraq-related Bush-bashing column. While she’s in attack Bush mode again today, her focus is Bush's handling of Afghanistan.

WASHINGTON POST

In an intriguing page one story headlined "Temporary 'Enjoyment Marriages' in Vogue Again With Some Iraqis," Nancy Trejos says the mini-marriages, banned during Saddam Hussein’s time, are gaining popularity among Shia, while Sunnis dismiss them as “legal prostitution.” The practice is called “Mataa,” and it’s long been commonplace in Shia Iran.

Josh White writes of the top U.S. general in Iraq urging patience with the "surge" plan, saying significant results likely won’t be evident before late summer. The story also notes the dispute between the White House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with White House spokeswoman Dana Perino branding “poisonous” these Pelosi comments:

“The president knows that because the troops are in harm’s way, that we won’t cut off the resources. That’s why he’s moving so quickly to put them in harm’s way, but we will hold the president accountable. He has to answer for this war.”

In a one paragraph mention in a wider-ranging Walter Pincus report, outgoing U.S. intelligence chief John Negroponte cites as one of the intelligence community successes the support provided to the Pentagon team leading the fight against IEDs in Iraq.

On the op-ed page, Harvard professor John McMillian examines why so few college students are outspoken war critics, unlike during the Vietnam War. The answer comes in the column’s final graph:

“‘Just like the 1960s, we have an unjust war, a lying president, and dead American soldiers sent home everyday,’ one student wrote me in an e-mail. ‘But rather than fight the administration or demand a forum to express our unhappiness, we accept the status quo and focus on our own problems.’"

WALL STREET JOURNAL

In a lengthy interview with Kimberley Strassel, Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman explains why he feels so strongly about upping the ante in Iraq, saying in part: “If we pull out and essentially surrender to the extremists and terrorists, they are naturally going to follow us right back to our shores.” Liberman says he’s disappointed the “surge” isn’t bigger – at least 35,000 troops rather than the slated 21,500.

USA TODAY

Dark on weekends.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

Dark on weekends.

Daily Column
Az-Zaman Reports Iranian Forces Massing on Iraqi Border
By AMER MOHSEN 01/19/2007 8:50 PM ET
Because on the Islamic new year's holiday, most Iraqi newspapers are not publishing today (Saturday). So here's a round-up of Arab media reporting on Iraq.

Az-Zaman (international) claimed that Iranian forces are massing across the borders from Suleymaniya in Northern Iraq. The newspaper linked these developments to the tensions aroused by the arrest of five Iranian officials in Arbeel by American forces earlier this month. While the US claims that the Iranians are linked to acts of terrorism in Iraq and are part of the Iranian intelligence apparatus, Iran and some Iraqi politicians assert that the Iranians were diplomats and call for their release.

Another controversial arrest that has been dominating news in Iraq is the apprehension of a major figure in the Sadr current, Sheikh `Abdel Hadi al-Darraji. Al-Darraji, a major aide of Muqtada al-Sadr and chief of media relations in the Sadr Current, was arrested with four of his bodyguards in Baghdad. Al-Darraji is the highest-ranking member of the Sadr Current to be arrested so far and the incident has increased existing tensions between Sadrists and the government.

Az-Zaman said that, according to a statement by the US army, al-Darraji is accused of being linked to the ‘death squads’ that have been terrorizing Baghdad, and that he is responsible for the kidnapping, torture and death of civilians on a sectarian basis. The statement added that he may be linked to Abu Dar`, a notorious criminal who has become a feared symbol of sectarian violence in Iraq.

Officials in the Sadr Current denied these accusations and saw the arrest as a part of an ongoing government campaign against the Sadrists. According to aljazeera.net, a Sadrist official, `Abdel Razzaq al-Naddawi, said that “the American occupation is playing with fire”, and that his organization’s “patience” has “run out”. Al-Maliki had announced on Wednesday that over 400 members of the Sadr militia have been arrested so far in the context of the Baghdad security plan.

According to Aljazeera, Muqtada al-Sadr told an Italian publication that he has moved his family to a “safe place” outside of Baghdad after the government started its operations in the city. Muqtada added that he has given orders to his men not to resist the government forces. The Shi`a leader said that “the Qur’an prevents us from killing during the month of Muharram”. Muharram is the first month in the Islamic (lunar) calendar, and war is forbidden during its days, a custom that predates Islam but was reaffirmed in the Islamic religion. Aljazeera quoted Muqtada as saying that the Current will retaliate after the end of Muharram.

Pan-Arab al-Hayat said that Ba`this are planning a conference in Damascus to reunify the two wings of the Ba`th party after 40 years of secession. The Ba`th party was split into two rival wings in 1966, one controlled by Damascus and the other by Baghdad, since then, the two organizations had had tense relations and took separate ideological directions. The Arab daily claimed that the conference will elect a new Iraqi leadership that will participate in the political process in Iraq. Inclusion of the Ba`this in the government will be exchanged for an annulment of the de-Ba`thification law, al-Hayat claimed.

The paper added that `Izzat Ibraeem al-Duri, the highest-ranking Ba`thi who is still in hiding, and who was elected as Saddam Husain’s heir, has issued a statement condemning such attempts to negotiate with the government. Al-Duri called the proposed conference “a conspiracy” and claimed that the organizers are ex-Ba`this who had seceded from the party. Al-Duri called for a continuation of armed resistance, saying that “the liberation of Iraq has become close”.

Talks of negotiations between the government and the Americans on one hand, and Iraqi Ba`this on the other have been abound for the last two years. Al-Hayat said that the Damascus conference is expected to elect a new secretary for the party, Muhammad Yunis al-Ahmad’s name was mentioned as the likely candidate. The ‘new’ party is expected, according to the newspaper, to announce its readiness to enter democratic life in Iraq and to condemn all attacks against Iraqi civilians.

Lastly, the Iraqi football selection is playing in the ‘Gulf cup’ in Abu Dhabi, and has won its first game against Qatar- touted as a major candidate for winning the competition. The Iraqi national team had become a unifying factor for Iraqis and a source of national pride when it reached the final stage of the Asian Games in Doha last month and won the silver medal. The Gulf Cup groups the Arab nations of the Gulf (in addition to Yemen) and each of its games is considered as a ‘derby’ between the neighboring nations, which has often caused political tensions in the past. Iraq was not invited to participate in the competition between 1992 and 2004 due to the invasion of Kuwait.

Daily Column
Papers Focus on Ambush of US Woman, War Preparations
By GREG HOADLEY 01/19/2007 02:09 AM ET

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:

WASHINGTON POST

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.

USA TODAY

No new Iraq reporting before IS deadline.

Daily Column
Maliki Government Defends Record; Senate Bills Attack Bush
By GREG HOADLEY 01/18/2007 02:17 AM ET

Iraqi officials struck back yesterday after several days of bad-mouthing by US officials. Times and Post reporters both participated in a press corps meeting with Maliki yesterday, and relayed his remarks. Political posturing also continued on Capitol Hill, as legislators began introducing bills opposing Bush’s plan to escalate the war.

From Baghdad, the NYT's Damien Cave describes the Maliki government’s public relations effort to counter recent criticism. Prime Minister Maliki stated yesterday to foreign journalists that Iraq “is not witnessing a war of ethnic or sectarian cleansing,” and suggested that President Bush had been rattled by “media pressure” when he had remarked that Iraq had “fumbled” recent executions of ex-Baathist officials. Maliki also claimed that the upcoming security operations in the capital would be led by Iraqis. According to Cave, other Iraqi officials are striving to show progress: Sadrist lawmaker Falah Shanshel was quoted saying that his bloc would end its boycott of the parliament, Kurdish military leader Anwar Dolani stated that his brigade had left the North for operations in the capital. In addition, Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih, who heads Iraq’s Oil Committee has said that a final draft of anticipated hydrocarbon legislation could hit parliament next week. Ahmad Chalabi held a press conference to announce the progress of his “de-Baathification” committee.

Filing from Baghdad, Joshua Partlow describes similar spin efforts in the Post. After several days of bad-mouthing by US officials, Prime Minister Maliki defended his administration's actions and policies. He also said that his government’s need for US troops would “dramatically go down” in a matter of three to six months if the US would accelerate its training and equipping of Iraqi forces. Partlow writes that in this statement, Maliki “went further than he has before in establishing a time frame for drawing down the US presence.”

Sabrina Tavernise reports from Baghdad that the Maliki government claims it has arrested 420 members of the Mahdi Army militia since October, including a number of senior leaders. She writes that on the streets of its neighborhood strongholds, the Mahdi Army’s presence has diminished in recent weeks. Checkpoints have disappeared, and fighters have hidden their weapons, in preparation for an anticipated American military onslaught. Tavernise reports that it is unclear whether the reduced visibility of the Mahdi Army is a result of the threat of arrest, or if it is a reflection of a strategy to wait out the US assault. Another puzzle: Why hasn’t the Mahdi Army struck back over the arrests? One theory suggests that Muqtada al-Sadr may even be “using the government and the American military to purge his own ranks of undesirables,” giving up disloyal or criminal elements and protecting more reliable activists. (Joshua Partlow, in the Post report mentioned above, notes that a Sadr spokesman denied yesterday that the arrests had even occurred.) US commanders are reportedly debating the merits of a full-scale invasion of Baghdad neighborhoods to drive out militiamen where support for Sadrists runs strong, and it is unclear what the Mahdi Army strategy would be to respond to such an attack. Meanwhile, residents of such areas express fear of the violence and destruction of an American assault. “There’s no security if the Americans come in,” said a 43-year-old man, “They create confusion. When they come they make a lot of trouble and maybe fighting.”

Jonathan Weisman reports in the Post on yesterday’s war-related legislative maneuvers on Capitol Hill. Competing measures were introduced in the Senate today, most prominently the nonbinding resolution opposing Bush’s escalation plan in Iraq, co-sponsored by Republican Senator Hagel and Democrats Biden and Levin. GOP Senator Snowe later added herself to the list of co-sponsors. Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Dodd has introduced a bill that would require troop numbers in Iraq be capped at their current levels. As anticipated in earlier reporting, Senator Kennedy has proposed similar legislation. A Republican bill is due soon in the Senate. In the House, a GOP-sponsored bill would limit Congress’s ability to pull the funding plug on the war.

Hillary Clinton has returned from Iraq and will propose legislation to require congressional approval before the president raises troop commitments above January 1 levels, according to Times writer Patrick Healy. The senator did not endorse cutting off funding to President Bush for escalating the Iraq war, but will include in her legislation the threat to deny the Iraqi government funding for security and military needs if it does not implement US goals.

Dan Balz of the Post writes that Clinton’s remarks continued “her steady evolution from one of the war's staunchest supporters to one of the administration's most prominent critics.” Balz also noted that Clinton’s remarks may have undercut the media play of Barack Obama’s declaration of his intention to seek the Democratic presidential nomination for 2008.

Kathy Kiely writes a roundup of legislative action for the USAT, writing that Senator Obama announced he would introduce a bill calling for a phased withdrawal from Iraq.

Carl Hulse reports the Capitol Hill developments for the NY Times, noting reports that Senator Lieberman is the only non-Republican so far to pledge support for upcoming Republican bills in favor of Bush’s Iraq escalation plan.

Post writer Dana Milbank, in his analysis entitled “Congressional Procession of Iraq Proposals Likely to Lead Nowhere,” suggests that the measures to be debated in Congress will have little effect on the President’s ability to wage war in Iraq, and are better interpreted as electoral posturing. He writes, “For all the bills introduced yesterday, none is likely to force President Bush to change course in Iraq. Proposals such as Biden's are "nonbinding" and others don't have enough votes to pass.”

In other reporting:

NEW YORK TIMES

James Glanz travels to a disused ceramics plant in Ramadi and other idle factories in Iraq to file for the Times. The rapid collapse of state-owned factories that provided Iraqis with many industrial-sector jobs resulted from American occupation authorities simply closing the doors, or denying them access to supplies and markets. Some American policymakers and Iraqi leaders are now considering efforts to get them producing manufactured goods--and employing Iraqis--again. Many Iraqi factories, he reports, have survived with their equipment intact.

WASHINGTON POST

Nora Boustany runs down some regional reaction to the recent hangings in Iraq.

Arianne Aryanpur reports on the burial of Army Spec. Eric T. Caldwell, who died in Iraq on January 7, at Arlington National Cemetary.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

Karl F. Inderfurth contributes an op-ed suggesting that US interests would be advanced by the implementation of the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations . . . in Afghanistan.

USA TODAY

Rick Jervis interviews outgoing US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.

WALL STREET JOURNAL

No new Iraq reporting posted before IS deadline.

Insight
The War Is About Images In The Media
01/17/2007 5:14 PM ET
I's not just the Iraq war creating ugly images, writes Brooks Boliek in the Hollywood Reporter. He says: "There's a war being fought out there. It's not just being fought by our Armed Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's being fought on the airwaves, in print and over the Internet. It's the image war. Whoever wins it will end up setting the policy for what I like to call "our current foreign endeavor." Calling the Iraq war our current foreign endeavor is akin to the Daughters of the Confederacy calling the Civil War "that late unpleasantness." It doesn't muddy the sensibilities with the grit, death and cost of war.

Like in real war, both sides of the image war have a battle plan...

A pair of key battles were recently fought in the image war.

The most compelling image from Pelosi's speech appeared to be unscripted. As the children of the House members swarmed around her, Pelosi threw back her head and laughed. I doubt that her script said "laugh here," but if it did, her speechwriters are pretty damn good.

On the other side of the image war is President Bush, all grim-faced and serious as he told us that he was sending 20,000 more troops into Iraq. Bush went before the nation and told us that the "times of testing reveal the character of a nation.

The two images played out in the media -- of Pelosi's laughter and Bush's tears -- are too striking to ignore. Which side do you choose?

Analysis
Christopher Dickey: Iraq A Breeder Reactor" Of Hatred
01/17/2007 2:45 PM ET
Newsweek has a series of insightful and heartbreaking articles in its January 22 edition.

The bloody cycle of violence will continue for many years, writes Christopher Dickey. He writes: Blood feuds flourish where family ties are strong and the rule of law is weak. Add the righteousness of competing faiths along with fierce memories of ancient wrongs and you have the makings of savage, seemingly endless conflicts from Northern Ireland to the Balkans, the lake regions of Africa to the arid Holy Land. And Iraq—well, Iraq is in a class by itself: a breeder reactor where explosive hatreds were both incited and contained by Saddam Hussein's brutality, only to become an uncontrolled chain reaction after the U.S.-led invasion liberated both the country and its vendettas. Arab culture cannot be solely blamed for the furies that have been unleashed in Iraq since 2003.

In a second article, a piece about Iraq and its children -- a disturbing account of how war affects the youngest. A picture gallery tells the story where words can't. Christian Caryle opens the piece with a child's account: "Ammar will tell you he's proud to be carrying a gun. His father was a brigadier in Saddam Hussein's Army, a man who saw combat in his country's several wars, and from an early age Ammar had accompanied him to the shooting range. "I got used to the sound of guns then," Ammar says. So he was ready, last fall, when the imam in his Baghdad neighborhood urged residents to take up arms against the invader—who in this case happened to be members of a Shiite militia trying to push into the predominantly Sunni area. Ammar joined the neighborhood watch, a ragtag bunch of men who stand guard nightly at improvised roadblocks and rooftop observation posts. In mid-October Ammar fought his first big battle against soldiers from the Mahdi Army—"the garbage collectors and robbers," as he contemptuously refers to the Shiite militia. He says he put his Kalashnikov assault rifle to good use: "I think I injured or even killed two of them. Our group killed more than six of them that night."

In a third article, Evan Thomas asks if we should blame the top brass for the situation in Iraq. He writes: "Given all the recriminations over the mess in Iraq, it is remarkable how little criticism has fallen on the U.S. military. Americans want to honor the sacrifice of the troops in the field and they may feel guilty about the cold reception given many veterans returning from the Vietnam War. But in the public blame game that's erupted on Capitol Hill and on the cable news talk shows, the armed services are largely given a free pass."

Daily Column
2006 Casualty Figures Released; Refugee Crisis Grows
By GREG HOADLEY 01/17/2007 02:06 AM ET

According to a newly released United Nations estimate, 34,452 Iraqi civilians fell to violence in 2006. Sabrina Tavernise writes in the NY Times from Baghdad that the staggering figure is “the first comprehensive annual count” since the beginning of the invasion. While the Iraqi government disputed the methods, the United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq’s Human Rights Office says it used only official sources. As a result, the figure, while nearly three times higher than earlier official estimates, does not include the unregistered dead. Moreover, the numbers do not include all of December’s victims. The report also describes mass graves, morgues overflowing with bodies, and dumping grounds for victims on the edge of dangerous Baghdad neighborhoods. Tavernise notes, “The Iraqis most tormented by the violence are those least able to protect themselves against it: the poor.”

Three bomb blasts killed 70 people yesterday at Mustansiriya University, a largely Shi`a university in northeast Baghdad, Damien Cave of the NYT reports from Baghdad. The attack comes one day after the grizzly hanging of two Sunni Ba`thist ex-officials. Throughout Baghdad yesterday, 108 in total were killed and at least 25 more were found dead.

Michael Slackman suggests in the Times that the series of hangings in Iraq has exacerbated sectarian tensions in the Arab world. The humiliation of Ba`thist Sunnis at the hands of the Shi`a-led Maliki government has, according to Slackman, even eroded Sunni support for the Lebanese group Hezbollah, which had earned regional respect during its confrontation with Israel last year. Marwan Kabalan, a Syrian political scientist offers a different interpretation, suggesting that regional geopolitics is also at play: “Sunni states are using this sectarian card to undercut Iran’s influence because they feel that Iran was able to penetrate the Arab world after the fall of Iraq.” On that note, the Times and the Post both have correspondents traveling with Secretary Rice as she visits US-allied Sunni Arab regimes in the region, seeking support for the Bush escalation in Iraq.

Thom Shanker of the NYT notes that the Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal announced support for the the Bush Administration's Iraq plan. After securing Egyptian endorsement in Cairo, Rice flew to Riyadh, meeting with King Abdullah before a joint press conference with Prince Saud. The carefully worded Saudi statement was “lukewarm at best,” reflecting the Sunni regime’s reservations about the Shi`a-led Maliki government. After her visit to Saudi Arabia, Rice then traveled to Kuwait, where she met with the foreign ministers of eight US-allied Sunni Arab regimes: Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan. The eight issued a statement described as a coded warning to Iran not to interfere in Iraqi affairs. The statement did not mention the US escalation plan in Iraq, nor did it mention the Maliki government directly, but did call for disarming of militias and ending sectarian violence. Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post is also traveling with Secretary Rice, and reports that by contrast, Kuwaiti FM Mohammed al-Sabah openly endorsed the Bush plan in a later statement, and acknowledged that Iran was indeed the target of the group’s statement.

The Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony on the worsening Iraqi refugee crisis, writes Ann Scott Tyson of The Washington Post. An estimated 1.7 million Iraqis are displaced, in the country and outside its borders. The US, however, has granted asylum to only 466 Iraqis since the 2003 invasion. The violence of 2006 resulted in massive movements of displaced individuals. For example, roughly 700,000 have fled to Jordan and 600,000 to Syria. Many are “left with minimal resources and are living on the margins,” according to a State Department official. Members of the committee were especially concerned about the fate of those Iraqis who fled the country because they feared retribution for working for the US, and called for enhanced efforts to alleviate the crisis. Rachel L. Swarns of the Times writes that there are 20,000 available slots for refugees this year, but it is uncertain whether financing would be provided for those slots to make them available to Iraqis.

President Bush told PBS’s Jim Lehrer that his pre-escalation Iraq strategy was headed for “slow failure.” Michael Abramowitz of the Post suggests that this may be “the president's frankest admission that the previous strategy was not working.” Bush accused the Maliki government of “fumbling” the execution of Saddam Hussein and two Ba`thist officials, saying that the government “had some maturation to do.” Bush also said the US and the Iraqi regime shared the blame for the failure to stop Iraq’s spiral of violence after the bombing of the Askariya shrine in Samarra last year. Jim Rutenberg of the Times also writes up the PBS interview, noting that the president’s recent criticisms point to continued tensions between the Bush and Maliki administrations.

Gail Russell Chaddock reports for the Monitor that members of Congress are sounding out one another’s positions on the White House’s escalation plan in preparation for next week’s anticipated vote on a nonbinding resolution opposing the “surge.” It is as yet unknown the degree of Republican support the bill will attract, but Chaddock suggests that several GOP lawmakers may be preparing to break with the White House. The results of this vote may indicate how much Republican support the new majority can count on in future confrontations with the White House over Syria, Iran, and the funding of the war. Jonathan Weisman of the Post writes that a bipartisan group of senators will introduce the nonbinding resolution opposing the escalation as early as today, although the vote will not occur until after Bush’s State of the Union address next Tuesday. He reports that anti-war activists have called the proposal a “meaningless, toothless, vote.” Democrats in both houses are still debating the substance and efficacy of more binding legislation. Carl Hulse and Jim Rutenberg file a similar piece for the Times, noting that some Republicans on the Hill were consulting with the White House to devise an alternative bill that would “appeal to Republicans frustrated with events in Iraq but keep them from supporting the most critical resolution.”

In other coverage:

NEW YORK TIMES

The NYT’s staff editorial, entitled “The Missing Partner in Iraq,” begins: “The one crucial assumption behind everything President Bush proposed on Iraq last week was that Washington would have the wholehearted support of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.” Citing protection of sectarian militias, the gruesome decapitation of Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, and the appointment of the anti-occupation Lt. Gen. Aboud Qanbar to lead the Baghdad security operations, Times editors go on to question this support. They write that “specific and enforceable policy benchmarks and timelines” might ensure that Bush’s agenda prevail over Maliki’s.

WASHINGTON POST

Colum Lynch writes that the former chief of the UN-sponsored oil-for-food program in Iraq, Cypriot Benon V. Sevan, was indicted yesterday in a Manhattan federal court for bribery, wire fraud, and conspiracy. Sevan’s lawyer called the charges a baseless distraction from current events in Iraq. Sevan is in Cyprus, and it is unclear if he will be extradited to face charges.

In his column, David Ignatius argues that the Bush administration is making bad gambles in the Middle East.

Melvin Laird contributes an op-ed warning the Democrats against cutting off funding for the Iraq war.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

Controversy surrounds Egypt’s decision to continue broadcasting Iraqi “Insurgent TV” channel al-Zawraa on Nilesat, a government-controlled satellite provider, reports Sarah Gauch from Cairo. The US has pressured Egypt to pull the plug on al-Zarwaa, which features footage of attacks by Iraq’s Sunni insurgency on US forces and Shi`a militias and rails against the Shi`a-led Maliki government. The Egyptian regime has exercised censorship in the past, and views Sunni Islamist militancy at home as a threat to its own stability. So is the decision to maintain the uplink an attempt to distance itself from the US, a signal of wariness of Iran’s growing regional influence, or a “straightforward business deal?”

In his column for the Monitor, John Hughes draws on the NYT’s reporting of the Saddam Hussein trial to argue that Saddam possessed an unusual degree of cruelty. While he says the US occupation of the country was “poorly managed,” Iraqis should be reminded to be grateful that the US rid them of Saddam’s brutality, perhaps by means of a museum in Baghdad, “so that the evil and brutality of Saddam Hussein should not be lost in the mists of history.” No comment from Hughes on brutality and cruelty in post-Saddam Iraq.

WALL STREET JOURNAL

No Iraq Coverage

USA TODAY

Barbara Slavin files a less-detailed summary of the day’s Iraq events from Kuwait City.

Link To Report
What to Do Next in Iraq Big Story in U.S. Media January 7-12
01/16/2007 10:55 AM ET
Project for Excellence in Journalism

The debate over what to do next in Iraq thoroughly dominated the news landscape last week, according to the PEJ News Coverage Index. Click here for the full report.

Daily Column
Hangings Invite Recriminations; US Officials in Region
By GREG HOADLEY 01/16/2007 02:11 AM ET
The grim spectre of the hanging of two Ba`thist regime officials dominated Iraq news today, while other reporting captures the Bush administration’s regional posturing as it attempts to garner support for its Iraq and Iran policies.

In the NYT John Burns narrates from Baghdad the macabre scene of the execution of Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, Saddam Hussein’s half-brother and former head of his secret police, and Awad Hamad al-Bandar, former head of the Iraqi revolutionary courts, as captured in a video shown to a small group of reporters by Iraqi officials. Burns also describes the arrangement that Iraqi officials had negotiated to obtain custody of the two Sunni men in order to carry out their sentences, including a technical discussion of the mechanics of proper hanging. The US had insisted that the event be managed to avoid the embarrassing public relations incidents that followed the hanging of Saddam Hussein, and only then agreed to helicopter the two men from Camp Cropper near Baghdad to the gallows in the former secret police headquarters before dawn yesterday. Unfortunately for the US and the Maliki regime, another wave of recriminations from Sunni leaders followed the execution as Barzan was decapitated in the process, sending both the US and the Iraqis into public relations damage control mode.

In the Washington Post, Joshua Partlow and Muhanned Saif Aldin also discuss the fallout of the hangings, with less morbid detail of the scene inside the gallows chamber, but registering more Iraqi and regional reactions to the executions, referring to celebrations in some Shi`a areas of Iraq, and condemnations from Sunni leaders, human rights groups, and the UN. Despite the Maliki government’s claims to the contrary, many Sunnis claim that Barzan’s decapitation was a humiliating act of revenge by the Shi`a-led regime.

The Times and the Wall Street Journal both point to US diplomatic efforts in the region in support of its new initiatives. In the Times, Michael Slackman reports from Cairo that Condoleezza Rice was silent about issues of human rights and democracy during her visit to that country, even as allegations of torture, corruption, and repression were circulating only days before her visit. This contrasts with the “scolding” that Rice had delivered the Egyptian regime during previous visits, signaling a Bush administration retreat from the rhetoric of widespread political transformation in the Middle East, and a new appreciation of stable authoritarian allies as the US seeks regional support for its Iraq policy and its confrontational stance against Iran.

In a piece focused on Israeli-Palestinian issues, Thom Shanker and Greg Myre also note that Rice had achieved at least verbal support from Egypt’s foreign minister, Ahmad Aboul Gheit for the US escalation plan during her visit. Rice will continue on to visit Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf allies.

From Brussels and Egypt, Greg Jaffe and Neil King, Jr. note in the Wall Street Journal a new Bush administration talking point and policy dilemma: Condoleezza Rice in Egypt and Robert Gates in Europe are both sounding grim warnings about Iranian ascendancy in the Middle East, should the US fail to achieve its goals in Iraq. Rice has been shuttling in the region; Gates is headed there today. The US apparently hopes to play on fears among conservative Sunni allies in the Gulf that Shi`a political expression in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, or Bahrain might be a conduit for Iranian influence in the region. However, they write that “winning broad support in the Persian Gulf region for the weak Iraqi government, or even for an overt campaign against Iran, won't be easy. The region's Sunni Arab states -- most of which either Mr. Gates or Ms. Rice are visiting this week -- are leery of the Shiite-dominated government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. They are also apprehensive about lining up too publicly alongside the U.S. in a Cold War-style, anti-Iran bloc.” Says Gates of Iran, "They are doing nothing constructive in Iraq" and "are acting in a very negative way in many respects." Iranian officials might say similar things about the US.

David S. Cloud is traveling with Gates and makes a similar observation in the New York Times.

NEW YORK TIMES

Ivar Ekman reports for the NYT on the large Iraqi community in Sweden and Swedish asylum policy. Numbering over 80,000, Iraqis make up the second largest immigrant group in Sweden, after Finns. That figure is growing with the mass exodus of refugees from Iraq. Ekman quotes a 63-year old Iraqi woman: “For Iraq, there is no hope,” she said. “For me, my wish is that I get word that my daughter and granddaughters are alive, and that I can help them to come here, to Sweden.”

WASHINGTON POST

Walter Pincus writes up the debate over the plan to use two Kurdish pesh merga brigades in operations in Baghdad. Although seen as some of the best fighters in the country, the loyalty of Kurdish forces to the aims of the central state is not assured. Moreover, open hostilities between Kurdish and Mahdi Army militiamen in Kirkuk may carry over into the capital if pesh merga are deployed in pro-Sadr areas of Baghdad. Questions also have emerged about the willingness of Kurds to bear arms against fellow Sunnis in alliance with the United States.

Linton Weeks reports in the Post on a group of activists within the ranks of the armed services that is organizing appeals to Congress to end the war in Iraq.

Op-ed contributors David Rivkin and Lee A. Casey argue the constitutional implications of a congressional confrontation with President Bush over the escalation.

In his column, Richard Cohen just now appears to realize that the Iraqis care about their country more than any outside force does, just as the Vietnamese did before them.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

The CSM’s Iraq coverage focuses on domestic implications of the Iraq war. Ron Scherer gets top billing today with a story on mounting concerns in Congress and among analysts about the fiscal consequences of the Bush administration's "borrow now, pay later" approach to financing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. While the cost is still only one percent of GDP, tax cuts and heavy borrowing beg the question of how the bill will ultimately be paid off. White House accounting practices have made it difficult to pin down with precision the current cash outlay (estimated to be nearing the cost of the Vietnam or Korean Wars), and future costs of supporting injured veterans and replacing exhausted equipment loom large.

No big scoop, but Linda Feldmann catches the Monitor up on the role that Iraq is taking in the 2008 campaign, describing the triangulation between Democratic frontrunners Clinton, Edwards, and Obama on the one hand, and potential fissures between GOP hopefuls McCain, Giuiliani, Romney, Brownback, and Hegel, on the other.

Suggesting a cycle of endless escalation, the CSM runs a clever editorial cartoon today featuring a yellow ribbon-cum-Mobius-band with the self-repeating message: "Support the Troops . . . with Ever More Troops." Worth a quick click.

USA TODAY

Rick Jervis writes about a press conference inside the Green Zone in which General Casey, outgoing commander of US forces discussed troop surge: "As with any plan, there are no guarantees of success, and it's not going to happen overnight. But with sustained political support, and the concentrated efforts on all sides, I believe that this plan can work."

Susan Page writes up a USAT/Gallup poll taken over the weekend that showed little change in American public opinion after Bush's recent address. The public’s support for Bush’s policies in Iraq remains low. Over sixty percent of those polled would support a nonbinding congressional resolution opposing the escalation, whereas those polled were divided relatively evenly over whether Congress should deny the president funding.

In opinion, DeWayne Wickham suggests that the Iraq invasion might have parallels to earlier episodes of US economic imperialism in Panama and Hawaii. Citing reports in the British press that the Bush administration has been heavily involved in writing Iraq’s new hydrocarbon regulations to the advantage of Western oil corporations, he wonders if economic interests, rather than the selfless promotion of democracy, may explain the US interest in Iraq.

Investigation
Lockheed Links to the "Committee for the Liberation of Iraq"
01/15/2007 4:52 PM ET
A lengthy and informative investigative piece about the "iron triangle" connecting the U.S. government, lobbyists, and the defense industry has been published by that most enlightened purveyor of airbrushed female flesh--Playboy.

The tone set by the piece, epitomized by the subtitle, "The Story of How Lockheed's Interests--as Opposed to Those of the U.S. Citizenry--Set the Course of U.S. Policy after 9/11," presents a slightly overstated open-and-shut case condemning Lockheed Martin's alleged position as puppetmaster. However, cozy relations between politicians and defense contractors have long been an unsettling reality of American politics, and the implications of how this mutually-beneficial relationship has influenced government and military activities is something that demands greater scrutiny.

Jon Birger in Fortune shows the ripple effect on the consumer investor. He points out that higher stock prices are a result of the build up in Iraq,"Armor and body armor makers like Ceradyne and Armor Holdings, battlefield computer and communications equipment company DRS Technologies, and armored-vehicle maker Force Protection" will be the main beneficiaries. "Among the major defense defense contractors, the best bet is General Dynamics, maker of the Abrams tank and other military vehicles"

Birger points out that you might be too late if you wanted to surf the rise caused by the Presidents speech. Defense stocks have been surging since November in expectation of higher orders in the defense sector. More ominously, he points to an international arms race caused by increasing global tension as drivers of future gains in defense stock prices.

"The bottom line: what's happening in Iraq is simply the most visible manifestation of an increasingly militarized world, a point Merrill Lynch chief investment strategist Richard Bernstein made in a recent report. And while that may not bode well for world peace, it is good for the bottom lines of defense companies."

Daily Column
Kurds: Free the Irbil 5; Anbar Police Recruiting Skyrockets
By SETH SMITH 01/15/2007 02:01 AM ET
Timesman John F. Burns has the day's top story, dealing with the difficulties faced by U.S. and Iraqi officials attempting to jointly plan the mother of all battles: the pacification of Baghdad. Some of the problems are predictable, such as the Iraqi government's questionable commitment to a crackdown on the Shia militias controlled by prominent members of the ruling coalition. Others are new, like creating a workable chain of command for the combined U.S.-Iraqi forces and a bout of bureaucratic infighting centered on the appointment of a commander of Iraqi forces in Baghdad. Despite the hurdles, some officers are optimistic. The article's one weakness is that it lacks any evidence of the Iraqi point of view. In the WP, Sudarsan Raghavan has a more street's-eye view of problems the new Baghdad security plan will likely encounter.Drawing on an impressive array of sources, the article takes the form of a post-mortem for Operation Together Forward, the previous plan now widely considered a failure.

The WP's Joshua Partlow produces the day's other must-read, updating the case of the five Iranians captured by the U.S. in a raid in Irbil last week. As was the case the last time U.S. forces detained Iranians suspected of involvement in attacks, the Iraqis are none-too-pleased. This time, however, Kurdish lawmakers are leading the charge, owing to the fact that Irbil is located in Iraqi Kurdistan. In the NYT, David Sanger analyzes the Bush administration's new, more confrontational approach to Iran. The article does little to advance the story, but provides a good survey of the conflict as currently construed by top U.S. officials.

The NYT's Jim Rutenberg and Patrick Healy have the latest on divergent views in the Democratic caucus with regards to challenging the president's plan to increase troops, including among likely 2008 presidential contenders. Some antiwar Democrats want to go beyond toothless resolutions condemning the plan to enact legislation that restricts or cuts off funding. Walter Pincus has a similar account in the WP that focuses more narrowly on the Congressional debate. Looking at the other side of the aisle, Jill Lawrence of the USA Today has a smart take on how the troop increase debate is playing out among Republican presidential aspirants. Republican voters are more supportive of the plan than independents and Democrats, but potential candidates represent a wide range of views.

NEW YORK TIMES

James Glanz reports on the expected increase in the number and size of provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs). Staffing for existing PRTs is already thin, owing in part to the difficulty of recruiting civilians to live uncomfortable lives in dangerous environs. It is unclear how new staff will be found for the revamped effort.

David S. Cloud is traveling with Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The first stop in the Defense Secretary's Europe and Middle East tour finds him in London, where he held talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Defense Minister Des Browne. Iraq and Afghanistan topped the agenda, with Gates querying the Brits as to whether they plan to carry through with troop withdrawals from Iraq. Offering a preview of the days ahead, one official attached to the delegation put U.S. allies in the Persian Gulf on notice that they will heretofore be expected to fulfill their aid commitments to Iraq.

WASHINGTON POST

Michael A. Fletcher rounds up the Sunday media appearances by President Bush and Vice President Cheney. The administration is dead set on increasing troop numbers, despite the increasing clamor for withdrawal from both the public and Congress. On 60 Minutes, Bush aired a new justification for the war, saying that leaving Saddam Hussein in power possibly would have triggered a nuclear arms race between Iran and Iraq.

Griff White writes up a change in the laws governing contractors and other civilians working alongside the U.S. military in war zones. Some have accused contractors in particular of flouting what is considered extralegal status, allowing them to go unpunished for well-documented misdeeds, particularly in Iraq. The new law will likely be challenged in court, as there is little precedent for civilians facing courts-martial.

Editorial page editor Fred Hiatt has a column arguing that while U.S. troops will inevitably and necessarily be used by politicians to score partisan victories, it is also necessary to step back and realize that these same troops are not just props, but are actual living, breathing humans, many of whom have sacrificed deeply for the country as a whole.

USA TODAY

Rick Jervis writes up the surge in recruits eager to become police in Anbar province. At least 1,000 men have signed up in the past two weeks alone, compared to approximately 800 in December and a few dozen as recently as September. Jervis reports that both the U.S. and Iraqi officials portray the increase as owing to a decisive split between Sunni tribes and Al Qaida in Iraq. However, it must be said that this same storyline has been touted before without having dampened the insurgency.

WALL STREET JOURNAL

No original content.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

Nothing.

Daily Column
The Battle in Washington Eclipses the War in Iraq
By EASON JORDAN 01/14/2007 03:18 AM ET
The New York Times and Washington Post are stuffed with Iraq-focused reporting, analyses, and commentaries – 25 in all. Yet, amazingly, not a single one of those original stories comes from Iraq itself (in fairness, there’s a Baghdad-datelined AP report in the NYT). Why? With 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, Iraqis and Americans being killed there every day, and with the U.S. troop presence costing American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a day, Americans deserve and need meaty reporting from the war zone daily. And I pity the newspaper correspondents risking life and limb in Iraq only to see their editors opt not to include a single original story from Iraq in the huge Sunday papers (two days straight for the NYT).

NEW YORK TIMES

Correspondents Adam Nagourney and Patrick Healy report on how the Bush "Surge" makes the 2008 U.S. presidential race all the more interesting, with presumed candidates Hillary Clinton and John McCain taking sharply different paths when it comes to Iraq (she made a day trip to Baghdad yesterday, as noted in this story).

Republican unity is unraveling when it comes to Iraq and other issues, reports Carl Hulse. “We have got a lot of free agents,” Republican Senator John Thune is quoted as saying as President Bush’s popularity plummets.

Jim Rutenberg reports on the Bush administration facing a huge PR challenge in trying to get the American people on board with Bush's "surge" plan.

N.R. Kleinfeld reports on the mixed reaction among U.S. service men and women in this country to Bush's Iraq "surge" plan. Full-time troops seem mostly supportive, while many reservists are angry and disappointed.

In the Week in Review section, David Greenberg provides an interesting take on past and present presidential mea culpas. He writes: “While these confessions may work in the short term, they rarely work long-term magic. That typically requires a new course of action.”

Also in the WiR section, Kate Zernike examines how Bush's legacy might impact the 2008 Congressional elections. Republicans are nervous, and Democrats are bullish.

Again the WiR section, in a piece headlined “The Best We Can Hope For,” correspondent Helene Cooper provides a bleak set of assessments about how the Iraq war might end for the U.S. She quotes military expert Stephen Biddle as saying “In the best-case scenario, we’ll be in Iraq for 15-20 years.”

Kicking off the commentaries is a column by Frank Rich, who provides his usual well-written weekly Bush-bashing diatribe. Rich describes Bush as looking “as broken as this war.”

Nicholas Kristof opens his column this way: "With Iraq sliding off a cliff, another 20,000 young Americans along as well, it's worth wrestling with a larger question: Why are we so awful at foreign policy?"

In an op-ed, U.S. Army Captain Luis Carlos Montalvan says the U.S. must insist Iraqi leaders declare war on corruption because otherwise trying to make things right in Iraq will be a futile.

The newspaper offers an editorial of its own headlined "Picking Up the Pieces." The editorial lambasts Bush, declares the Iraq war “unwinnable,” and closes this way: “History will surely blame Mr. Bush for leading America into Iraq, but it will blame Congress if it does not act to push him onto a more realistic path.”

WASHINGTON POST

Rajiv Chandrasekaran provides a fascinating page one report on how the newly-appointed U.S. official tasked with leading the U.S.-directed reconstruction efforts in Iraq was recalled for that position after quitting a big U.S. Iraq job in 2003 because he was fed up with U.S. bungling. Rajiv (spelling his last name once is challenging enough), now a big-wig at the Post, previously served as the paper’s Baghdad bureau chief, and he wrote a terrific book on Iraq.

Peter Baker and Michael Abramowitz report on Bush's increasing isolation on Capitol Hill. The story includes this quote from Iraq Study Group member (and Democrat) Leon Panetta: “No president can conduct a war without the support of the American people and without the support of Congress.” William Kristol, the Weekly Standard editor who supports the “surge,” offers this criticism of the Bush administration: “they’re not the most competent at executing the war.”

Shailagh Murray profiles a Republican congressman, Charlie Dent, who's struggling with whether to support Bush's Iraq "surge." Dent says, “I’m very skeptical, I’m very concerned.”

Ann Scott Tyson profiles Admiral William Fallon, the newly-nominated chief of Central Command, which oversees U.S. military efforts (or lack thereof) in most of the world’s hot spots, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, and northeast Africa. He’s widely admired for his diplomatic skills, and he’s expected to focus on the big picture while leaving Iraq to the U.S. commander there, General David Petraeus.

The Outlook section is overflowing with commentaries.

Leslie Gelb and Richard Betts compare and contrast the wars in Iraq and Vietnam, arguing that despite the differences in those wars the end-game goal is the same: while perhaps not winning per se, not outright losing. They argue a loss in Iraq, which they see as increasingly likely, would have greater fallout than the U.S. loss in Vietnam.

In an op-ed headlined “Trapped by Hubris, Again,” Washington Post Associate Editor Robert Kaiser writes that "For the United States, Iraq has become another Vietnam."

In his op-ed, Robert Brigham urges the Bush administration to follow the Iraq Study Group recommendation for the U.S. to commence talks with Syria and Iran.

In a commentary headlined “The big gambit in Iraq,” columnist David Broder writes that Bush has given up hope of regaining public support for the war, while hoping to somehow make progress in Iraq, anyway.

Columnist George Will's column is headlined "Bush's Hail Mary Pass," and he writes Bush and his critics are likely to come out of this conflict terribly battered.

Columnist Jim Hoagland writes of the challenges facing Iraq-bound U.S. General David Petraeus and how, if any general can overcome the challenges there, it's Petraeus.

In an op-ed, Iraq expert Michael O'Hanlon writes that despite the odds against the plan working, Bush's "surge" plan is "still the right thing to try – as long as we do not count on it succeeding and we start working on backup plans even as we grant Bush his request.”

The soon-to-be top U.S. general in Iraq, David Petraeus, in 1987 wrote his 328-page doctoral thesis on the lessons learned from Vietnam, and the Post provides excerpts here. A highlight: urging the president not to commit U.S. troops to a conflict unless the president “can ensure sufficient public support to permit carrying the commitment through to its conclusion.”

In the weekly feature entitled “Tom Ricks’s InBox” – he’s the Post’s Pentagon correspondent – Ricks shares an e-mail from a Iraq war vet who asks whether anyone else sees the similarity between an infamous Vietnam war photo and the images of Saddam being executed.

Finally, Post Ombudsman Deborah Howell notes complaints from readers about the Post's reporting and choice and placement of photos regarding Saddam Hussein's execution.

USA TODAY

Dark on weekends.

WALL STREET JOURNAL

Dark on weekends.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

Dark on weekends.

The Bush Plan
The British Magazine says of Bush Plan: "He is Right"
01/13/2007 3:39 PM ET

The "Economist" magazine surprises with an endorsement of the Bush Iraq "surge" plan. A key excerpt: "Some will call this reckless. Some will say the president is in denial. We don't admire Bush, but on this one we think he is right." To read the entire story, you must be an "Economist" subscriber. http://Economist.com.

Daily Column
While McCain Bemoans "Watching This Train Wreck"
By EASON JORDAN 01/13/2007 02:53 AM ET
This is the first Saturday in months when New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wasn’t the author of the toughest commentary of the day on President Bush. Today, that prize goes to conservative Peggy Noonan, whose withering op-ed appears in the Wall Street Journal.

NEW YORK TIMES

The Times scoops with a report by David Sanger and Michael Gordon quoting Condoleezza Rice as saying President Bush authorized U.S. military forces to instigate a tough crackdown on alleged Iranian troublemakers in Iraq, prompting the arrest of several Iranians in raids condemned by Iraqi leaders.

In a story whose headline focuses on Senate Republicans Rallying to Bush’s Defense, David Cloud and Jeff Zeleny go well beyond that headline to report on the more meaningful news: that Defense Secretary Gates predicted the "surge" of U.S. forces in Iraq would like last "months, not years." He also said if Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki doesn’t step up and deliver, he runs the risk of fed up Iraqis choosing someone else to run the country.

From London, Alan Cowell provides two stories. The first article looks at Tony Blair urging "his successors to maintain thr warlike foreign policy that he promoted, sending troops into battle in Africa and the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Iraq." The second story: a global round-up of reaction to Bush's Iraq speech, with most of it negative.

Back in Washington, Helene Cooper and Thom Shanker report on a spat between Condoleezza Rice and Senator Barbara Boxer. Here’s the story’s second graph: “In an interview with The New York Times on Friday, Ms. Rice suggested that Ms. Boxer had set back feminism by suggesting during the hearing that the childless Ms. Rice had paid no price in the Iraq war.”

Mystery of the day: why no Iraq-datelined reporting in the paper today?

Columnist Maureen Dowd is her usual snarky, sarcastic, Bush-hating self, writing, “I feel good about the new war with Iran.... I say bring it on. If a pre-emptive war in Iraq doesn’t work, why not try a pre-emptive war on Iran in Iraq.”

WASHINGTON POST

The Post fronts three Iraq stories.

The U.S. could derail the troop "surge" before completion if the Iraqi government fails to deliver on its promises, said Defense Secretary Gates in Senate testimony. Correspondents Josh White and Ann Scott Tyson quote Gates as saying we’ll know within months whether the “surge” is successful and that troops could be drawn down before year’s end.

John McCain is anguished and furious because of "this train wreck" in Iraq, write correspondents Dan Balz and Shailagh Murray in a story headlined “The War Within Sen. McCain.” McCain, a booster of the “surge,” says he believes the way the Iraq war has been handled thus far “will go down in as one of the worst” mistakes in U.S. military history.

From Baghdad, Nancy Trejos reports that the U.S. and Moqtada al-Sadr are in a battle for the hearts of Iraqi soldiers, many of whom are Sadr loyalists. The story ends with quotes from disillusioned U.S. soldiers.

The Post features two Iraq-focused commentaries.

Columnist Colbert King says it's time for America to take a lesson from Dr. Martin Kuther King, who voiced his opposition to the Vietnam war in a speech entitled: "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” Colbert King’s message: Americans must heighten their opposition to the war and demand the troops come home.

In a commentary by a correspondent who usually writes in the Post’s Style section, Henry Allen sarcastically calls on Americans to "give the president everything he wants for the war in Iraq" so America can learn a bitter lesson and not repeat the mistakes of Iraq.

WALL STREET JOURNAL

In a commentary headlined “The Two Vacuums,” long-time Republican speechwriter and author Peggy Noonan opens this way: "I had the odd and wholly unexpected experience of feeling supportive of a troop increase until I saw the president's speech arguing for it." Must-read.

USA TODAY

Dark weekends.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

Dark weekends.

Daily Column
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.

Insight
Arab Newspapers Denounce Bush's New Iraq Plan
By AMER MOHSEN 01/11/2007 11:45 PM ET
Arab media reactions to Bush’s speech were almost unanimously negative. Some editorials and articles saw in the ‘new strategy’ a ‘more of the same’ approach, while others focused on the threatening tone towards Iran and its allies; most editorials, however, agreed that Bush’s speech exhibited a regurgitation of an old language that has proven its ineffectiveness and that has become, in the eyes of many Arabs, synonymous with destabilization and warfare.

Joseph Samaha, editor-in-chief of al-Akhbar described Bush’s speech as “testing for the nerves”. Samaha said that Bush’s lingo elicits in its recipient the same sort of “annoyance” that a “broken record” does. He added that Bush’s speech was a reiteration of speeches that were said before, “which only means one thing: Bush will not only persist in his destructive war, he also intends to deepen it and widen its scope”. Samaha said that the idea behind the new strategy conforms to the old Israeli adage: “What cannot be achieved by force can be achieved by more force”. The article carried the title “the meaning behind the words”; Samaha quoted phrases from Bush’s speech and wrote his own interpretation of the ‘meaning’ behind these terms. For example, Samaha writes:

“Bush says: Security, especially in Baghdad, has the priority, because that is where the sectarian violence is concentrated. The Iraqi government has given promises to help in that regard. He means: the essence of the solution in Iraq is military, not political, and the new American role will be related to the sectarian violence (which he does not call a ‘civil war’). We shall stand once with this camp and once with the other. And if we are not successful, we will blame the Iraqis because they did not help enough... He says: Iran and Syria are responsible for the deterioration in Iraq. We will confront those who deliver weapons to our enemies... He means: forget about dialogue with Tehran and Damascus, the US will deepen its war, and may spread it wider. And all that was said in the Baker-Hamilton report and the other recommendations for the creation of stable regional climate to remedy the situation in Iraq was senseless. I was not under the influence of the ‘neo-conservatives’, because in this regard, I am one of them.”

In Pan-Arab al-Hayat, `abdallah Iskandar wrote an article titled “the strategy of an announced failure”. Iskandar argued that when the US invaded Iraq in 2003, its strategy was based on an object “that did not exist in the country”: the weapons of mass destruction. Today, Iskandar says, the US is basing its new strategy on another non-existent element: the fact that there are Iraqi forces “that can be a neutral side and work for a unified state amid the sectarian divisions and infighting”. Iskandar’s thesis is that the situation in Iraq has changed and deteriorated a great deal since 2003, and that the new Bush strategy “could have been suitable at the eve of the invasion, but it came four years too late”.

In London-based al-quds al-`Arabi, the editor-in-chief, `abdel Bari `Atwan wrote that the governments of Saudi Arabia and Jordan and Egypt do not want to be dubbed as a “moderate camp” and to be publicly seen as an ally of the American campaign, which risks to decrease their credibility among their citizenry. But the speech yesterday has revealed an American decision to engulf these governments in America’s war, and expects “blind obedience” from these governments, since “the American administration does not respect Arab leaderships, because these leaderships do not respect their peoples”.

Another element of the new strategy has been discussed in the Arab media. The new security arrangements that appear to be planned for Iraq in general, and Baghdad in specific, indicate a shift in the American thinking towards the Iraqi population: from being seen as a ‘liberated people’ into being seen as an ‘enemy population’. Plans to besiege and ‘cleanse’ entire areas of the country, and to announce whole neighborhoods and cities as ‘security zones’ magnify the repressive aspects of the American occupation.

The Lebanese daily, As-Safir, published a photo on its front page of an American bulldozer erecting a sand wall around the village of Burwana in Western Iraq, the caption likened the “new American plan” to “Israeli tactics in besieging the areas of the resistance”.

Subhi al-Hadidi wrote in al-Quds al-`Arabi about the new American security tactics that are expected to be enforced in Iraq. The article was entitled: “The new Bush strategy: quarantining Iraqis”. Hadeedi described the new measures, which might include erecting barriers between Iraqi cities and neighborhoods, registering the residents of each district and providing them with identification tags that they will have to wear at all times. Hadeedi said that “if not for the fear of being accused of anti-Semitism...the American officials would have used the term ‘ghettos’ to describe these areas”. Hadeedi predicted that these security zones will follow the model of ‘strategic hamlets’ that Amerians used in Vietnam and other modalities of colonial governance that were applied in Algeria and elsewhere.

Daily Column
Or Old Wine in New Bottles: The Debate Continues
By SETH SMITH 01/11/2007 02:10 AM ET
The wait is finally over. President Bush's speech and reaction dominate Thursday coverage. The basics: 17,500 new troops in Baghdad and 4,000 in Al Anbar; US$1 billion in new aid for reconstruction and job creation; and Iraqi officers rather than U.S. generals will be put in charge of each of Baghdad's nine districts. Iran and Syria received stern warnings, and additional Patriot missile batteries will be deployed to counter the threat the administration believes to be emanating from Iran. No benchmarks for success were included in the speech.

The NYT has President Bush returning to his old contention that failure in Iraq would have grave domestic consequences. The article also notes that increased casualty rates are almost assured. Perhaps most interesting are two exchanges Bush had with Congressional leaders earlier in the day: “ said to Maliki this has to work or you’re out.” When questioned about why the current plan will work where others have failed, Bush responded, "Because it has to." The WP goes high with Bush's mea culpas about past failures in Iraq, and his placing responsibility for future success on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki. The fact that Al Maliki has been uncooperative in the past is duly noted. USA Today plays it straight. Perhaps most interesting, it relays the news that Al Maliki has told Shia militias to turn in their weapons or face the combined wrath of the U.S. and Iraqi armed forces. The WSJ leads with Bush between the perennial rock and a hard place: an uncooperative government in Iraq and uncooperative Congressional Democrats at home. Everyone mentions semi-prominent Republican Senator and presidential aspirant Sam Brownback's coming out against the Bush plan.

The WP frames the debate over troop increases historically, setting it up as "the most significant confrontation between the White House and Congress over military policy since the Vietnam War." The article has an account of a raucous caucus meeting held Wednesday in which the House leadership gave the go-ahead to start looking at ways to cut off funding for a troop increase. USA Today provides additional details on Representative John Murtha's maneuvers to restrict funding. The NYT recaps previous reporting on the Democrats planned response to the troop increase plan. A non-binding resolution condemning the plan gets top billing, forcing Republicans on the record as supporting or opposing Bush's plan.

The NYT has the prepared text of Bush's address. The WP provides a pdf copy of briefing slides pertaining to the new strategy, put together by the National Security Council.

NEW YORK TIMES

Sabrina Tavernise and John F. Burns outline the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki's and other prominent Shia objections to U.S. troop increases. Al Maliki himself has not publicly opposed an increase. The article also provides an excellent analysis of the new plan's different proposals with regards to transfers of power, including some that will allow the Iraqis more autonomy and others that will tie that government's hands.

Michael R. Gordon analyzes the military aspects of the plan, writing that it hinges on the idea that Iraqi leaders are in fact committed to creating a multisectarian and multiethnic state. Like others, Gordon stresses that the Shia government's attachment to this idea is by no means assured. In fact much evidence points to the opposite conclusion.

An unsigned editorial accuses President Bush of failing the U.S. and Iraq, and wishing to force the next president to deal with the fallout from his failures. For the first time, the paper appears to call for a quick end to the war barring the unlikely appearance of a new and workable strategy.

WASHINGTON POST

Thomas E. Ricks and Ann Scott Tyson weigh in with a military analysis. Any troop increase for more than a few months will put major strains on the already overstretched military, and will lead to increases in battle deaths. Confronting the Mehdi Army, nominally loyal to Moqtada Al Sadr, is expected to be one of the most difficult tasks to be carried out during the new offensive. The militia is now considered stronger than the Iraqi Army by some Pentagon analysts. Some planners believe that the military has other means of countering the militias influence, such as economic incentives.

Joshua Partlow runs down Wednesday's violence in Iraq, including two busloads of Shia pilgrims returning from Hajj being killed and the announcement of two U.S. troop deaths. Other noteworthy news includes a Wednesday meeting between Iraqi National Security Advisor Mowaffaq Al Rubaie and Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani. Al Sistani was briefed on Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki's new Baghdad security plan. According to Al Rubaie, Al Sistani "was receptive" but did not give explicit approval.

Peter Baker compares Bush's cocksure manner on the 2004 campaign trail, when he could not think of any mistakes he had made, to Wednesday's admission of serious errors in the war's prosecution. Baker makes clear, however, that Bush's saying sorry for past mistakes in no way signaled a conciliatory mood.

Glenn Kessler harks back to a classified memo written by National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley in early November and reported on later that month as the base of many ideas included in Bush's new plan. Kessler notes that the memo excited controversy at the time for its harsh appraisal of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, but it can now be seen as a harbinger of the administrations new policy.

Dana Milbank examines politicians' use of the "prebuttal" to preempt the speeches of opponents by rebutting what they are expected to say.

An unsigned editorial faults Bush for not adopting a plan that would speed up training for Iraqi forces. The editorial also recommends a cessation of troop increases if the Iraqi don't live up to their commitments on a number of issues.

USA TODAY

Susan Page takes a look at what is at stake for the White House in taking a gamble that its latest step will simultaneously improve conditions in Iraq and rally public opinion.

A compare-and-contrast chart is provided showing Bush's recommendations and the Iraq Study Group's recommendations side-by-side.

An unsigned editorial says that Bush's new plan has only a slim chance of succeeding. The editorial makes clear that the current plan, like past plans, relies heavily on rosy assessments of situations over which the administration has little control.

WALL STREET JOURNAL

Philip Shishkin and Jafar Juhi have a compelling story about the effect of Baghdad's sectarian violence on its youngest residents. The celebration of sectarian killings framed as revenge or self-defense has inevitably captured the imaginations of the young.

An unsigned editorial applauds Bush's plan to send more troops while worrying that more will be necessary to stop the persistent violence.

A second editorial lambasts Democrats for their supposedly criticizing the president's proposals without offering up substantial alternatives.

Former Proconsul L. Paul Bremer has a guest editorial in which he offers apologies for mistakes he made while administering Iraq, and commends the president for not moving to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

Gail Russell Chaddock explains how Congress has the ability to stop a troop increase in Iraq. Details about the three main proposals for blocking or impeding an escalation, from Representative John Murtha, Representative Ed Markey, and Senator Ted Kennedy, are included.

Howard LaFranchi has a piece questioning whether any member of President Bush's new Iraq team has the wherewithal to force the Iraqis to reconcile their differences.

Daily Column
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.

Daily Column
USAT Poll: Allies Express Fears; Worst Case, Regional War
By SETH SMITH 01/09/2007 01:22 AM ET
The story that dominates the Tuesday news cycle is the official announcement of President Bush's new plan for Iraq, to be unveiled Wednesday at 9 pm EST. In the NYT, Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes about the Bush administration's planned public relations blitz in rolling out its new Iraq plan. The article makes it clear that the administration faces a tough sell, from both a newly energized Congress and the angry public that propelled them into power. The WP's Michael Abramowitz has the best details on the actual plan to be presented, including a determination by U.S. commanders (and their Iraqi partners) to confront the Mehdi Army loyal to Moqtada Al Sadr, but without necessarily conducting operations in Sadr City, the militia's Baghdad base of operations. Abramowitz is careful to note that while the plan is for Iraqi units to take the lead, past precedent has demonstrated that this is rarely the case. The article also has several reactions from Republican Senators briefed on the plan at the White House on Monday. David Jackson's story in USA Today draws mainly on Tony Snow's Monday press conference announcing the speech. The article also runs down the well-known positions staked out by Congressional democrats to the new plan's expected contents.

USA Today has a package of stories based on a poll taken on U.S. attitudes toward Iraq and other issues currently facing the country. Only 36 percent of respondents approve of sending more U.S. troops to Iraq, expected to be the centerpiece of President Bush's new strategy in Iraq, to be announced Wednesday at 9 pm EST. Nearly three-quarters said that Bush does not have a clear plan for success in Iraq. The country has also emerged as the most important issue to be dealt with by political leaders, after years in which Iraq and terrorism shared top billing.

In the WSJ, Neal King Jr. and Greg Jaffe offer a well-reported outline of the worst-case scenario of regional war if the U.S. president's most recent plan for Iraq fails. In order to preclude such a scenario's taking place, the U.S. is strengthening already strong military ties with Persian Gulf allies, and is considering sending a second carrier group into the Gulf. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations are also preparing their own defenses.

NEW YORK TIMES

John Burns chronicles the bone-chilling audio tapes believed to be Saddam Hussein in which the executed dictator describes the effects of a gas attack on civilian populations. The tapes were played in an Iraqi court as part of the trial of Iraqi officials for crimes committed against Kurds in Anfal.

Jeff Zeleny reports disarray in the Democratic caucus over how to proceed on Iraq. Senator Ted Kennedy plans to introduce legislation Tuesday that would require new authorization for any troop increase. Others, mindful of their future electoral approach, are urging an approach that cannot be construed as undermining U.S. troops.

An unsigned editorial urges President Bush to tell the truth about Iraq, and level with the public about past strategic blunders.

WASHINGTON POST

Joshua Partlow writes a new chapter in the story of Aiham Al Samarraie, the U.S. citizen-turned-Iraqi electricity minister-turned-prisoner-turned-escapee. Al Samarriaie's most recent plans, announced during a press conference in the United Arab Emirates, include a return to the U.S., despite being a wanted man in Iraq. The article also includes a rundown of violence on Sunday and Monday.

Tamara Jones tells the story of L'Angel Hardgrove and her husband Mike as he prepares to deploy to Iraq. The story of the couple's final days together and his ultimate departure serves as an important reminder of the lives disrupted by the war, and the stoicism of those that serve and their loved ones.

Columnist Sally Quinn has an emotional column urging President Bush not to send more troops to Iraq. Quinn's column's strength comes from her reckoning of the war in terms of personal suffering and anguish.

USA TODAY

See above.

WALL STREET JOURNAL

Yochi Dreazen profiles J.D. Crouch, a mid-level aide that has had an outsized influence on the expected increase in troops. Despite confirming him as assistant secretary of defense in 2001, some Democrats decry Crouch as an ideologue.

David Rogers outlines Representative John Murtha's plans to challenge President Bush's expected troop increase.Murtha plans to hold hearings to determine whether the proposed increase will stretch the military too thin, leaving the force too weak to handle other challenges.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

Patrik Johnson reports from Hinesville, GA on U.S. troops from the Third Infantry Division as they ready for their third tour of duty in Iraq. The article is especially important in noting the physical and mental stresses attendant to long deployments overseas.

Daily Column
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.

Daily Column
Bodies Strung Up From Lampposts; "Surge or Power Failure?"
By EASON JORDAN 01/07/2007 02:18 AM ET
Read on to learn about the “the most competitive guy in the world” and the inspiring Arlington Ladies.

The imminent Iraq “surge” of U.S. forces is topic one in the two big east coast papers. Reports say the plan, to be detailed by President Bush in a TV address Wednesday or Thursday, is still taking shape but is coming into focus.

The New York Times’s David Sanger tops his page one report with word the plan will add as many as 20,000 troops in Iraq and provide as much as $1 billion for an Iraqi jobs program. While the NY Times notes doubts even within the Bush administration about the plan, the Washington Post's page one "surge" story highlights in its first graph "growing skepticism inside and outside the administration" regarding the Iraq plan. The Post story is written by a troika: Michael Abramowitz, Robin Wright, and Ann Scott Tyson.

NEW YORK TIMES

In a late dispatch that missed the early edition of the Times, Marc Santora reports on fierce fighting in Baghdad, with bodies being strung up from lampposts.

On page one, Sabrina Tavernise reports on residents of one block in Baghdad still reeling more than a year after 34 neighborhood boys were killed by a suicide bomber as the kids were collecting candy from U.S. troops. Family members and other neighborhood residents remain shattered. A horror-of-war report that’s a must-read.

In a report taking a full inside page of the paper, John Burns provides the back story and the ugly details regarding the lead up to the hanging of Saddam Hussein. U.S. officials fought a losing battle with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki to delay the execution for at least a few days. The fascinating story is reported by Burns, James Glanz, Sabrina Tavernise, and Marc Santora.

Playing catch up after being scooped on the story by the Washington Post yesterday, the Times's Paul von Zielbauer reports on the voluminous evidence compiled against the Marines charged in the 2005 killing of 24 Iraqi civilian in Haditha.

In the Week in Review section, Mary Jo Murphy provides an interesting history of executions of deposed rulers.

Perhaps the most educational read in the Times consumes most of page five of the Week in Review section: a series of big graphics headlined, "The Ever Mutating Iraq Insurgency."

In his weekly column, Frank Rich brands Bush's "surge" scheme a "flimflam," dismisses Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki as beholden to his "puppet master" Moqtada al Sadr, and closes with this thought: "Our long national nightmare in Iraq, far from being over, is about to get a second wind." Oh, yes, Rich says let’s call the “surge” what it is: an “escalation.”

Columnist David Brooks says the only way to make the "surge" work is to divide Iraq along sectarian and ethnic lines and to have U.S. forces ensure they stay apart.

A Times editorial denounces Bush, saying in part: “he seems to have interpreted his party’s drubbing as a mandate to keep pursuing his fantasy of victory in Iraq.”

WASHINGTON POST

Rick Atkinson writes a superb profile of David Petraeus, who will soon take on the unenviable task of leading U.S. forces in Iraq. Atkinson knows Petraeus well – they spent months together in 2003 when Atkinson was embedded with Petraeus’s 101st Airborne -- and it shows here. Atkinson reports that Petraeus in 2003 often wondered aloud: “Tell me how this ends” in Iraq. Now it’s up to Petraeus to play a key role in answering the question. One acquaintance describes Petraeus as “the most competitive guy in the world,” but many who admire him says even the best general might not be able to ensure victory in Iraq.

Following up on his Saturday exclusive on the Pentagon’s probe into the 2005 Haditha incident in which Marines killed two dozen Iraqi civilians, Josh White reports military investigators uncovered dozens of gruesome photos of the aftermath of the killings.

From Baghdad, Joshua Partlow reports on Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki promising to move ahead with a non-sectarian campaign against "outlaws" in Baghdad.

From Washington, Shailagh Murray reports on Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman irking fellow Democrats by calling for more U.S. troops in Iraq – not a new position but one that prompts raised eyebrows among many.

Brigid Schulte profiles the Arlington Ladies - heroic women who volunteer to be attend each and every burial at Arlington Cemetery. This is a moving story.

A Washington Post editorial questions whether it's smart for there to be an Iraq "surge," while not coming out explicitly against the idea.

The Post features at least three Iraq-focused commentaries that are unavailable via the Post’s Web site because of an apparent technical glitch (as of 145am et). The first is by John McCain. It’s headed “The Case for More Troops.” An op-ed by George Will is headed “Surge or Power Failure?” And columnist Jim Hoagland’s piece is headlined “Clarity in Iraq, and Beyond.”

In the book review section, Pamela Constable reviews the book "FROM BAGHDAD, WITH LOVE, A Marine, the War, and a Dog Named Lava." The booked was written by Marine Lt. Col. Jay Kopelman, who snagged an abandoned puppy in Iraq and conspired with a cast of characters to overcome the odds and get the dog to the United States.

USA TODAY

Dark Sundays.

WALL STREET JOURNAL

Dark Sundays.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

Dark Sundays.

Daily Column
As the U.S. Nears Iraq "Surge" -- Or Is it "Escalation"?
By EASON JORDAN 01/06/2007 02:00 AM ET
Today’s papers feature first-rate reporting – hard news, an illuminating scoop, analysis, a newsmaker profile, and a compelling enterprise report.

The New York Time provides the best hard news reporting and analysis, while the Washington Post scores with an exclusive: details from the Pentagon’s multi-thousand-page report based on the U.S. military’s probe into the U.S. Marine killings in Haditha in 2005. The Wall Street Journal steps up with a strong up-close-and-personal story headlined “How Do You Repay A Hero’s Sacrifice?”

NEW YORK TIMES

From Washington, correspondent Michael Gordon provides insight into the appointment of David Petraeus as the top general in Iraq. Among the reasons why: Petraeus and his top deputy in Iraq, Ray Odierno, support the troop surge strategy, unlike current top Iraq general George Casey, and outgoing Centcom commander John Abizaid.

Scott Shane profiles Ryan Crocker, the diplomat nominated as the next U.S. ambassador to Iraq. Crocker is a widely-respected Arabic-speaker and a veteran of such hot spots as Iraq (2003), Lebanon, Kuwait, Syria, and Lebanon.

David Sanger and Jeff Zeleny report on Democratic leaders in the Senate and House urging President Bush to plot a drawdown of U.S. troops in Iraq, not send more troops there.

From Beirut, Hassan Fattah reports on how many Arabs now view Saddam Hussein as a martyr. A key line from the story’s second graph: “Mr. Hussein has emerged as a Sunni Arab hero who stood calm and composed as his Shiite executioners tormented and abused him.”

From Paris, Elaine Sciolino reports on President Chirac, saying “the war in Iraq has sparked upheavals that have yet to show their full effects.” Chirac says France was right to oppose the war from the outset.

From Middle Grove, New York, Fernanda Santos reports on a local woman who has spent years planting small yellow flags to symbolize each of the U.S. military personnel who have died in Iraq – now more than 3,000 flags dotting a hillside.

Columnist Maureen Dowd provides a typically snarky commentary attacking Bush, McCain and others who believe the war in Iraq can be won. She even attacks anti-war Democrats, saying “They’re predetermined to want to have it both ways: not to be blamed for the war and not to blamed for pulling the plug on the war.”

WASHINGTON POST

The Washington Post lumps its wide-ranging but comparatively thin Iraq-related hard news reporting into a page one story authored by Peter Baker and Robin Wright. The headline: Pelosi, Reid Urge Bush To Begin Iraq Pullout,” with this sub-headline: “President Considering Three ‘Surge’ Options.” The story also covers key Iraq-related military leadership changes (short shrift, in my view). An interesting nugget in the story: Democrats intend to ratchet up their verbal spat with Republicans about the term “surge.” Democrats say they believe the idea of sending thousands of more U.S. troops to Iraq is more accurately described as an “escalation.” The Washington Post correspondents use the two terms without attribution and interchangeably in this story (it will be interesting to see how other news organizations deal with this issue).

The scoop of the day is Josh White’s page one story headlined “Death in Haditha: Eyewitnesss Accounts in Report Indicate Marines Gunned Down Unarmed Iraqis in the Aftermath of a Roadside Bombing in 2005.” The story is rich in detail, quoting extensively from the exhaustive Pentagon report on the incident. Four Marines have been changed in the killings, and four more Marine officers have been charged with not investigating the episode with proper vigor. All the Marines have proclaimed their innocence. One defense attorney is quoted in the story as being livid that the Pentagon’s report (not designated for public distribution) fell into the hands of the Washington Post.

From Baghdad, Joshua Partlow reports Iraqi Shia leaders look forward to U.S. Ambassador Khalilzad leaving that post (he's reported to be Bush's nominee as ambassador to the U.N.) because they view Khalilzad, a Sunni, as too friendly with Iraqi Sunni leaders.

WALL STREET JOURNAL

Michael Phillips reports from Eureka, California on the plight of two Marines – one killed in Iraq, one survivor of the deadly incident – and their mothers and how the surviving Marine and their families have been shaken yet brought together through tragedy. The family of the heroic dead Marine will be honored at the White House next week.

On the commentary page, there’s an editorial lambasting Cindy Sheehan as anti-American disgrace for her bizarre, extreme statements that go far beyond calling on the U.S. government to bring home all the U.S. troops from Iraq.

USA TODAY

Dark on weekends.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

Dark on weekends.

Daily Column
Dems to Challenge Bush; Video Caper Still Unresolved
By SETH SMITH 01/05/2007 01:56 AM ET
Staffing Changes Dominated Friday News

NEW YORK TIMES

Sheryl Gay Stolberg got confirmation that Zalmay Khalilzad, currently U.S. ambassador to Iraq, is headed to the U.N. Ryan Crocker, ambassador to Pakistan, will replace Khalilzad in Baghdad.

Michael R. Gordon and Thom Shanker write up changes in military command while also providing new details about the expected increase in troop numbers. Lt. General David Petraeus will succeed General Casey as top military commander in Iraq. Admiral William J. Fallon will replace General John P. Abizaid as head of Central Command. On the troop front, the current expectation is a doubling of troops undertaking security operations in Baghdad, as well as additional troops in Anbar province.

Mark Mazetti and David Sanger have lots of hand-wringing about John Negroponte's move from director of national intelligence to deputy secretary of state. Negroponte is expected to focus on Iraq, along with China and North Korea, in his new post. Scott Shane has the obligatory profile of John McConnell, Negroponte's expected successor as DNI.

Marc Santora and Johan Spanner give an account of the gritty aftermath of a bombing Thursday in Baghdad's Mansour neighborhood. The story is a welcome corrective to the many days when U.S. newspapers report both U.S. and Iraqi but primarily Iraqi casualties as statistics rather than as very real human tragedies.

Jeff Zeleny and Helene Cooper have several prominent Republican Senators denouncing the circumstances surrounding Saddam Hussein's hanging. All agree that the execution's aftermath will further inflame sectarian tensions.

An unsigned editorial hopes that John Negroponte will be more effective in conveying the realities on the ground in Iraq as deputy secretary of state than he was as ambassador to Iraq.

Op-Ed Contributor Slavoj Zizek writes about Saddam Hussein's history of authoritarian rule, noting that his greatest crime, invading Iran, is rarely brought up in the West since the West was arming him throughout that war.

WASHINGTON POST

Robin Wright and Michael Abramowitz have a run-down of President Bush's expected new appointments, and details about next week's expected unveiling of a new strategy. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki will likely promise an additional 4,500 Iraqi troops to secure Baghdad, along with the new U.S. troop commitment. The article also plays up continuing divisions between the White House, Congress and the Joint Chiefs, with some among the latter two doubting the wisdom of a troop increase. Another source of tension, this time within the White House, centers on the question of the Shiite-led government's ability to fashion a political settlement.

Glenn Kessler interviewed Senator Joe Biden, who says that senior administration officials, possibly including Vice President Dick Cheney, believe that Iraq is a lost cause, but want to prolong the war so that the next U.S. administration has to deal with the inevitable fallout. The article also serves as a primer for hearings on Iraq that Biden plans to conduct as he takes up the gavel as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Karen DeYoung and Walter Pincus have a number of senior officials saying that Negroponte's move to State has less to do with concerns about intel reform and everything to do with filling an important position at the State Department. The duo also gets several lawmakers on the record with reactions to the move, as well as speculation on further personnel moves lower down in the bureaucracy.

Sudarsan Raghavan has the latest on the Iraqi government investigation into the Saddam Hussein hanging video.Two guards have now been arrested, though it is unclear whether they are in addition to the previously reported arrest. The article also includes a rundown of the Thursday's violence.

Columnist Eugene Robinson urges Democrats to stay focused on challenging President Bush's Iraq policy, which he Robinson believes is woefully inadequate.

Columnist Charles Krauthammer, a leading supporter of the war, denounces the trial and hanging of Saddam Hussein in the strongest possible terms. Krauthammer also appears to have lost faith in the Shiite-led government, and advocates foregoing a troop increase if one only means furthering the Maliki government's sectarian agenda.

Columnist E.J. Dionne writes that Democrats have few options available to stop President Bush's apparent plan to increase troop levels, but outlines steps that many Democrats, particularly in the Senate, are planning as a way of limiting Bush's options.

USA TODAY

For your one-stop shopping needs, Susan Page and David Jackson have a quick summary of all the impending high-level executive branch staff changes.

Matt Kelley and Richard Willing point out that Negroponte's expected successor, John McConnell, has been a leader in the privatization of intelligence gathering. Booz Allen, the company by which McConnell is currently employed, is a leading intelligence contractor.

An unsigned editorial continues the boomlet of stories concerning the Iraqi refugee crisis. The editors suggest that President Bush use next week's announcement of a new strategy to focus world attention on Iraq's refugees, in part to avoid their becoming the 21st century's equivalent to the Palestinian diaspora.

WALL STREET JOURNAL

Jay Solomon and Robert Block have an interesting angle on the recent spate of appointments, writing that the ascension of Admiral McConnell to DNI means that all Washington's top spy agencies will be headed by former military men. Outsiders worry that McConnell's background at the Pentagon will leave him overly beholden to political prerogatives like fighting wars and less interested in long-term efforts to develop U.S. intel capacity.

Yochi J. Dreazen and Greg Jaffe write that President Bush will request billions in additional funds, in part to fund "moderate" political parties, during next week's Iraq speech. Most of the new money will go directly to the Iraqis rather than being routed through U.S.-based contractors, according to the administration.

Guest columnists Dan Senor and Roman Martinez cheerlead the decision to send more troops to Iraq, as well as offering their advice on personnel and other topics. They appear to advocate for more than 50,000 new troops to be added.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

Peter Grier examines proposals for partitioning Iraq if no other political or military solution succeeds. The article does a decent job of presenting the two best-known partition plans, associated with Joe Biden and Michael O'Hanlon respectively. But fails to discuss options for Baghdad, by all accounts the most difficult city to partition.

Daily Column
Controversy Swirls, Accusations Fly, Explanations Abound
By AMER MOHSEN 01/05/2007 01:21 AM ET
Al-Quds al-`Arabi headlined: “The Sadr Current: Al-Rubai`i distributed the video of Saddam’s execution”. Al-Quds quoted the American-funded Radio Sawa that broadcast a report where ‘sources’ in the Sadr Current revealed the circumstances in which the video was distributed. The Sadrists told the radio station that a bodyguard of al-Rubai`i handed them the smuggled execution video. Questions were looming about the identity of the person who leaked the video, apparently shot with a cell phone; al-Rubai`i (the National Security Advisor) had denied having shot the clips and rumors (according to al-Quds al-`Arabi) are that al-Rubai`i blamed one of his bodyguards for the deed. The mishaps that clouded the process of Saddam’s execution seem to be complicating the execution of his half-brother Barazan (ex-chief of the Iraqi Intelligence) and `awwad al-Bandar (head of the Iraqi Revolutionary Court under Saddam), who were both sentenced to death in the Dujail trial as well.

While both prisoners are expected to be executed on Sunday, Al-Sharq al-Awsat reported that al-Bandar and Barazan were scheduled for execution Thursday morning (yesterday), but that the reactions to Saddam’s video and pressures on al-Maliki government led to the delay. Al-Hayat interviewed the prisoners’ lawyer, `isam al-Ghazzawi, who met with his clients and described their reaction to the news of Saddam’s death. According to al-Ghazawi, Barazan and al-Bandar were told that they would be hanged along with Saddam, but were surprised that their execution was delayed. Al-Ghazawi also said that Barazan knew of the execution of his half-brother and of his ‘firmness’ in his last moments. The lawyer also met with Taha Yaseen Ramadan (the ex-vice president) and Tariq `azeez (ex-vice prime minister), al-Ghazawi reported that both Ramadan and `azeez ‘cried continuously’ over their lost comrade during the meeting, and that Tariq `Azeez said that he was ‘proud to have worked along with Saddam for all these years’.

Meanwhile, members of the Iraqi government defended the process of Saddam’s execution. Al-Sharq al-Awsat said that Sadiq al-Rukabi, the political advisor of PM al-Maliki, denied that any insults were hurled at Saddam in his last moments. Commenting on the shouts of ‘Muqtada, Muqtada’ that were heard in the video, al-Rukabi said that the guards are from the ‘Shi`a South’ and that they habitually shout the name of Muqtada at the end of their prayers. Al-Rukabi added that the smuggled video was misleading and caused an unnecessary controversy; he told reporters that a prison guard accused of taping the video has been apprehended. Muaffaq al-Rubai`i made contradictory statements -according to al-Sharq al-Awsat-, Al-Rubai`i told the New York Times that he felt ‘ashamed’ and that what occurred was ‘unacceptable and revolting’. But the newspaper said that al-Rubai`i had told CNN that ‘no insults’ were shouted during the execution, al-Rubai`i said “Where was the humiliation? The shouting of the crowd? They were simply praying...I do not see what is insulting about that”, he also added in his CNN interview that he ‘felt proud’ after the execution, also, commenting on the fact that some of those present were dancing around the body of the ex-president, al-Rubai`i told CNN “It is an Iraqi tradition. They were dancing around the body to express their feelings, what is problematic about that?”.

In al-Sharq al-Awsat, Sameer `atallah likened ‘al-Maliki’s executions’ to the executions of Castro in the early years of the Cuban revolution, and the Khomeinist executions of the ex-SAVAK operatives and Saddam’s ‘executions’ after his advent to power. `Atallah critiqued the process of the trial and those who ‘justified’ the execution, adding –sarcastically- that Muqtada al-Sadr has become ‘the Human Rights Symbol of the New Iraq’. `Atallah’s colleague Tariq al-Hameed wrote advising the ‘Iraqi Sunnis’ to accept that they are no longer the ruling group in Iraq. He called on the Sunnis to produce new, moderate leaderships and to build bridges with ‘patriots’ from the other sects and ethnicities, reminding the Sunnis that “just as it was wrong to link the Sunnis to Saddam, it would be equally wrong to link the Shi`a to Muqtada”.

Lastly, an official committee in Libya has decided to build a statue representing Saddam Hussein on the gallows; Arab newspapers added that the statue will be placed next to the monument of `Umar al-Mukhtar (a Libyan national symbol who resisted the Italian invasion of Libya and was eventually hanged by the Italians in 1931).

Daily Column
Giving Birth in Iraq; Saddam's Last Poem; U.S. Debate Cont.
By SETH SMITH 01/04/2007 01:42 AM ET
The arrest of a guard that allegedly shot footage of Saddam Hussein's execution moves that story forward today. The NYT, continuing to dominate coverage of the story, has an Iraqi officials claiming, counterfactually, that “What has happened is not an insult or degradation,” and “There was no rush,” in attempts at damage control. The Times also says that it erred in reporting yesterday that Mowaffaq Al Rubiae was one of two people in the execution chamber with a cell phone, and that Al Rubiae did not in fact have a phone at the time. The article also raises the possibility that a guard is being forced into the role of fall guy. The WP has more on the controversy and dueling accounts from high-level Iraqi officials. USA Today has a straight report that covers little or no new ground.

The days other big story is Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte being shifted to deputy secretary of state as part of the U.S. government's overhaul of Iraq policy. Negroponte served as ambassador to Iraq June 2004-February 2005, and is expected to concentrate on Iraq policy at State. The NYT account focuses on the shift from DNI to State, with quotes from lawmakers concerned that an expected post-9/11 intelligence overhaul would falter. The WP plays the angle of Negroponte's about-face in taking the job after denying he planned to do so, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's attempts to recruit him. USA Today focuses on anger about the position of DNI itself, with policymakers complaining that it has done little to streamline intelligence. The WSJ offers a short account with no additional details.

NEW YORK TIMES

Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes about the White House's refusal to condemn the Iraqi government's conduct in the execution of Saddam Hussein. The White House decided that the execution did not “rise to the level of a presidential comment."

John F. Burns and Marc Santora write about a final poem written by Hussein in the days leading up to his execution. In the poem, Hussein portrays himself as a martyr and berates the occupation and Iraq's new ruling class.

Jeff Zeleny has a story about supposed splits in the Senate Democratic caucus, with some considering support for a short-term increase in troops. However, he found only one Senator, Carl Levin, to go on the record with very conditional support.

An unsigned editorial condemns the way Hussein was treated in the moments before his death. The editorial faults the Iraqi and U.S. governments for creating the conditions leading up to the execution, albeit for different reasons.

Guest columnist Brent Scowcroft creates a nightmare scenario of what a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq would bring.To avert such dire consequences, Scowcroft recommends greater engagement with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, peeling Syria away from Iran, and an increase in troops in Iraq.

WASHINGTON POST

Nancy Trejos writes a devastating account of the difficulties surrounding childbirth in today's Iraq, through the lens of Noor Ibrahim, an expectant mother whose baby was stillborn. Doctors leaving the country, unceasing violence and hospital closures have all contributed to a persistent sense of doom.

Jim Hoagland has a column questioning whether the current Iraqi government has the ability to maintain order countrywide if it could not maintain a semblance of decorum at Hussein's execution. To stop the situation from further deteriorating, Hoagland proposes setting " radical political goals." The one such goal offered is turning over the Green Zone to the Iraqi government.

USA TODAY

William Welch reports on countrywide commemorations of the 3,000th U.S. death in Iraq, primarily by anti-war activists.

WALL STREET JOURNAL

See introduction.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

Nothing.

Daily Column
Saddam Lionized by Arab Media, His Crimes Erased
By AMER MOHSEN 01/03/2007 11:03 PM ET
Editor's note: While virtually all Iraqi newspapers have ceased publication during the two-week-long Eid holiday, we're examining the Arab world media's coverage of Iraq. Our daily summary and critique of Iraqi newspapers will resume after the Eid holiday.

Arab Media Report January 4th

The divisions and controversies surrounding Saddam’s execution are opening the way for ‘revisionist’ histories to be written about Saddam’s bygone era. Some of these narratives try to mitigate Saddam’s atrocities and shed light on his perceived ‘accomplishments’ (usually in comparison with the current situation in Iraq) and others go as far as presenting him as a firm patriot during his rule and a symbol of resistance and sovereignty after his ousting.

Such articles are finding their way even into the pro-Saudi media, despite Saudi Arabia’s deep-seated conflicts with the Saddam regime since the early 1990s. In Al-Hayat (owned by Khalid Bin Sultan, son of the Saudi crown prince), Bilal Khubbaiz wrote on Iran and Israel’s praise of Saddam’s execution. Khubbaiz saw it as ironic that the two enemies would ‘converge’ in complimenting the execution of Saddam (the Kuwaiti government also praised the verdict, but Khubbaiz did not comment on that). He explained that seeming contradiction by the fact that “Saddam, as Iraq’s ruler was the Iron Curtain that prevented the Iranian influence from expanding into the Arab area” and at the same time “a formidable party in the Arab-Israeli conflict”.

In Saudi-owned al-Sharq al-Awsat, Salih al-Qallab (ex-minister of information in Jordan) wrote arguing against the thesis of the ‘Sunni state’ of Saddam’s Ba`th. Al-Qallab said that “...with the Shi`as ... constituting over 70% of the membership of the Ba`th, the previous regime was not the regime of the Sunnis alone...the Americans, who have proven that they do not understand the region, or its history or its people should not have been dragged behind the forces that accompanied them in their campaign against Iraq, motivated by a thirst for historic revenge...and they should not have dealt with a section of the Iraqi population as if they were the custodians of the previous regime and needed to pay the price...”.

More direct praise was showered on Saddam in the Pan-Arab al-Quds al-`Arabi; Rashad Abu Shawar wrote that Saddam “went to his death with pride and bravery, chanting for his nation and Palestine and Iraq...he called on the Iraqis for reconciliation and tolerance and resistance”. In the same newspaper, Rasheed Nini, editor-in-chief of the Moroccan ‘al-Masa’’ opened his article with the following words: “I was never an admirer of Saddam. But I will admit that I liked the man on Saturday morning, and I believe that I will love him for as long as I live”.

The web-based news agency, elaph.com, published an interview with a prominent Lebanese Arab nationalist, Ma`an Bashshour, who recalled his memories with Saddam -whom he said he had met twice in recent years- and praised his “firm patriotic spirit” and “his attachment to the independence and sovereignty of his country”.

In al-Hayat, Tawfeeq al-Madini considered Saddam’s execution a sign of “the sectarian forces extracting their strength from the occupation”. In a broader analysis of the event and its implications, `Azmi Bshara (who serves as a representative in the Israeli Knesset) wrote a long article in the same newspaper arguing that the region as a whole has a choice between “ending the politics of axes or the collapse of Sykes-Picot”. Beshara pondered on how the threat to the Arab state system originates not from Arabist and Islamist transnational currents, but from the sectarian forces that are working to disintegrate the structures of their states from within (Sykes-Picot in the Arab lexicon refers to the secret Anglo-French pact that divided the region in the aftermath of the First World War and was the founding moment for most modern Levantine states in their current borders). Bshara said that the centrifugal effects of sectarian currents are compounded by the alliances struck between these movements and the ‘political camps’ dividing the Middle East today. Bshara called on Middle Eastern powers to bridge their differences and start preparing for the prospect of a ‘post-American Middle East’. Bshara wondered why the same countries who reveled in the fall of Saddam’s regime in 2003 were protesting his execution. He considered these protests as misguided and futile, especially in that they took the form of sectarian hatred, “against ‘enemies’ who had no hand in the fall of the regime and the execution of Saddam”.

The London-based daily Az-Zaman headlined with a sensationalist title: “official admission: the militias executed Saddam”. Az-Zaman quoted a ‘source’ in the interior ministry who told Reuters that the official unit that was charged with the execution of Saddam was removed and that the execution was carried out by “militias and intruders”. Az-Zaman added that an “Iraqi official” had chanted the same chants used by ‘Abu Dar`’ before committing his sectarian killings (Abu Dar` is the nom de guerre of an Iraqi terrorist- allegedly affiliated with the Sadrist current- who is deemed responsible for committing countless sectarian assassinations, mostly against Iraqi Sunnis).

Lastly, al-`Arabiya reported on its website that a “Kuwaiti Businessman” had offered to pay “any sum necessary” to acquire the rope with which Saddam was hanged. According to al-`Arabiya, the businessman was told that the rope is currently in the possession of Muqtada al-Sadr.

Daily Column
Disturbing Cell Phone Video Stirs Heated Comments
By SETH SMITH 01/03/2007 01:50 AM ET
The New York Times and Washington Post lead with the news of an Iraqi government investigation into the conduct of several men present at the execution of Saddam Hussein. A three-man team from the SCIRI-controlled interior ministry will probe the behavior of some of the executioners, and attempt to find out who shot the cell phone video that has been downloaded to Google video shortly after the event. The NYT has yet more details on the rush to execute Hussein. In this account, unnamed U.S. officials say they attempted to slow the process. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki wanted to stick to an accelerated timetable, owing to concerns that Sunni insurgents would attempt to free Hussein after he was handed over to the Iraqis. The article also offers the allegation that one of the two men with a cell phone camera was National Security Advisor Dr. Muwaffaq Al Rubaie. The WP story has few additional details.

World reaction to Hussein’s hanging also gets prominent play. The NYT reports on controversy at the United Nations, caused by the new Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s refusal to condemn the execution. The Sec-General deferred to individual member-states in deciding whether the death penalty was appropriate, despite U.N. policy opposing the death penalty.The WP has a similar account that also includes details of jockeying for position among member states for new positions opening up with the departure of Kofi Annan. The NYT also has British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott’s reaction to the Hussein execution video.In an interview with the BBC, Prescott called the actions of some attendees “deplorable,” but refused to directly criticize Iraq’s government.

NEW YORK TIMES Edward Wong has an interesting story about attempts to bring a U.S.-style university in the northern city of Suleimaniya. The decision to build in Kurdistan has inspired some animosity in Baghdad, with the university being portrayed as a Kurdish rather than Iraqi project. Nonetheless, it looks set to break ground this Spring.

WASHINGTON POST Columnist David Ignatius urges the U.S. to accept as refugees more Iraqis that risked their lives working with the occupation. Comparing potential Iraqi refugees with those that fled Vietnam after the fall of Saigon. Ignatius hopes that Iraqis offered sanctuary in the U.S. could someday become the avatars of that country’s economic and social revival.

USA TODAY Susan Page and David Jackson have a story putting former president Ford's criticism of President Bush’s Iraq policy in historical context. The writers point out that criticism of a president by his predecessors is rare but not unprecedented.

WALL STREET JOURNAL

Jonathan Karp has the story of the Pentagon's expected larding of a coming supplemental bill with long-term projects usually submitted along with the regular budget. As has been the case in the past, the fact of defense contracting jobs in Congressional districts will ease the supplemental’s passage.

New Republic Editor-in-Chief Marty Peretz has a guest editorial attacking the Vatican and sundry European governments for condemning Saddam Hussein's execution while relying on spurious evidence that the French, Italian and Spanish publics supported the execution.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

An unsigned editorial urges the White House and Congress to find a consensus in their approach to Iraq policy.

Daily Column
Saddam's Execution and the Video of It Prompt War of Words
By AMER MOHSEN 01/02/2007 9:18 PM ET
Editor's note: While virtually all Iraqi newspapers have ceased publication during the two-week-long Eid holiday, we're examining the Arab world media's coverage of Iraq. Our daily summary and critique of Iraqi newspapers will resume after the Eid holiday.

Saddam’s execution is increasing Sunni-Shi`a tensions to a breaking point, not only in Iraq, but across the entire Arab World. Most observers agree that the timing and format of Saddam’s execution could not have been any worse, and editorials in Arab newspapers are trying to answer the puzzle: how could the Iraqi Government and the occupational authority manage to make a controversy out of the execution of one of the most brutal dictators the Arab World has ever known?

A telling face-off occurred today in al-Ittijah al-Mu`akis, one of the most widely watched and controversial talk shows in the Arab region, hosted by al-Jazeera’s Faysal al-Qasim. This week’s show (aired on Tuesday) was devoted to a discussion of Saddam’s execution and pitted Mish`an al-Juburi (ex-politician, currently living in exile and facing terrorism and corruption charges in Iraq) against Sadiq al-Mousawi (introduced as the head of the ‘Iraq Media Center’ –the ‘center’s’ website is currently offline). The heated episode exhibited some of the boldest sectarian language to be heard on a mainstream news channel so far. Two minutes into the episode, al-Mousawi left the studio in anger (only to return later) after al-Juburi accused him of being an ‘Iranian Safavid’ posing as an Iraqi, and showed documents that proved (according to Juburi) that Mousawi -whom Juburi charged of having changed his name- applied for Iraqi citizenship only in 2004. While al-Mousawi argued that Saddam’s execution represented the end of a hated tyrant and a rupture with a black phase in Iraq’s history; al-Juburi said that Saddam –through his execution- has become a symbol of resistance who was assassinated by the ‘Iranian enemy’. Al-Juburi added that the Iranian infiltration in Iraq through its ‘Safavid’ allies is massacring Sunnis and patriots; the episode ended with both guests exchanging insults and threats, with Mousawi accusing Juburi of inciting terrorism and Juburi calling Mousawi ‘a grandson of al-`alqami’. (A linguistic decoding is in order: ‘safavid’ (a reference to a 16th century Azeri-Turkic dynasty that ruled Iran and converted most of its population to Shi`ism) is a pejorative term used to refer to the Shi`a and accentuate their assumed ‘non-Arab’ character. The term first appeared in Alqa`ida’s literature and seems to be gaining wider usage. Likewise, ‘the grandsons of al-`Alqami’ is a pejorative term used by Sunni extremists to refer to shi`as; Mu’ayyid al-deen Ibn al-`alqami was a Shi`a Vizir of the last `Abbasid Caliph, and according to historical accounts, exaggerated by anti-Shi`a narratives, he had struck secret deals with the invading Mongol army and eased Hulagu’s sacking of Baghdad and the destruction of the `Abbasid dynasty).

In Al-Hayat, a major Pan-Arab newspaper, the liberal commentator Hazim Saghiyeh wrote calling the execution of Saddam a ‘barbaric ritual’. The ‘barbarism’ of the execution, according to Saghiya is in that the killing ‘cannot stop the injustice and aggression’ but excels in ‘resurrecting the symbolisms of the primitive mob and its instincts of revenge’. The execution, Saghiya added, is not a portal into a ‘new Iraq’, but a resurrection of ‘a very old Iraq’.

In pro-Saudi al-Sharq al-Awsat, `Abdel Rahman al-Rashid (who is also editor-in-chief of al-`Arabiya channel) said that ‘sectarian conflicts’ will be the defining character of the new year. Al-Rashid observed that in the past year sectarian tensions were so high that every event of import was analyzed through a sectarian lens. Al-Rashid saw Saddam’s execution as the latest episode in this escalation, especially with the release of the execution video which made the event look like a ‘sectarian party’.

The ‘unofficial’ video that was taken by a cell phone ‘smuggled’ into the execution chamber is causing a stir in Iraq. Az-Zaman headlined: ‘the smuggled scenes of Saddam’s execution shatter the reconciliation project’. Az-Zaman quoted Munqiz al-Far`un, the assistant public prosecutor in the Dujail trial, as saying that a ‘high ranking official’ took the short clip. The news site Elaph.com mentioned that only two ‘high ranking officials’ were in the room: Mouaffac al Rubai`i and Sami al-`Askari, al-Maliki’s political advisor. Al-`Askari admitted that ‘improprieties’ were committed during the execution, in reference to the taunting of Saddam by Sadrist guards, but said that ‘an investigation’ will be launched to address the issue.

In Al-Sharq al-Awsat, the Islamic scholar Fahmy al-Hwaidi wrote an op-ed calling for an ‘investigation into the ethnic cleansing crimes’ that are ‘currently being committed in Iraq’. Al-Hwaidi said that an investigation should be carried out to determine those responsible for the extreme sectarian violence (he claimed that around a million and a half Iraqis have been killed in the ethnic cleansing campaigns so far). Al-Hwaidi lamented the sectarian tensions ravaging Iraq and the wider Arab World and the re-emergence of sectarianism as a divisive political identity. He said that he spent his life fighting against sectarian politics, but that he now finds himself in a difficult position as a moderate Sunni. He recounted saying to the ex-prime minister of Iraq, Ibrahim Al-Ja`fari, ‘what is happening in Iraq now has reminded us that we are Sunnis, after we used to see ourselves strictly as Muslims’.

AP Execs Dismiss Questions re Iraq Reporting Controversy
01/02/2007 11:21 AM ET
From Editor & Publisher
AP Again Challenged on Iraqi Source -- Continues to Stand By Reporting
By Joe Strupp, Editor & Publisher
Published: January 02, 2007 11:05 AM ET
NEW YORK A long-running dispute between The Associated Press and critics over one of its Iraqi sources show no signs of abating, despite at least two lengthy rebuttals by the news organization. The new IraqSlogger web site, founded by former CNN news chief, Eason Jordan, is out with fresh challenge, after failing to resolve the issue in its own detective work. This has not set off a new round of examination by the AP, apparently.

Kathleen Carroll, AP executive editor, told E&P today that she had not read Jordan's latest item, posted Monday, and likely would not. But she stood by the news organization's previous statements backing the existence of an Iraqi police captain, Jamail Hussein.

Click here for the rest of the E & P story.

Click here for Jordan's IraqSlogger report that prompted the AP's reaction.

Daily Column
The Toll of IEDs; Surge Debate Continues: Attack on Mutlak?
By SETH SMITH 01/02/2007 02:14 AM ET
No single event dominated coverage on Tuesday.

The day's most talked about story will undoubtedly be an NYT account by David E. Sanger, Michael R. Gordon and John F. Burns outlining the failures of the Bush administration to understand the gravity of Iraq's deterioration over the course of 2006. In a scoop likely to reverberate around Washington and Baghdad, the reporters write that General Casey's departure is expected in the near future, owing to growing unease among Bush's inner circle with strategies championed by Casey.

NEW YORK TIMES

Sabrina Tavernise and Robert Worth have a story on the small number of Iraqis that have been accepted for resettlement in the U.S., including those that have lost family members or been otherwise harmed after working for the occupation. The problem is due in part to a lack of political will in the U.S. government as well as the slow U.N. referral system, though the U.S. is not required to work through the U.N.

Sheryl Gay Stolberg has an article about Henry Kissinger's expected eulogy of Gerald Ford at his Tuesday funeral. Kissinger's return to public view comes at a time when Iraq is increasingly compared to Vietnam, a war intimately associated with the former Secretary of State.

Guest columnist John M. Shalikashvili, a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, urges a reconsideration of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on homosexuals. When Shalikashvili was Chair, he supported the policy, but is now convinced that openly gay Americans should be allowed to serve.

WASHINGTON POST

Ann Scott Tyson and Josh White consider the sacrifices of some U.S. troops in Iraq, leading to death and, in many cases, permanent disabilities, compared with the relative tranquility felt by many of those in the U.S. that have been personally unaffected by the war. The article is particularly interesting in examining the stories of wounded veterans that have returned to the U.S., and their attempts to reintegrate into their communities. In addition to the story, the Post publishes a stirring statement from the parents of Pfc. Ross McGinnis, issued after learning that their son had sacrificed his life to save the lives of four members of his unit.

Sudarsan Raghavan turns in a study of Shia Iraqis' attitudes towards the U.S. Many Shias are increasingly distrustful of U.S. intentions in Iraq, according to the article, owing to real and/or perceived slights including demands to rein in the militias and reach out to the country's Sunnis.

Nancy Trejos has the story of a Monday U.S. raid on a suspected insurgent target that ended with the death of six men working for Saleh Al Mutlak-fronted Iraqi National Dialogue Front. The Sunni-dominated coalition is against the occupation, and Mutlak, a member of parliament, believes the raid targeted his supporters.

Columnist Eugene Robinson uses the widely distributed cell phone video of Saddam Hussein's execution to examine how history will judge the Iraq war and occupation. Robinson believes that the victor's justice employed in the Hussein trial and execution will eventually be laid bare, just as the video laid bare the sectarian underpinnings of violence in Iraq.

USA TODAY

Gregg Zoroya uses the story of Pfc. Ricky Salas Jr., a soldier that lost his life in Iraq, to look at the continuing toll improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are taking on troops stationed in Iraq, and on their families and friends in the U.S.

Rick Jervis has Iraqi political leaders saying that Saddam Hussein's execution won't hurt reconciliation efforts. Jervis also points out supposed progress being made on the reconciliation front.

An unsigned editorial argues that Hussein's execution will have a limited impact on U.S. strategy as it confronts the continued instability in Iraq, along with threats from North Korea, Iran and elsewhere.

WALL STREET JOURNAL

Philip Shishkin scored an interview with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki. The PM expresses optimism that some form of accommodation for Iraq's ethno-religious groups can be reached, while also speaking of the great strain associated with his job. The article also serves as a useful primer of Al Maliki's history of anti-Baath regime activity. The online edition has excerpts of the interview.

Yochi J. Dreazen and Greg Jaffe turn in an article looking at the probable length of any increase in troops announced by President Bush.The duo stress the fact that while most analysts agree that an increase needs to be temporary, the definition of temporary is up for debate. Some politicians will only support an increase for three to six months, while others argue that such a short increase would accomplish nothing. Finally, there is the question of where the additional troops will come from, considering the fact that the military is already considered overstretched.

An unsigned editorial praises the execution of Saddam Hussein as helpful for Iraq's future. The editorial argues that Hussein's death will reassure the country's Shias while forcing its Sunnis to come to grips with the fact that Hussein will not return to power.

Guest columnist Mark Bowden argues that those proposing troop withdrawals do not have the interests of Iraqis in mind. He also argues that the U.S. remains an exception, and that sectarian and ethnic hatreds continue to have the ability to tear many countries apart.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

Nick Blandford has a meandering account of Saddam Hussein's legacy. No firm conclusions are drawn, with Blandford writing that it is unclear whether Hussein's downfall has led to a strengthening of the region's autocrats or their democratic opponents.

Brad Knickerbocker highlights the steps being taken to reduce the impact of IED attacks on US forces. The article provides useful statistics on IEDs while demonstrating that much remains to be done to counter the threat, such as increasing the number of vehicles less vulnerable to IED attacks.

Dan Murphy has a short article examining Saddam Hussein's continuing influence even in death over many Iraqis.

Time Magazine Gives Its Top Picks For 2006
01/01/2007 08:00 AM ET

In its year end feature, Time magazine talks about the White House's discounting of the Iraqi civilian casualty count in its story "The Top Ten Underreported Stories of the Year." They add that another underreported story is more U.S. troops willing to reenlist.
Daily Column
3,000th U.S. Military Death Amid Fuss About Saddam's Hanging
By EASON JORDAN 01/01/2007 01:32 AM ET
Must-read, heartbreaking stories are showcased in the New York Times and Washington Post as Americans mark the 3,000th U.S. military service member death in Iraq. The papers also feature perspective and details on the tragic milestone.

The other Iraq story receiving prominent coverage: the aftermath of Saddam Hussein's execution.

On this New Year's Day, there's no print edition of USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, or the Christian Science Monitor.

NEW YORK TIMES

Lizettte Alvarez and Andrew Lehren provide a special report on the 3,000 U.S. service member deaths in Iraq. They provide brief profiles of several of those killed, and they note the death toll includes 91 self-inflicted wounds and hundreds of accidents. The most enlightening stats in the story: while 30 percent of those wounded in World War Two died from their wounds, and 24 percent did so in Vietnam, the percentage of wounded in Iraq who went on to die from those wounds is much smaller - 9 percent. That's mostly because of better body and vehicle armor and because wounded troops on average receive medical treatment far faster than they did in previous conflicts.

Surely many readers will be moved to tears by New York Times correspondent Dana Canedy's account of her fiancée's October 14 death in Iraq and the 200-page journal he left behind for their son, Jordan, who was seven months old when First Sgt. Charles Monroe Johnson was killed. Canedy quotes extensively from the journal.

From Baghdad, John Burns and Marc Santora provide a fascinating account of the clashes between U.S. officials and Iraqi leaders regarding the Iraqi leadership's rush to execute Saddam Hussein. Iraqi officials are said to have rebuffed repeated pleas from U.S. diplomats to delay the execution until after the Muslim Eid holiday. This story also includes details of Saddam Hussein's body being moved to his hometown near Tikrit.

Also from Baghdad, Sabrina Tavernise reports on the outrage among many Sunnis who view Saddam's execution as sloppy, rushed victor's justice. This story and the Burns-Santora report make clear that the way in which the execution was carried out, with such haste to kill Saddam during a religious holiday and Shia witnesses taunting Saddam in his noose, will heighten rather than alleviate sectarian tension, at least in the near-term.

TV critic Bill Carter writes of U.S. TV news executives struggling with whether and how to televise the grainy, uncensored cellphone-shot video of Saddam's actual execution. No U.S. TV network aired the video in its entirety, while it could be found in full on dozens of Web sites.

WASHINGTON POST

From Baghdad, Nancy Trejos reports on the U.S. death toll in Iraq reaching 3,000. The far more detailed NY Times story is a much better and more enlightening read.

The Washington Post provides a moving up-close-and-personal story on page one headlined: "Cold Ground for a Summer of Love, Arlington Shelters the Memories of a Young Virginia Marine's Romance." It's the story of teen lovers, Kira Wolf and Colin Joseph Wolfe, whose relationship was cut short when he was killed in Iraq and buried at Arlington Cemetery on September 11. She visits his grave often. Sandhya Somashekhar writes the story.

From Baghdad, Sudarasan Raghavan reports on mourners flocking to Saddam Hussein's coffin in his home village near Tikrit. Saddam loyalists vowed vengeance.

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