Today's Papers

To Angola, With Love

The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times lead with White House preparing for the upcoming U.S.-sponsored resolution at the U.N. Security Council authorizing military action against Iraq. The NYT stresses President Bush’s comment that even if Iraq agreed to destroy its long-range missiles that would only be “the tip of the iceberg.” The LAT underlines U.N. Security Council arithmetic: The Bush administration is courting the nine votes it needs from the council’s 15 members (assuming no vetoes) to pass its resolution. The Washington Post leads local, saying that heavy rain caused a number of roofs to collapse in the D.C. region. No serious injuries were reported.

According to the NYT lead story, the concern among Bush administration officials is that if Saddam Hussein complies with Hans Blix’s demand that Iraq get rid of its long-range missiles, France will argue that weapons inspections are working. Bush’s “tip of the iceberg” remarks yesterday meant to cut off that argument before it starts, the paper says.

The papers agree that the U.S. has four Security Council votes, including its own, sewn up. (Britain, Spain, and Bulgaria, have pledged support.) Germany and Syria both oppose the resolution, with three countries—France, Russia, and China—threatening to veto. Should those countries abstain or vote negative, the U.S. will need to round up support from five of the following six countries: Guinea, Mexico, Pakistan, Angola, Cameroon, and Chile. The LAT quotes an unnamed diplomat who says the U.S. is accomplishing this through “a little bit of political blackmail,” arguing that any country that votes against the resolution could find itself on the “wrong side” of the issue when the war happens anyway.

The NYT fronts word from a classified F.B.I. intelligence bulletin (issued on Wednesday to state and local law enforcement agencies) that authorities should be on the lookout for “lone terrorists,” who might strike American targets on the spur of the moment.

The papers all front follow-ups stories about the Rhode Island nightclub fire that killed 96 people late Thursday night. Eighty-one people remain hospitalized, 25 in critical condition. Of those killed, only 15 bodies have been identified, while the rest are said to be burned beyond recognition. One of the nightclub owners, Jeff Derderian, made his first public appearance, during which he broke down in tears. Derderian insists he had no knowledge that the band, Great White, would use pyrotechnics, a claim the band and its management dispute.

The WP fronts news that the teenage girl, Jesica Santillan, who was given mismatched organs during transplant surgery last week, died at the age of 17 yesterday, after suffering brain damage following the second surgery. The paper documents the drama at the last seconds when the hospital offered, and then withdrew, life support. Jesica’s parents wanted a second medical opinion before their daughter was taken off life support. “The family was very distraught,” said their lawyer Kurt Dixon. “The family does not want to remove Jesica from life support. As you might expect, Jesica’s family … [is] devastated by this tragic turn of events.” The paper also quotes a medical ethics expert who questions whether Santillan should have received the second set of organs after her chances of survival were deemed low.

The NYT fronts news that the International Atomic Energy Agency went to Iran this week and were shown a network of sophisticated machinery used to enrich uranium. The paper says the concern is that Iran is making headway in its suspected program to develop nuclear weapons. The NYT writes: “The new information on Iran’s program comes at an awkward time for the Bush administration, which is making final military preparations for a potential American-led invasion to topple the government of Saddam Hussein, an action justified partly on grounds that Iraq is seeking to develop nuclear weapons.” Both the WP and the LAT stuff stories about energy inspections within Iran, but both stress a conclusion-changing detail that the NYT neglects to note: reaction from the IAEA about what they are seeing, or word that Iran is cooperating. “Tehran’s progress is impressive,” said IAEA Director General ElBaradei, calling Iran’s stated plans to share certain information a “welcome measure of transparency.”

Another story inside the LAT says that most Iranians are “eager” for Saddam Hussein to be ousted from power. Some think that a U.S. military presence next door could accelerate political change in Iran. The paper even goes as far as to say that when local papers there suggest Washington’s resolve may be wavering, anxiety sets in. Says a 23-year-old Iranian student at a cafe, “Can they hurry up with Iraq already, so they can get on with attacking us?”