The New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times all lead with France, Russia, and Germany’s united front against an invasion of Iraq. The three countries issued a joint communiqué calling for the “substantial strengthening” of inspections. USA Today leads with the federal government’s advice that people prepare for a terrorist attack by stacking up on food and water and keeping plastic sheeting and duct tape handy in case you need to seal a room against a bio or chemical attack. The Post points out that the government has had such tips available on the Web for a while but explains this is the first time there’s been a press conference held to drive the point home. The papers mention that the feds think Jewish centers and synagogues are high on al-Qaida’s current target list.
The three countries’ statement, which was all of about 200 words and didn’t have any detail about their proposal, also included this reminder: “Russia, Germany and France note that the position they express coincides with that of a large number of countries, within the Security Council in particular.”
The Post’s lead editorial notes that even Hans Blix doesn’t seem interested in getting more inspectors. “The principal problem,” he said yesterday, “is not the number of inspectors but rather the active cooperation of the Iraqi side.” As the WP sees it, it’s now France and Germany that are threatening to undermine international institutions. The editorial is titled, “STANDING WITH SADDAM.”
Everybody’s Iraq coverage includes the latest on Turkey. As expected, the country invoked NATO’s self-defense clause, which requires member states to “consult together” whenever one of them declares that it’s under threat. So, as the rules stipulated, the various NATO ambassadors got together yesterday and consulted. Then France, Germany, and Belgium blocked Turkey’s request that NATO send it anti-aircraft missiles and other goodies. The other 16 members supported Turkey’s request. But NATO decisions require a consensus, so the talks continue. President Bush called the three countries’ position “shortsighted,” explaining, “I think it affects the alliance in a negative way when you’re not able to make a statement of mutual defense.” (Slate’s Fred Kaplan argues that it is the administration—and not France, Germany, or Belgium—that’s undermining NATO.)
The NYT’s news analysis of the NATO battle mentions that there’s not much military significance to the fight. If there’s no consensus, Turkey will just get the equipment from individual countries.
The Wall Street Journal says it looks like the U.S. and Britain will introduce a second resolution by the end of the week and it won’t include a deadline. “We’re past that,” said one U.S. official. “Iraq is in violation now.”
Everybody notes that Iraq, still trying to negotiate, agreed yesterday to U-2 overflights, a key demand that Hans Blix has made.
The Post stuffs a poll suggesting that a majority of Americans now support an invasion of Iraq even without U.N. approval. According to the Post’s numbers, 66 percent of respondents now favor an invasion, with 50 percent in favor even if the U.N. balks. President Bush’s overall job-approval rating has also climbed; it’s now at 64 percent. USAT also has a poll showing a post-Powell bump, though only 39 percent of respondents said they’re into a non-U.N. invasion.
The NYT fronts news that the head of one of the U.S.’s largest Muslim charities agreed to a plea bargain: He acknowledged that his organization surreptitiously sent money to Bosnian and Chechen fighters, but the government dropped charges that the charity was working with al-Qaida. Despite the deal, prosecutors insisted that they still have solid evidence linking the charity to AQ. But the Times gives the sense that the government didn’t have the goods.
The NYT fronts a federal appeals court’s decision that a prisoner on death row can be forced to take anti-psychotic drugs to make him sane enough to be executed.
Everybody notes up high that NASA has confirmed that it has found a piece of Columbia’s left wing. Investigators still aren’t sure exactly where it fits, but they’re pretty sure it will be an important piece of evidence.
With all the focus on Saddam, an op-ed in the WSJ by Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid checks in on Afghanistan: After a relatively large battle a few weeks ago, “hundreds of extremists are mobilizing in the Pakistani tribal belt adjacent to eastern Afghanistan, for a spring offensive calculated to coincide with a U.S. assault on Iraq.” According to Rashid, this is just one sign among many that Pakistan is now turning a blind-eye to militants in the country. “All this is part of a larger power play where Gen. Musharraf can claim to the Americans that he needs greater U.S. support because he is threatened by fundamentalists,” says Rashid. “This is a game that every Pakistani regime since the 1980s has played with Washington, and it has always worked.”