The New York Times leads with a postwar wrap-up highlighting President Bush’s statement that “victory in Iraq is certain, but it is not complete.” The Times also goes high with the administration’s first concrete move against Syria, which it has accused of harboring Iraqi officials: It cut off a big oil pipeline that runs between Syria and Iraq. The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times lead with yesterday’s meeting in Nasiriyah of Iraqi exiles and other potential leaders. The LAT sticks with the meeting itself, which ended with a 13-point, mostly bland, statement that came out against looting and violence and, more significantly, called for the creation of a “federal system” in Iraq. The WP emphasizes what happened right outside the meeting: Thousands of Shiites (20,000 by the NYT’s count) protested, chanting, “No No Saddam, No No United States.” The Post says “dozens of uninvited political figures” denounced the meeting. USA Today leads with the capture in Baghdad of Abu Abbas, leader of a Palestinian terror group that hijacked the Achille Lauro cruise ship in 1985 and murdered an American, wheelchair-bound passenger Leon Klinghoffer.
The WP’s Keith Richburg explains the genesis of the protest outside Nasiriyah. A leader of a “shadowy” radical Shiite group returned from exile yesterday and pumped up a crowd of his supporters, who want an Islamic state. Another informative piece inside the Post gives an overview of the various, often competing, Shiite opposition groups—most of whom are opposed to the U.S.’s occupation. “This is going to get worse before it gets better,” said one analyst. “U.S. government officials are cognizant of these issues but don’t understand them.”
It’s not exactly clear what’s going to happen to Abbas. Back in the 1980s, he was charged in connection with the hijacking, but those charges have since expired. The Post also says Abbas tried to hoof it into Syria but wasn’t allowed in.
The NYT and LAT have dispatches from the northern city of Mosul, a stronghold of Arab nationalism, where at least 10 Iraqis were killed yesterday by Marine gunfire. Some of the details are sketchy: Everybody agrees that an angry crowd gathered outside the U.S. troops’ HQ. The Marines said people in the crowd started firing. The Iraqis said they were throwing rocks. Some in the crowd also beat up and stabbed the LAT’s correspondent Paul Watson. He’s OK—or at least healthy enough to write about it.
The NYT notices another Iraqi cultural treasure that’s been lost. The torching of the Ministry for Religious Affairs has resulted in the destruction of thousands of Qurans, several of which were a 1,000 years old. “When Baghdad fell to the Mongols in 1258, these books survived,” said a ministry official. “If you talk to any intellectual Muslims in the world, they are crying right now.”
The NYT’s John Burns reports from a loyal Baathist neighborhood in Baghdad were a dozen residents told him in separate interviews, which “varied little in their details,” that Saddam (the real one, they swear) gave a brief outdoor speech last Wednesday—a few days after U.S. intel thought he was buried under bunker-buster bombs.
The LAT says in a Page One above-the-fold piece that an Italian investigation has turned up evidence that al-Qaida and Ansar Islam-types used Syria as a key transit point, with a cell based there. But don’t bust out invasion plans just yet. The article says, after the jump, that investigators have “no evidence that the Syrian government was aware of the network.” That point doesn’t exactly make it into the headline, “PROBE LINKS SYRIA, TERROR NETWORK.”
The NYT says that North Korea has agreed to meet with U.S. and Chinese officials next week in Beijing. The Times calls it an “apparent victory for President Bush” who has insisted that any talks with Pyongyang be multilateral. It might have been more accurate to call it a compromise. Sunday’s NYT said that the U.S. was “insisting” that any talks include not only China but also Japan, Russia, and South Korea. Today’s Times also mentions that the outline for talks was settled on “before the war in Iraq started.”
The Post fronts the Bush administration’s proposed tough new restrictions for off-road diesel vehicles. The EPA estimates that the rules, which will cut the emissions by 95 percent, will prevent 9,500 premature deaths annually. Responding to industry concerns, the rules will be phased in, but environmental groups still love the move; one called it, “the most significant public health proposal in decades.”
Non Sequitur of the Month Award … The last paragraph of the Post’s piece on the captured Abu Abbas reads, “The [hijacking] incident inspired the controversial 1991 opera The Death of Klinghoffer, by composer John Adams and librettist Alice Goodman. A meditation on the cycle of martyrdom that has fueled the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis, the work was heavily criticized for its sympathetic portrayal of Palestinian characters.”