The Washington Post, Wall Street Journalworld-wide newsbox, and Los Angeles Times all lead with the U.S.’s floating of another revised draft Security Council resolution; this one sets a date, Dec. 15, for Iraq’s Governing Council to come up with a timeline for holding elections and creating a constitution. USA Today leads with an Iraq wrap-up, headlining, “SADDAM TRACKED TO TIKRIT.” That’s based on this less than air-tight assertion by a field officer: “We have clear indication [Saddam] has been here recently. He could be here right now. At the least, he is maintaining a strong influence in the area.” The WP, which stuffs Saddam’s potential spotting, quotes a military spokesman as saying that the officer cited above “spoke out of turn.” Also, three GIs were killed in attacks yesterday in Iraq. The New York Times’ lead says Senate and House negotiators are considering imposing co-payments on Medicare-provided home care, which the Times says is one of the few remaining Medicare benefits for which users don’t have to shell out anything. The co-charge would be $40 to $45 for each 60 days of care, about 1.5 percent of the total cost.
The WP gets all excited about the U.S. proposal, calling it the U.S.’s “final” offer and saying it includes a “series of concessions.” Yet besides the deadline for setting deadlines, the resolution’s only other “concession” is language that gets kinda metaphysical: Iraq’s Governing Council, the proposal says, “will embody the sovereignty of the State of Iraq.” As one administration official told the NYT, “embody” does not “mean that the Governing Council would actually exercise control over Iraq’s affairs.” (Brain-twister: Try to reconcile that with the WP’s subhead, “In Bid For Aid, U.S. Moves Give Iraqis More Control.”)
The NYT plays it smarter. Going inside with the resolution, it concludes that there are only “small changes.” The Journal is also skeptical, saying up high that the proposal doesn’t include “an end to Washington’s control of Iraq.”
The LAT wonders what the loosey language “embody” would really means for the Governing Council: “Could it renegotiate Iraq’s debt or receive international loans? Could it refuse to accept Turkish troops on Iraqi soil, as some Governing Council members desire? Could it end the occupation?” Or perhaps, the paper says, the reference is a “just a linguistic twist to finesse council members’ demands.”
Thankfully, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Negroponte cleared things up. “We make a distinction between the concept of sovereignty on the one hand and the exercise of specific authorities and governmental functions,” he said.
Everybody says diplomats gave the revised resolution a lukewarm response. “It is a little bit easier for us to live with than previous versions,” one U.N. official told the Post. The LAT says the White House wants the Security Council to vote on it tomorrow or Thursday.
A front-page piece in the NYT says that military officials think most weapons used in guerrilla attacks have come from largely unguarded Saddam-era weapons dumps. “There are more sites than we can guard,” said one military official. “We are destroying them as fast as we can, but we are finding more and more every day.” The Times says even one of the largest sites isn’t guarded around the clock—and officials think guerrillas are still slinking around and stealing weapons from there. An American contractor is set to start destroying the dumps—in December.
The WSJ notes that the Bush administration has given the Pentagon authority for overseeing rebuilding contracts in Iraq; the State Department had been responsible for that.
In a kind of double story, the Post, citing unnamed Arab, European, and U.S. intel officials, says on Page One that Iran is harboring a “small group” of al-Qaida officials, including one of Osama’s sons who has moved up the AQ ladder. The paper says the men are harbored by something called the Jerusalem Force “an elite, radical Iranian security force loyal to the nation’s clerics and beyond the control of the central government.” In a background piece the WP runs inside, the paper says AQ men first met with Jerusalem Force leaders about a decade ago and were given refuge after the Tora Bora battle of 2001.
Instead of highlighting the startling details of Iran’s harboring, the WP headlines, “BIN LADEN SON PLAYS KEY ROLE IN AL QAEDA.” That’s an odd choice, especially given that, as the article acknowledges, there’s no consensus on how powerful the kid is. One U.S. intelligence official said the son is “more of a player than most of the offspring, but not that significant.” Oh, and even if the son’s apparent rise is legit, it’s old news.
Back to the NYT’s weapons dump piece, the latter half of which has an assortment of goodies, including, “Intelligence agencies have also picked up conversations between Wahhabi Muslims from Saudi Arabia and Iraqi Baathists loyal to Hussein.” As the Times mentions, that’s one of the first times that Saudi militants have been linked to Baathists. Also, citing an “allied official,” the Baghdad-datelined article mentions that the military has “found no evidence of any involvement here by al-Qaida.” Just wondering: Given the White House’s repeated and recent claims of an AQ-Iraq connection, might the fact that that search is coming up empty deserve more than a sentence in the 20th paragraph?