All the papers lead with the attack in Ramadi that killed perhaps a dozen U.S. Marines and wounded 20 more. The fighting began last night when several dozen Sunni Muslim insurgents, armed with RPGs and automatic weapons, raided a U.S. base at the governor’s palace roughly 60 miles west of Baghdad. Meanwhile, combat intensified in the Sunni stronghold of Fallujah, where according to the NYT, U.S. warplanes fired at houses from above while ground troops “fought block by block to flush out insurgents” who shot from windows, doorways, and rooftops. * One American GI—in what will certainly not be the last of the shades-of-Mogadishu commentary—told the Washington Post, “It seemed like everyone in the city who had a gun was out there.”
For the third straight day, rebels loyal to the young Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr mounted assaults on coalition troops across southern Iraq. In addition to yesterday’s casualties, U.S. officials revealed that five Marines were killed on Monday and that five Army soldiers have died since Sunday in attacks in Kirkuk, Mosul, and Baghdad. USA Today leads that more than 20 U.S. soldiers were killed in the first six days of April, compared to 30 in all of March and 12 in February. The LAT’s lead is equally stark, noting that the gathering opposition “presents the Bush administration with a scenario it has long feared: a loss of control over the majority Shiites, who are considered essential to an orderly hand-over of power” on June 30.
In a separate above-the-fold article, the LAT reads the fine print, so to speak, of the transfer of power and finds that the nascent Iraqi government will receive “only limited authority—a sort of sovereignty light.” As the Kennedy School’s Joseph Nye puts it, “What you have on June 30 essentially is a transformation of the CPA into an embassy. But it’s mostly in name.” Here’s the most intriguing tidbit, underplayed by the paper: The largest CIA station in the world will remain in Baghdad.
The Post fronts that Iraqi rivals formerly divided by sectarian lines are suddenly making nice and uniting against the U.S. under the banner of Islam: “On Monday, residents of Adhamiya, a largely Sunni section of northern Baghdad, marched with followers of Moqtada Sadr … whose call for armed resistance was answered by local Sunnis the same afternoon.” The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) goes inside with a similar analysis.
The NYT stuffs news that the Pentagon has put on kid gloves with regard to Sadr. Fearing that an immediate arrest could trigger widespread chaos, defense officials spoke in measured tones: “The overall goal is bigger than just bringing in Sadr. It is to calm the situation in Iraq and have all of the Shiites be part of the solution.” The WP mentions in its lead, and USAT reefers, word that Sadr moved from a fortified mosque to his office in Najaf, though only USAT draws attention to the cleric’s relative unpopularity in that moderate Shiite city.
According to a piece stuffed by the WP, congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle called on Donald Rumsfeld to bolster troop levels in Iraq. Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of the Foreign Relations Committee said the U.S. was “dangerously close” to losing control. Sen. Joe Biden, the ranking committee Democrat, added, “We can’t handle a two-front war” in the Sunni Triangle and the south. For his part, Rumsfeld punted, telling reporters that the commander on the ground in Iraq, Gen. John Abizaid, would decide what’s necessary. Unfortunately, none of the papers actually pose the question to the general.
The LAT goes below the fold with a look at National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice’s upcoming testimony before the 9/11 panel and notes that as the exclusive liaison between President Bush and former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke, Condi was “solely responsible” for what the president knew and when he knew it. A piece inside the WP says Condi will “mount a lengthy and barbed rebuttal” of Clarke’s allegations and that she’ll testify that the administration “was acting in a pre-Sept. 11 mindset in its efforts to combat al Qaeda and other terrorist groups and must be judged in that context.” The NYT reefers its piece and says that Condi has “ruled out” the type of apology made by Clarke, in which he said the government had failed the country.
The NYT goes inside with Iran’s scolding by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which found suspicious designs and equipment despite the government’s promise to suspend its uranium enrichment program last October. The paper points out that Iran could face sanctions and ultimately the U.N. Security Council if the agency finds that the country has violated its agreement.
The WP fronts, and the NYT stuffs, China’s ruling that it alone has the authority to institute democratic reform in Hong Kong. Though both papers mention that the Bush administration lobbied for free elections in the former British colony, neither includes the White House reaction to the decision.
Somewhat ominously, the NYT mentions that the fifth anniversary of the murder of Muqtada Sadr’s father and two older brothers is coming up … tomorrow.
Correction, April 7, 2004: This article originally and mistakenly referred to Fallujah as a “Shiite stronghold.” The Iraqi city is actually part of the Sunni triangle. Return to the corrected sentence.