The Los Angeles Times leads with an increased effort by the Iraqi government to crack down on Sunni insurgents as well as pluck out infiltrators from the country’s security forces who may be aiding in the attacks. An all-Iraqi commando force spread out around the country will likely lead this new operation. The New York Times leads with news that the conference to discuss loopholes in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty may already be deadlocked even though it’s not scheduled to begin until tomorrow. Iran and North Korea both threatened to end the possibility of any future negotiations. The Washington Post leads with the decline of terrorist threats against the United States. Current lists compiled by intelligence officials contain anywhere from 25 to 50 percent fewer threats than they did two years ago. Some believe this is a result of improved anti-terrorism measures inside the United States, along with increased presence of terrorist groups in Iraq and Europe. Others fear that al-Qaida, and similar terrorist groups, may just be laying low as part of a strategy.
The highly trained Iraqi commando forces are seen as having a chance to succeed where the United States failed because of their local knowledge of the terrain and culture. These efforts, however, run the risk of further disenfranchising the Sunni minority who may feel targeted. The leaders in Iraq say they have no choice, and blame outgoing Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s government for not dealing with the insurgent problem more forcefully. The deployment of the specialized forces across the country is an illustration of how the conflict is now largely being fought between Iraqis, whose casualty rates continue to increase as U.S. deaths decrease. On Saturday, 18 Iraqis were killed in Baghdad and Falluja, and on Sunday, five policemen were killed at a checkpoint in Baghdad.
Iran announced on Saturday that the meetings with the European Union have been a failure and it might consider restarting its uranium enrichment program. North Korea said it would not deal with President Bush after he called North Korean President Kim Jong Il a “tyrant” at Thursday’s news conference. This announcement came one day after U.S. intelligence officials expressed concern that North Korea may be preparing a test to prove they can develop nuclear weapons. Interestingly enough, the United States and Iran are actually on the same side in disagreeing with a proposal by the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency that would prohibit the enriching of uranium and reprocessing of plutonium for five years. Some experts say that while the Bush administration wants to use the conference to focus on North Korea and Iran, other countries want to point out how the United States is not following its own responsibilities under the treaty.
The WP fronts a look at Iraq’s constantly failing electrical grid, where after investing at least $1.2 billion over the past two years, the average daily output is still lower than prewar levels. A recent poll found that Iraqis ranked the lack of electricity as their biggest problem, ahead of crime. Now that the new Iraqi government has taken over, U.S. officials insist they are not responsible for fixing the electricity and are only supporting local officials in the task.
The NYT fronts increasing evidence that the United States is sending terror suspects to Uzbekistan, a country that has been persistently criticized by the State Department and human rights groups for torturing prisoners. An intelligence official told the NYT dozens of terrorism suspects have been sent to Uzbekistan. The country became a key ally against terrorism after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, particularly when it allowed the United States to use a military base inside Uzbekistan for the fight in Afghanistan.
The NYT takes an early look at an investigation that has concluded prisoners in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba were often mistreated and humiliated as part of an interrogation strategy. The report, which is the first major look at interrogation tactics used in Guantánamo, will not be released for another few weeks. It will examine memorandums written by FBI agents about particular tactics they witnessed at the prison. A separate report to be released today by a group called Physicians for Human Rights will claim that the United States has been involved in “systematic psychological torture” of prisoners at Guantánamo.
All the papers go inside with two terrorist attacks in Cairo, Egypt seemingly aimed at tourists. Two veiled women shot at a tour bus before turning the guns on themselves and one man blew himself up as he set off a bomb in downtown Cairo in attacks that were two hours apart. Nine people, including four foreigners, were injured. The LAT is the only paper that does not rely on a wire report for the story.
In this year’s edition of the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, the big star of the night was Laura Bush, according to the WP. As President Bush was beginning to speak and tell a joke about cows, suddenly Mrs. Bush yelled out “Not that old joke!” and ordered the president to sit down. “I’ve been attending these dinners for years … now I’ve got a few things to say.” Commenting on her husband’s tradition of going to bed early, the first lady said: “The other day I say to George, if you really want to end tyranny in the world, you’ve got to stay up later … At 9 p.m. Mr. Excitement here is asleep and I’m watching Desperate Housewives. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m a desperate housewife!” Among other topics, Mrs. Bush went on to make fun of her in-laws and her husband’s pronunciation of the word “nuclear.”