On the day President Bush is scheduled to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki in Jordan, the New York Timesleads with a classified memo by the U.S. national security adviser, who raises concerns about Maliki’s ability to take control of the country. The memo, which was written after Stephen J. Hadley went to Iraq and met with Maliki, also points out several steps the Bush administration could take to improve the prime minister’s chances of success. The Washington Postmentions the NYT memo in its lead, but focuses on what Bush announced will be his plans for the meeting with Maliki. Bush said he would ask Maliki what he needs to succeed and how he plans on making Iraq “a country which can govern itself and sustain itself.”The Wall Street Journal tops its worldwide newsbox with Bush putting another nail in the coffin of early troop withdrawal by saying the U.S. military won’t “pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete.” The president also said he will not have direct talks with Iran until the country decides to give up its uranium enrichment program.
The Los Angeles Timesleads with the Pentagon preparing its emergency spending proposal, which could be the largest since Sept. 11. Officials say the Pentagon is considering asking for anywhere from $127 billion to $150 billion (USA Today published similar numbers almost two weeks ago). The large figure is causing controversy within the Pentagon and is likely to be met with resistance by Democrats in Congress, who say they are more likely to back a request of anywhere from $80 billion to $100 billion. USATleads with figures that show that an increasing number of people took Amtrak trains in fiscal year 2006. Apparently, tighter airport security measures, along with higher gas prices, have led to more people choosing the train. The greatest growth took place in shorter routes, while long routes actually saw a decrease in passengers.
The NYT publishes the full text of the memo, which provides a brutally honest U.S. portrayal of the prime minister, but as a Page One analysis piece points out, it repeats some general themes that have already been expressed by members of the Bush administration. U.S. officials are concerned that while Maliki has been in office for six months, they still have not seen evidence that he can be effective in moving past Iraq’s sectarian divisions. Although Maliki’s “intentions seem good,” his statements are often at odds with what is going on on the ground, showing that perhaps “his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action,” says the memo. The memo also emphasizes, “the information [Maliki] receives is undoubtedly skewed” because he has chosen to surround himself with a small group of advisers from the Shiite Dawa Party.
Speaking to reporters, Bush denied the characterization that Iraq is now in the midst of a civil war. Bush said the United States “can accept nothing less than victory for our children and our grandchildren.” Of course, there was no word on what this “victory” would entail. At the NATO summit in Latvia, Bush spoke of the need for member countries to step up their involvement in Afghanistan, in order to prevent the country from descending into chaos. Some NATO members are reluctant to send their troops to the most dangerous areas of the country.
In a particularly insightful front-page analysis, the WP looks into how U.S. officials and lawmakers are increasingly blaming Iraqis for the violence in Iraq. Some read the tea leaves and see this attitude as “the beginning of the end of U.S. involvement.”
The LAT fronts word from insiders in Baghdad who say Maliki will ask Bush for control over Iraq’s security forces. He will also say that the police and army training needs to speed up, and that they should be provided with better weapons. Maliki will also express to Bush that he wants to lead negotiations with Iran and Syria.
USAT fronts experts saying that approximately $2 billion worth of equipment belonging to the Army and Marine Corps is wearing out or being destroyed in Iraq and Afghanistan every month. Trying to limit costs might lead to equipment shortages and the military giving up on more-advanced weapons. According to a member of the Iraq Study Group, the Pentagon needs $50 billion to $60 billion to re-equip the units coming back from Iraq.
The WP and NYT front, while everyone else mentions, news that Rep. Nancy Pelosi announced she will not give Rep. Alcee L. Hastings of Florida the chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee. Pelosi has also made clear she doesn’t want to name Rep. Jane Harman of California, who is the senior Democrat on the committee. Everyone notes her decision was likely due to the fact that Hastings was impeached and removed as a federal judge in connection to a bribery case in the late ‘80s. Now, Pelosi is likely to look for a compromise candidate, and the WP names Rep. Silvestre Reyes of Texas, Rep. Norman Dicks of Washington, and Rep. Sanford Bishop of Georgia as possible candidates.
The NYT fronts and the WP off-leads a large picture of Pope Benedict XVI’s trip to Turkey. In his first trip to a Muslim country, the pontiff tried to make amends for his statements in September that linked Islam with violence and offended so many people. In what everyone sees as a gesture, the pope said he supports Turkey joining the European Union, which reverses a statement he made two years ago.
The LAT fronts the federal government’s announcement that it wants to send a message to organ transplant centers nationwide with its decision to pull funding from two heart programs that didn’t meet minimum performance standards. A third center has agreed to give up federal funding. This action comes a few months after an investigation in the LAT revealed a fifth of the “federally funded heart, liver, and lung transplant centers had subpar patient survival or performed too few operations to ensure competency.” Small pet peeve: Although the LAT could (and probably should) use this opportunity to highlight the good piece of investigative journalism that led to this development, a link to the original story is nowhere on the page.
The NYT and WP go inside with a new report by the European Parliament that says several European countries “cooperated actively or passively” with the CIA’s extraordinary renditions. The report says 11 European countries knew of the CIA’s activities to detain and abduct terrorism suspects and found there have been 1,245 CIA-operated flights that went through the continent’s airspace or landed in one of its airports.
Meanwhile, a man who says he was wrongfully abducted by the CIA and ended up getting tortured in Afghanistan, has asked a federal appeals court to reinstate his lawsuit against the agency. The lawsuit was dismissed in May due to concerns over national security.
In the LAT, Israeli writer Amos Oz says that if the cease-fire between Israelis and Palestinians turns out to be successful, three more steps will have to be carried out in order to ensure peace. According to Oz, prisoners have to be released, the Palestinians have to institute a new government that wants to live alongside Israel, and comprehensive peace talks must begin. If all the conditions are met, “this could be the verge of a new beginning.”