Today's Papers

Sit and Wait

The Los Angeles Timesleads with word from sources that military leaders at the Pentagon are likely to tell President Bush the United States needs to send more troops to Iraq. In addition, they will argue that U.S. forces need to carry out a new offensive against Muqtada Sadr. The New York Timesleads, and the Wall Street Journal tops its worldwide newsbox, with the White House announcing that Bush would delay presenting his new strategy for Iraq until next year instead of before Christmas, as was initially the plan.

USA Todayleads with federal investigators and safety advocates declaring they are worried the Airbus A380 double-decker plane, which is the largest jetliner in history, will be exempt from new U.S. rules designed to prevent explosions in the fuel tank. An explosion in the fuel tank caused the crash of TWA Flight 800 in 1996. The Washington Postleads with a poll on American attitudes toward Iraq that, for the most part, echoes a USAT poll published yesterday. The majority of Americans say the United States is losing the war, and most support the proposals put forward by the Iraq Study Group. 

Bush will be meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff today at the Pentagon as part of his listening tour. It’s unclear how many more troops the military leaders will request, but what is clear is that their suggestions will, once again, run counter to several of the main points proposed by the Iraq Study Group. The LAT recognizes that even if military leaders are in agreement, everything could change once Robert Gates becomes defense secretary. Interestingly enough, the NYT says the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff “is not expected to advocate a surge” in troops at the meeting with the president today.

Administration officials said Bush decided all of the issues surrounding Iraq are too complicated and he would rather not rush a plan out the door. The delay is largely seen as a sign that there continue to be strong disagreements between the president’s advisers on how best to proceed. Officials also say the delay would allow Gates to be part of the discussion. The announcement immediately resulted in criticism from Democratic leaders and at least one Republican senator who said Bush does not appreciate the urgency of the situation in Iraq. The papers are not really skeptical of the it’s-really-complicated line and for the most part don’t explore the possible connection between this delay and the new polls that show strong public support for the ISG. Perhaps the White House hopes Americans will forget all about Baker-Hamilton over the holidays.

The NYT fronts news that Iraq has presented the United States a plan for its troops to take over most of the responsibility for security in Baghdad in early 2007. The plan was apparently submitted to Bush during his meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Jordan last month. The U.S. military is currently analyzing the proposal. Although turning over control to Iraqi security forces is a stated goal of the administration, going through with this plan carries some very obvious risks. If these Iraqi security forces are infiltrated by militias, there are fears that giving them more power could lead to an increase in systematic attacks against the city’s Sunnis.

The WP fronts word that the Army and Marine Corps will ask for a permanent increase in the number of service members. In addition, two senior officials tell the paper that the Army will demand “full access” to the Army National Guard and the Army Reserves, as it will ask the Pentagon to reduce restrictions currently in place for calling up reservists. Officials worry there may not be enough ground troops ready if another conflict springs up that would require them in large numbers.

The NYT fronts news that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia told Vice President Dick Cheney that his country might give financial support to Iraqi Sunnis if the United States pulls out of Iraq and a sectarian war breaks out. The message was passed along during Cheney’s trip to Saudi Arabia two weeks ago. The Saudi ambassador to the United States fired a consultant who wrote an opinion piece in the Post two weeks ago that said a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq would lead to a “massive Saudi intervention.” But Arab diplomats said members of the Saudi government share the views expressed in the column. Although the WP reported yesterday that the Saudi ambassador to the United States is resigning after only 15 months, the NYT mentions there hasn’t been an official announcement.

The LAT fronts*, the WSJ goes high, and everyone else stuffs, yesterday’s early morning  suicide bombings in Baghdad that killed 70 people, mostly day laborers who were at the square hoping to get a job. Including the dead bodies found, yesterday’s death toll was at least 131, which is the highest since the bombing last month that killed 200 people. An Associated Press cameraman was also killed yesterday.

The Post goes inside with a dispatch from Chile, where approximately 60,000 people went to see Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s body on Monday as it lay in a military chapel. About 5,000 people attended the former dictator’s funeral.

The WP and USAT front news of an immigration raid yesterday on meatpacking plants in six states. Hundreds of workers were arrested on the charge of identity theft. There were no exact numbers, but officials said those who were detained had used stolen Social Security numbers when they were hired. The world’s second-largest meat processing company was shut down for much of the day yesterday.

The NYT and WP note inside that a Democratic candidate won a longtime Republican House seat in the last congressional election of the midterms. Ciro Rodriguez beat Rep. Henry Bonilla in a runoff in Texas’$2 23rd Congressional District. Now, Democrats have 233 seats in the House, compared to 202 for the Republicans.

Why didn’t anybody tell me? … The Post’s Al Kamen publishes the content of an e-mail invitation for a telework meeting sent out by the Interior Department. The department includes several reasons why telecommuting could be beneficial to its employees: “With the wintry weather fast approaching, the price of gas fluctuating, and the threat of pandemic on the horizon, telecommuting is seen as a valuable option for eligible employees.” No word on what exactly this risky pandemic consists of.

Correction, Dec. 13: This article originally implied that the Los Angeles Times ran an article about the bombings on its inside pages. In fact, the news ran on the front page.