The New York Timesleads with President Bush warning in a speech yesterday that violence in Afghanistan is likely to increase in the coming months and vowed to step up operations in the country. He put out a call to NATO allies for more forces and urged countries to take away restrictions many of them have imposed on their troops in Afghanistan. The Washington Postleads with a roundup of congressional action on Iraq. The House continued to debate the nonbinding resolution, which is expected to pass today, and more Republicans spoke out in its favor. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would support Bush’s war-funding request but only with certain conditions. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced there will be a Saturday vote to see if they could begin debating the Iraq resolution.
The Wall Street Journal leads with military operations in Iraq and emphasizes word from an Iraqi official that local police wounded Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, and they killed one of his top aides. The Los Angeles Timesleads locally but goes high with the new security crackdown in Baghdad, which was “boldly evident” in neighborhoods of every sect yesterday. Iraqi troops have often been criticized for their performance but now they “appeared to move more aggressively,” says the paper. USA Today leads with lawmakers criticizing JetBlue Airways for forcing hundreds of its passengers to remain inside grounded airplanes for up to 10 hours on Wednesday at an airport in New York. The event, which, naturally, left a lot of people angry, has once again renewed interest in a “passengers’ bill of rights.”
In his speech yesterday, Bush said there has been lots of progress in Afghanistan but acknowledged the situation is still precarious. The Post notes Bush’s speech was the first devoted to Afghanistan during his second term. Democrats, once again, said that if it weren’t for the problems in Iraq, Afghanistan would now be in much better shape. The president also mentioned he has extended the tour of 3,200 American troops (many of whom already had their bags packed, says the NYT). Although experts hailed the decision to turn the president’s attention back to Afghanistan, many say the plan won’t do enough to solve the country’s problems.
After the nonbinding resolution passes the House today, Democratic lawmakers have to decide how to proceed. Pelosi said that in order for her to support the war-funding request certain standards have to be met relating to troops’ rest, equipment, and training. No decision has been made, but any move of this nature is likely to test the party’s unity. Meanwhile, Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware said he would seek to repeal the 2002 congressional authorization for war in Iraq.
Although Bush has lately been more willing to accept the role of Congress in the war, if the Democrats go forward with a move to try to attach conditions to war funding, “a constitutional clash … may be inevitable,” says the Post.
Meanwhile, Reid called senators to a Saturday vote to see if they can get enough votes to begin debating the same nonbinding resolution that is likely to pass the House today. Republicans have accused Democrats of not allowing them to debate the resolution they want. But with Saturday’s vote, Reid is hoping to increase the pressure on the Republicans who have said they’re against the troop increase but so far have stuck to their party. Everyone notes a Saturday vote is very rare (it’s happened only five times in the past 10 years), and the announcement led to many senators scrambling to change their travel plans. The senators who are running for president were particularly affected as many had campaign events scheduled.
The WSJ goes high with, and the Post and NYT mention, there was more back-and-forth on the question of where in the world is Muqtada Sadr. The NYT gets two Shiite leaders to confirm Sadr has gone to Iran, but they denied it had anything to do with the new security crackdown. They said he often goes to Iran and could be back in Iraq soon. But it’s unclear whether he could actually come back since the Iraqi government announced it has closed the border. The Post and WSJ report that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said Sadr has instructed his top deputies to leave Iraq (“join him in Iran,” says the WSJ). Defense Secretary Robert Gates said it was “an assumption” that Sadr has gone to Iran and said he hasn’t seen any proof.
Everybody notes 29 suspects went on trial in Spain yesterday for the bombing of four commuter trains on March 11, 2004. The trial has captivated Spain and newspapers have called it “the trial of the century.” It is expected to last anywhere from four to six months with more than 600 witnesses, 100 experts, and more than 90,000 pages of documents. The Post emphasizes how Spain is “bitterly divided over who launched the attack and why.” According to surveys, as many as a third of Spaniards think ETA had something to do with the bombings.
Well, that’s certainly a relief … Al Gore has teamed up with Kevin Wall, who produced Live 8 in 2005, and a couple of celebrities to create Live Earth. It will consist of 24-hour concerts in seven countries (plus a live performance in Antarctica) on July 7 to bring attention to global warming. Cameron Diaz was at the news conference announcing the event and said it’s still possible for everyone to do their part to save the planet: “We don’t have to build some giant machine that goes up in the air and sucks all the carbon into outer space.”