Today's Papers

The Iran File

The Washington Post and Los Angeles Timeslead, and the Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox, with the long-awaited briefing by military officials in Baghdad, where they presented what was described as convincing evidence that Iran is providing weapons to Shiite militias in Iraq. The officials displayed a variety of different weapons, including the “explosively formed penetrator,” which is one of the deadliest weapons because of its ability to go through armor. It has allegedly  killed at least 170 Americans in the past three years.

The New York Timesfronts the presentation, but leads with the apparent collapse of the North Korea talks. The main stumbling point appears to be North Korea’s demands for large amounts of aid before it agrees to anything. The NYT also got a summary of the proposed agreement and says it would pretty much prevent North Korea from producing new weapons, but it does not specify any deadlines for giving up existing nuclear weapons or weapons fuel. USA Todayleads with a look at how Arab states “are making some of their most public overtures ever to Israel and American Jews” in an effort to limit Iran’s influence and solve regional problems. This comes at a time when Saudi Arabia has tried to position itself as a leader in trying to solve Palestinian issues and will need Israel’s cooperation if it intends to try to broker a peace deal.

Reporters at the briefing in Baghdad appear to have been quite skeptical of the information, as it comes at a time when officials are increasingly tying Iran to Iraq’s problems. Also, the military officials insisted on anonymity and reporters were not allowed to record or photograph anything. The Post gets a comment from an official at the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad who said that if the U.S. military is sure of its evidence, they should display it publicly. Despite the obvious parallels, McClatchy  says, “The evidence of Iranian meddling in Iraq … is far more compelling than much of the administration’s pre-war intelligence about Iraq.”

The briefing had been delayed by more than two weeks at least partly due to concerns that the initial report overstated the case against Iran. The military officials did not provide any evidence to support claims that top officials in Iran had authorized attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq and the Post also notes there were no CIA officers or diplomats present at the briefing. An Iraqi official tells the Post the U.S. military hasn’t shared all the information it claims to have against Iran.

The NYT says the Bush administration was optimistic about the North Korea talks but the “failure to reach even a preliminary agreement could cast doubt on the prospects of disarming North Korea in the administration’s last two years.” Some believe North Korea may have sensed Bush’s current weakness and is trying to “run out the clock” until there’s someone new in the White House.

As U.S. troops in Iraq face an increasing threat from roadside bombs, which are now responsible for 70 percent of American deaths, the Army is still lacking a significant number of armor kits, says the WP on Page One. Although the Army has increased production, they are not scheduled to get all they need until at least this summer, which means it is possible the extra troops that are sent to Iraq will not have adequate protection. The Post makes sure to remind readers that the lack of equipment is nothing new and has been present since the beginning of the Iraq war.

The LAT fronts an interesting look at some of the hidden consequences of having approximately 125,000 private contractors working in Iraq. So far, more than 750 contractors have been killed in Iraq and almost 8,000 injured. “Contractors’ surviving relatives and wounded contractors have many of the same problems as military members and their families,” but they often lack the same sort of support system. Many wounded contractors have also been forced to fight for medical help and psychological counseling.

The NYT notes that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced he has ordered more Iraqi soldiers and police officers to problem areas, but it is unclear how he plans to make this happen. Yesterday, the U.S. military announced the deaths of two soldiers.

The NYT reefers and the rest of the papers mention that Defense Secretary Robert Gates decided to use “words of velvet, not steel” in responding to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s critique of the United States. “One cold war was quite enough,” Gates said.

The NYT fronts, and the rest of the papers go inside with, the weekend campaigning by Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton, where Iraq was the central issue. Clinton was questioned about her vote to authorize the war, while Obama said his rivals for the White House should put forward specific plans to get U.S. troops out of Iraq. At one point, Obama said that thousands of lives had been “wasted” on the war but later said he regretted using those words. As could be expected, Obama drew large crowds, but the LAT wasn’t impressed saying “there was little that was really new or different” about the issues he raised and he offered “little in the way of concrete solutions.” 

The LAT fronts, and everyone else mentions yesterday’s Grammy Awards, where the Dixie Chicks won five awards, including song, record, and album of the year. It was the first time in 13 years that one act got those three awards. The country music establishment snubbed the Dixie Chicks at their awards ceremony but yesterday “the trio found blue-state redemption,” says the LAT. Many in the country music community have not forgiven the Dixie Chicks for the anti-Bush comments they made during a concert.  Other big winners were the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who received four awards, and Mary J. Blige, who got three.