Today's Papers

Over the Borderline

The New York Times, Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsbox lead with Kurdish rebels killing at least 17 Turkish soldiers (the NYT says at least 12) close to the Iraq border and further raising fears that Turkey would retaliate by sending troops into Iraq. Turkey responded to what is being called the most serious attack in recent memory by shelling positions along the border and killing at least 32 Kurdish rebels. The Turkish government held an emergency meeting and once again warned it is ready to cross the border if the United States and Iraq don’t take action to stop the rebels but made clear that an attack isn’t imminent. The Post combines the news from northern Iraq with the fighting in Baghdad’s Sadr City, where the U.S. military said it killed as many as 49 militants but Iraqis contend many of the dead were civilians.

USA Todaytakes a look at military statistics and leads news that the number of airstrikes in Iraq and Afghanistan have increased this year. In Iraq, there have been a total of 1,140 airstrikes so far this year, compared with 229 during all of 2006. The military says it’s able to use airstrikes more effectively now, but some warn this type of bombing always risks killing innocent bystanders. The Los Angeles Timesbanners the Southern California wildfires that have so far killed at least one person, burned through thousands of acres, and forced massive evacuations. Malibu was particularly affected, but more than a dozen fires had erupted by late last night and the blazes threaten thousands of homes

The NYT gives a lot of prominence to the call Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice placed to Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, before the government’s emergency meeting. After the meeting, Erdogan told reporters Rice expressed sympathy for Turkey’s position but asked for “a few days.” Although the NYT doesn’t come out and say that it was the phone call that made the Turkish government decide against an immediate incursion, it certainly makes it sound that way when it writes in its lead paragraph that “Turkey’s prime minister said he delayed a decision, after … Rice personally intervened.” But none of the other papers give much play to the phone call and the Associated Press reports Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who met with his Turkish counterpart yesterday, said: “I didn’t have the impression that anything was imminent.”

Regardless, no one doubts the seriousness of the attack, which many see as a direct attempt by the Kurdish rebels, known as the PKK, to provoke Turkey. An analyst tells the NYT that the attack was carried out by a much larger force than the PKK normally uses and both the Post and LAT report that rebels said they were holding a number of Turkish soldiers hostage. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who is a Kurd, ordered that the PKK stop its attacks, but dismissed calls from Turkey to  hand over militant leaders. “We will not hand any Kurdish man to Turkey, even a Kurdish cat,” he said.

The Post says that combined with the attacks in Sadr City, “the unrelated spasms of violence … illustrated the highly combustible geopolitical and domestic challenges confounding the U.S. military.” The military began the raid to capture a leader of a kidnapping ring but the troops came under fire. Although the U.S. military said all of the people killed were “criminals,” Iraqi witnesses said there were 17 civilian victims and a number of children were wounded. The LAT says a “freelance correspondent … saw the corpses of a woman and two small children.” Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called on the military to avoid using such excessive force, but didn’t condemn the attack.

The Post fronts word that the classified campaign strategy for Iraq that Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker approved last week has a stronger emphasis on rooting out Shiite militants, who are seen as the “rising threat to the U.S. efforts.” The strategy also recognizes the United States may not be able to use military force to defeat its enemies and instead calls for “political accommodation” to convince them to lay down their weapons. The plan also has less of a focus on measuring progress by whether specific laws are passed and “instead emphasizes the need for government leaders to take concrete, practical steps in areas such as sharing oil revenues.”

The Post fronts the latest Republican presidential debate, where the attacks got more personal as candidates continued to fight over who is the better conservative. Fred Thompson was quick to attack Mitt Romney and Rudolph Giuliani over their conservative credentials, and later had to defend himself from a question on whether he was too lazy. John McCain had what the Post calls “one of the most personal attacks” of the night when he drectly told Romney that he’s “been spending the last year trying to fool people” about his record. The NYT says the fighting “risked highlighting the unhappiness among conservatives with much of the field.”

The NYT fronts a look at how Clinton’s campaign has been working hard to court Matt Drudge and appears to be having some success. Although it’s another example of how Clinton’s campaign is playing nice with potential enemies, the story is really more interesting as a reminder of how much time and effort campaigns dedicate to try to get in Drudge’s good graces and the value of getting a positive mention in the Drudge Report.

The WSJ’s Walter Mossberg is mad and lets it all out today in a screed against  U.S. cell phone carriers, which he calls the “Soviet ministries.” Mossberg says “a shortsighted and often just plain stupid federal government” has allowed the carriers to keep total control over the industry. The lack of competition has not only hurt consumers but also decreased the pace of innovation and “has made the U.S. the laughingstock of the mobile-technology world.”

As fires raged, some in Malibu decided to hit the waves, reports the LAT. The waves were good and surfers rejoiced that the usually crowded beach was pretty much empty. “This is the opportunity of a lifetime,” one surfer said.