The Washington Postleads with word from Pentagon officials that the United States is giving “real-time intelligence” of the Kurdish Workers’ Party in northern Iraq to Turkey. The Turkish military has used the information it received from the new U.S. intelligence-sharing center in Ankara to carry out a series of recent attacks, including Sunday’s airstrike. USA Todayleads with Iraq’s central government saying it will begin supporting the local security groups that are overwhelmingly Sunni and have been sprouting up all over the country. The central government plans to move thousands of the guards into training programs so they can be incorporated into Iraq’s security forces, which is seen as an important step toward national reconciliation.
The New York Timesleads with, and the Los Angeles Timesdevotes its top nonlocal story to, news that Russia delivered the first shipment of nuclear fuel to the Bushehr power plant in southern Iran. Washington has been trying to delay this shipment for years but yesterday the White House tried to put a positive spin on the situation, saying that if Iran is willing to receive nuclear fuel from abroad then it doesn’t need to carry out its own enrichment program. Iran, of course, rejects that logic and announced that it has already begun construction on another nuclear power plant in southwestern Iran. The WSJ leads its world-wide newsbox with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement that he would accept the offer to become prime minister if his handpicked successor wins the March elections, which is virtually guaranteed. The LAT leads with the California Assembly approving the first phase of a plan that would require almost all of the state’s residents to have health insurance.
Military officials insist the United States never overtly gave Turkey a green light to carry out the attacks in northern Iraq. But, as one official tells the WP, the United States is “essentially handing them their targets” and then saying that Turkey can use the information as it sees fit. Helping Turkey, a NATO ally, in its efforts to attack PKK rebels is undoubtedly a risky strategy, but the U.S. military seems to have concluded that the cost is worth it if it can help avoid opening a new front in the war, not to mention the possibility of losing one of its most important supply routes into Iraq. The strikes have raised the ire of Iraqi politicians, and the United States risks losing the support of the the Kurdish minority. The Post also makes clear that assisting Turkey could complicate U.S. diplomatic efforts to get Iraqi politicians to come up with a political reconciliation agreement.
Early-morning wire stories report that around 300 Turkish troops entered northern Iraq in an overnight incursion and were still there by midmorning. Also, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a surprise visit to Kirkuk and is expected to go to Baghdad later today to meet with members of Iraq’s central government.
Russian officials insist the nuclear fuel that was delivered to Iran will be controlled by the International Atomic Energy Agency and will be used only for a power plant. Regardless, the NYT says that coming a mere two weeks after the intelligence estimate said Tehran ended work on its nuclear weapons program, “the timing could not have been worse” from a U.S. standpoint. There’s concern that although, as the LAT puts it, “no one suspects Iran of harboring a secret bomb factory at Bushehr,” the move could further embolden Iran as it becomes obvious that the international community will not be able to agree on new sanctions.
The WP fronts a look at one of the al-Qaida detainees whose interrogation videotapes were destroyed by the CIA. FBI and CIA officials disagree over the significance of the information given by Abu Zubaydah and whether his most important revelations came after he was tortured. CIA officials contend that he is an important al-Qaida insider who gave up important details about the terrorist network only after harsh interrogation techniques, including water-boarding, were used. But FBI officials say Zubaydah is “largely a loudmouthed and mentally troubled hotelier” who provided more and more dubious information as interrogators began imposing ever harsher interrogation methods. The Post notes it’s unclear whether these harsh tactics were used before the Justice Department approved them.
The WP off-leads, and everyone else goes inside with, news that the House of Representatives passed a massive $516 billion spending bill that more or less stays within Bush’s budget limits while shifting some money to Democratic priorities. The omnibus bill includes an amendment to provide $31 billion for the fighting in Afghanistan. Everyone says the Senate is expected to add about $40 billion for Iraq since Bush has warned that he would veto the bill otherwise. Democrats expressed disappointment that they had to get rid of several important measures but said it was the best they could do given the constant veto threats.
In other news out of Capitol Hill, everyone notes that the Senate Democratic leadership delayed considering a new eavesdropping bill that would have given telecommunication companies retroactive immunity. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid decided to remove the bill after it became clear lawmakers wouldn’t be able to work out their differences before the break. The bill will probably be debated again when Congress gets back to work in January.
The LAT and NYT front, and everyone mentions, news that NBC’s Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien will be back on the air on Jan. 2 regardless of whether there is any progress in the writers’ strike. The late-night hosts will have to do their shows without writers. Complicating matters is the fact that both Leno and O’Brien are members of the union, which might mean they won’t be allowed to write their own monologues, although no one is really sure what the programs will look like. After the announcement dealt a clear blow to the strikers, the Writers Guild “flexed its own muscles” (LAT) and said it wouldn’t sign waivers for the Golden Globes and the Oscars. This means many of the biggest names in Hollywood might skip the awards shows this year to express their solidarity with the writers.