United Stakes

United Stakes

United Stakes

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Feb. 25 2003 8:38 AM

United Stakes

The papers all lead with the introduction of a Security Council resolution  sponsored by Britain, the U.S., and Spain declaring that "Iraq has failed to take the final opportunity afforded it" to disarm. The resolution is a sort of end-game document and doesn't include any new deadlines or demands. In response, France, Germany, and Russia floated a proposal calling for pumped-up inspections.

Everybody suggests that the best the U.S. can hope for is to win a majority of votes without a veto. Besides itself, the U.S. can count on Britain, Spain, and Bulgaria. That means it needs five more votes, which is just about the number of fence-sitters there are on the issue. The administration has launched a diplomatic campaign to, in the Washington Post's words, "convince, cajole or compel" Security Council members to fall in line. The Los Angeles Times, which has some nice details on the effort, says Bush phoned the leaders of Chile and Mexico but couldn't convince them to sign on (at least this early in the game). The paper also says the U.S. is trying to pick up votes by dangling the prospect of "a role" in post-war Iraq. "We'll put it to them simply: Do you want to be part of reconstruction and all that means—or leave it to us?" said one U.S. official. (The LAT doesn't venture to guess what role that might mean. Oil concessions? Rebuilding contracts? The no-doubt highly coveted peacekeeping duties?) The Post says that the White House is pitching the resolution as a referendum on Security Council "unity" and legitimacy.

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The New York Times gives the clearest sense of the administration's hoped-for timeline: It will wait until after March 7, when Blix is scheduled to give his next report. Then it'll push for a vote the following week. Then the war starts. (Or as the NYT puts it, "Officials strongly hinted that military action could come immediately thereafter.")

A NYT news analysis—"GAMBLE FOR A FRIEND"—says the White House offered the resolution "primarily" to help out British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Everybody mentions that the deal with Turkey is still winding its way through their government with the NYT emphasizing that the agreement to accept GIs still isn't set and could be delayed. Turkish officials say some details—which ones the Times doesn't say—are still unresolved. Meanwhile, in today's nightmare scenario category: According to pieces in the Post and LAT, surprisingly both stuffed, there is growing Kurdish opposition to Turkey's plans to send troops into northern Iraq. "No one should think we are bluffing," one top Kurdish official told the Post. "There will be conflict." A Turkish military official told the LAT that he's confident things will work out just fine, "The Iraqi Kurds are no match for us."

The LAT fronts an interesting piece on the Al-Samoud missile that inspectors have demanded be destroyed. In an interview with CBS's Dan Rather—coming to a TV near you tomorrow night—Saddam hinted that he won't destroy the missiles. The LAT says that's because they're the only missiles he has in any quantity. They also happen to be wildly inaccurate; and that's a bad sign. "A missile with this type of accuracy has virtually no ability to strike targets using conventional weapons," one analyst told the paper. "That means it only has military meaning if it carries chemical and biological weapons Iraq has denied it possesses."

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The WP, alone among the papers, fronts word that as South Korea's new president was inaugurated yesterday, North Korea test-fired an anti-ship missile. The Post calls it a "blunt new challenge" to the U.S.

Everybody mentions inside that Secretary of State Powell's visit to China didn't appear to get that country any more interested in pressuring North Korea to give up its nukes program.

A WP editorial hammers home a point that has been percolating inside the papers but has yet to splash onto Page One (where it should be): Pakistan, or at least some element of its intel service, is letting the Taliban and al-Qaida regroup along the border with Afghanistan. Now there are signs that the militants are about to launch a spring offensive—probably small-ish hit-and-runs—against the Afghan government and U.S. troops.

The NYT's lead editorial champions the new U.S.-supported resolution against Iraq. The paper, in a kind of fun twist, sees support for the resolution as a vote for peace: "It represents the last remote hope of getting Iraq to disarm peacefully." And what does the Times think the administration should do if Saddam doesn't drop his weapons and France vetoes? Well ... multiple deep textual analyses suggest that the paper thinks action might be justified. But it's not really clear. (For more on the NYT's wishy-washy response to the situation, read this "Press Box" in Slate.)

Another Times editorial takes a stand against ephedra, the supplement that appears to have contributed to the death of a Baltimore Orioles pitcher last week. "The supplement ought to be banned as a threat to public health," says the NYT. Sounds good. Free tip to the Times: You might want to start with your own Web site, which—as some bloggers have noticed—has little ads hawking the stuff.

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