Sheikdown

Sheikdown

Sheikdown

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
March 3 2003 5:14 AM

Sheikdown

The New York Times says that "under intense American pressure," Turkey's government will ask its parliament to vote again on letting U.S. troops in. The parliament defeated the measure over the weekend by three votes. The Washington Post's lead says that Iraq destroyed six more of its banned missiles yesterday, putting it on a pace to get rid of the whole batch in three weeks. The Post also goes up high with an Iraqi official's comments that if the U.S. doesn't do the gentlemanly thing and get the U.N.'s go-ahead before invading, Iraq might stop taking the missiles out of commission. The Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox (online), and USA Today all lead with follow-up on the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, thought to be the day-to-day manager of al-Qaida. American and Pakistani agents found a trove of info—cellphone numbers, computer databases, etc.—at Mohammed's hideout and are now racing to track down AQ members before they melt away. As everybody mentions, the search is going to be particularly hectic since intel folks think that Mohammed may have already set in motion additional "near-term" attacks on the U.S.

Apparently, the White House thinks there's a fair chance that a second vote in Turkey will work: U.S. transport ships are still sticking around Turkey's coast and haven't yet left for Kuwait. Judging by a piece inside the WP, they might want to consider pulling anchor: The Post says Turkey's government hasn't yet decided what to do and says that even if there is a second vote it won't come until after local elections there, one week away.

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The Journal and Post both detail how the Pentagon will deal with Turkey's dis, if in fact it is final. Besides simply pouring more troops through Kuwait, the military will probably airlift some troops straight into northern Iraq. But they won't have anything approaching the firepower that a real northern front would have brought—and, as everybody mentions, that will probably cost the lives of some American GIs. The Journal briefly mentions that the U.S. is also hoping to open a "western front," attacking with special ops troops and helicopters based in Jordan.

USAT ponders Turkey's vote, consults some sages, and concludes, "NORTHERN WAR PLAN MIGHT BE CHANGED."

An LAT "news analysis" suggests that the administration royally messed up its negotiations with Turkey. Turkish legislators felt the White House was trying to bully them. "The Americans kept giving ultimatums and deadlines," said one legislator who broke with his party and voted against the U.S. The NYT has similar stuff, saying Turkish legislators complained of the U.S.'s "overbearing and sometimes petty approach" to the negotiations. (NYT's words.) Among the complaints, U.S. diplomats apparently refused to pay taxes on stuff they bought in Turkey. (In an unfortunate change, the LAT's early headline online, was, "TURKISH VOTE IS STUDY IN MISCALCULATION." That's strong stuff—apparently too strong for the LAT's editors. The final edition of paper blares, "THE REASONS TURKEY REJECTED U.S.")

In the latest clip for your northern-Iraq-might-be-become-a-heaping-mess file, a piece inside the NYT says that about 1,000 Iranian-backed guerrillas have set themselves up in northern Iraq. The Times says they are getting ready to fight Saddam and if need be moonlight resisting any Turkey advance into the region.

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In a piece that's ahead of the pack, the NYT says that the White House has deployed what it calls "the leapfrog strategy." That is, President Bush is now talking about the future of Iraq and has stopped making the case that inspections shouldn't continue. "In his mind, the old debate about whether Saddam will disarm is over," said one unnamed White House official. "We're on to the next phase, even if everyone else isn't there yet."

Reporting on Iraq's threat to stop destroying its missiles, the NYT does its best Onion imitation and reports, "IRAQI SAYS ARMS DESTRUCTION WILL CEASE IF U.S. ATTACKS."

Everybody quotes officials saying that Mohammed's capture is bigger in terms of operational capabilities, if not propaganda points, than taking down Osama. "Bin Laden was always the chairman of the board," explained one official, "but Khalid Mohammed was always the C.E.O., the guy who made sure things got done." Many AQ operatives didn't know each other, but they all seemed to talk with Mohammed. Some officials said they don't expect Mohammed to break and start talking anytime soon. Instead, the immediate hope is being pinned on the data found in his hideout. "It could be the mother lode of information that leads to the inner workings of al-Qaida," one fed told the LAT.

Last week, the NYT's editorial page seemedto give Bush President the thumbs-ups for an invasion of Iraq, declaring that the American-backed resolution—which, you might recall, essentially green-lights a war and doesn't make any demands of Iraq—"deserves the Security Council's support." Today, a Times editorial, "THE RUSH TO WAR," announces, "We believe more time is warranted to determine whether Iraq's dismantlement is a signal that Mr. Hussein is reconsidering his stubborn defiance of the United Nations." No word from the Times on whether it still supports the resolution.