Everybody leads with Iraq boss Paul Bremer's last-minute trip to Washington as, the New York Times says, "Bush administration officials held an urgent round of meetings to discuss ways of speeding up the transfer of power to Iraqis." In order to make the meeting, Bremer canceled a planned get-together in Baghdad with Poland's prime minister.
Nobody—including the White House—seems sure of what the administration's next steps will be. But though the details aren't nailed down, the general sentiment within the administration is "faster is better," as one unnamed WHer told the Wall Street Journal. Another unnamed U.S. official in Baghdad told the Washington Post that the thinking should be focused on "where is the exit."
The papers portray Bremer as trying to cool the exit talk. The Journal says he "deeply opposes a quick transfer of sovereignty, arguing that the U.S. could lose control of the constitutional process and wind up with a less-than-democratic government."
The WP, meanwhile, continues to be your go-to source for kvetchy quotes from the administration about the Governing Council. Today's entry: "The council has not demonstrated the ability to have a seriousness of purpose or single-mindedness about its work," said a "senior administration official." The Financial Timeshas the GC's foreign minister acknowledging that there's strife ... within the White House. "American infighting has created many, many of the difficulties that we are going through," he said, before really flaunting his trash-talking skills: "The problem with the coalition is that they have some experts, so-called, who still live in the 1950s, in the 1940s, some geriatric ambassadors."
One unnamed "senior official" told the Los Angeles Times that rumors that the GC will be canned are "overdramatic." The Post goes further,saying "some senior Pentagon policymakers" want to "basically hand over sovereignty to the council."
In case you didn't already notice: All but one of the Iraq stories' non-presidential administration quotes are from unnamed sources.
Meanwhile, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, spoke of a turning point in what he called the "war" in Iraq. Citing aides to Sanchez, the NYT's John Burn said the general's choice of the words was "part of a conscious effort by senior military officers to inject realism into debates in Washington." (Slate's Fred Kaplan also ponders Bremer's trip and Sanchez's comments.)
A few hours after Sanchez spoke, three mortar rounds landed in the U.S.'s fortified area of Baghdad; nobody was wounded. The LAT says that a roadside bomb killed six Iraqis in Basra. (Some of yesterday's papers mentioned that incident, though they didn't have a complete casualty count.) The LAT also says that a bomb exploded at a courthouse in Baghdad, injuring seven Iraqis—TP didn't find mention of that in the other papers.
According to early morning reports, a bomb exploded at an Italian police HQ south of Baghdad. No word yet on casualties.
The LAT reports above-the-fold that as part of the military's get tough(er) policy on guerrilla attacks, a house was demolished by an F-16 strike after soldiers found RPGs and night-vision goggles hidden there and after one of the occupants admitted he had attacked GIs. "The message is this," said one officer. "If you shoot at an American or a coalition force member, you are going to be killed or you are going to be captured, and if we trace somebody back to a specific safe house, we are going to destroy that facility."
The Journal briefly notes that SecDef Rumsfeld claimed that there are 131,000 Iraqis working in security forces of one type or another. That's 13,000 more than Rummy said yesterday, 30,000 more than he said last week, and 46,000 more than Bremer said nine days ago. Last week, the WP explained that these guys, however many there are, are getting nary a day of training.
(Bonus stat: Yesterday President Bush said there were 118,000 Iraqis working security.)
The WP off-leads new federal numbers showing that discretionary spending rose 12.5 percent in the last fiscal year and has jumped 27 percent over the past two years—the biggest increases in about 20 years. The figures, the Post says, "raise questions about the government's long-term fiscal health."