Syria's Pullout Method

Syria's Pullout Method

Syria's Pullout Method

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
April 27 2005 3:45 AM

Syria's Pullout Method

The Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox and the Los Angeles Timeslead with, and New York Times fronts, the last Syrian soldiers leaving Lebanon, formally ending Syria's 29-year occupation. The NYT leads with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee expanding its investigation of John Bolton, still the administration's nominee to be ambassador to the U.N. USA Todayleads with the former chairmen of the 9/11 commission complaining that Congress and the administration have—as the Journal noted yesterday—dilly-dallied on the commission's proposals. "We know many of these recommendations are going to be implemented," said former chairman Republican Thomas Kean. "The question is whether they're going to be implemented before the next attack or after it." The commission is planning a kind of reunion tour, holding a half-dozen hearings this summer to keep the flame alive. The Washington Postleads with a jury convicting a Muslim cleric in Virginia of inciting his followers to wage holy war against the U.S. Most of the disciples heeded his call by training with paint guns, though some went to "terrorist training camps" near Kashmir; at least according to the paper, none of the men ended up fighting against the U.S. *

The Post is alone among the papers in not devoting any Page One play to Syria. It's an understandable choice. After previewing the pullout yesterday, here's how the WP characterizes it today: "SYRIAN INTELLIGENCE STILL IN LEBANON." It's the intel men and not the army who've historically been the ones exerting control. "From the window of a car you won't know whether the mukhabarat (intelligence service) has retreated," one analyst told the LAT. "I'm assuming the Syrian mukhabarat won't be able to resist interfering in the elections" scheduled for later this spring.

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There's also Hezbollah, which, as the LAT puts it, is "a powerful Shiite political party and militia backed by Syria and Iran."

All that skepticism aside, the Syrian army's pullout is more than symbolic. The Post's David Ignatius calls it a "story of Syrian blunders, Lebanese resolve and a surprisingly tough stance against Damascus by other Arab nations."

The NYTimes says the Senate committee probing Bolton's past will interview "as many as" two dozen people, including a former top CIA official and a State Department official, both of whom have complained that Bolton distorted intel. The expanded interview scheme has been OK'd by committee Democrats and Republicans.

As the papers mention, the White House ratcheted up its pro-Bolton lobbying, sending one cool-headed player to the Hill to discuss the nomination: Bolton himself. It's not clear whom he met with. Vice President Cheney, whose office the NYT says is playing a "central and aggressive" role, chatted with some Republican senators.

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The WP off-leads and others stuff House Republicans signaling they're going to cry Uncle and accede to Democrats' demands that they reverse the evisceration of the ethics committee's rules. Democrats effectively shut the committee down after the changes. And Republicans now figure they need to get the committee up and running in order to get the Tom DeLay business off the table. "We fumbled the ball badly," one "senior Republican official" told the NYT.

A front-page piece in USAT points out that four of the five Republicans on the ethics committee at one point or another banked checks from House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's PAC. The fifth Republican on the panel has donated to DeLay's defense fund. "Recusal is pretty much an individual choice, if there's any possibility of a conflict of interest," said one Senate historian.

As everybody mentions, President Bush bucked up DeLay yesterday, letting him hop on Air Force One for a ride to Texas; they then enjoyed a photo-op on the tarmac.

The WP fronts the data now missing from the State Department's annual report on terrorism. According to congressional aides who were briefed by the administration, there were 655 "significant" terrorist attacks last year, up from 175 in 2003. Nearly 200 were in Iraq, up from 22 in 2003. The briefers played down the increase, saying that changing methodology has made year-to-year comparisons "increasingly problematic." They also promised to release the terrorism numbers, just not in the, ahem, report on terrorism.

The LAT and NYT front the National Academy of Sciences complaining about the federal government's inaction and issuing its own set of proposed ethics guidelines for stem-cell research.

The Post fronts a study in which actors who posed as patients and told a primary-care doctor about a slight case of the blues—i.e., no need for Prozac—were five times more likely to be prescribed antidepressants if they mentioned a drug ad. The WP notes that "nearly every industrialized nation" bans such ads. But before you judge: As the LAT highlights inside, in the other part of the study actors described themselves as suffering from symptoms of serious depression. In that case, actors who mentioned ads were more likely to get appropriate treatment (including but not limited to pills) than those who didn't cite the ads.

*Correction, April 27, 2005: This article originally stated that a Washington Post piece about the conviction of a Mulsim cleric for incitement did not mention where his supporters later trained. In fact, the Post said some supporters trained near Kashmir. Click here to return to the corrected sentence.