The Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal's newsbox, and New York Timesall lead with last-minute constitutional haggling in Baghdad, where the NYT announces that negotiators "moved to the brink of agreement." The LAT agrees but along with the Journal emphasizes that Sunnis are hopping mad after having been "cut off" from the negotiations. The Washington Postleads with the widening rift among Democrats about Iraq. In case you haven't heard yet: Many grass-roots activists want the U.S. out, while many A-list Democrats, including potential presidential candidates Sens. Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, want the U.S. to stick it out. Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, also a likely contender, broke with the party last week and said there should be a firm deadline. Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel also seemed to come close to calling for a withdrawal timeline. USA Todayleads with Northwest, the U.S.'s fourth-largest airline, getting its planes in the air despite a strike by mechanics. Yes, "replacement mechanics" are on the job. As a front-page NYT piece explains, Northwest has been preparing for this eventuality for at least a year. And if no major problems occur, it could set a precedent for the industry and would mean nothing good for unions.
There's still a split about how the Iraqi Constitution should incorporate Islam, with some Shiite politicians pushing for clerics to get four of nine seats on the Supreme Court. And then there's the tension with Sunnis: The NYT says the draft constitution has been "written almost entirely by Shiite and Kurdish leaders," with Sunnis having been "largely excluded from the deliberations." Yesterday's Times said the apparent "American-Iraqi strategy" was to present a deal to Sunnis as a "take-it-or-leave-it proposition."
Sunnis, who called for another delay, are primarily opposed to Shiite and Kurdish pushes for autonomy. If autonomy happens, then there's a good chance oil revenue will stay in the oil-field-rich north and south while the oil-poor but Sunni-dominated center will be SOL. If those concerns are tossed aside, warned one Sunni politician, "We will start a revolution."
But as the Post notices inside, interestingly, a coalition of Iraqi insurgent groups put out a statement calling on supporters to register to vote and reject the draft constitution at the ballot box. (If the Iraqi legislature approves the draft, there will be referendum in October.) "Because voting is a jihad of word, and doesn't differ from the jihad by sword, there is no objection to participating in the referendum to show the world your numbers and strength and to defeat federalism," said the insurgents' statement. They also promised not to attack U.S. forces on the day of the referendum, so as "to protect people who go to vote."
One GI was killed yesterday in Iraq, near Tikrit.
Four more American soldiers were killed by a bomb in Afghanistan. Two embassy employees were also lightly wounded when a bomb hit their armored SUV near Kabul. A pro-government cleric was also assassinated. The Post describes a "wave of near-daily attacks" in the last week. As the NYT headlines,this has been the deadliest year so far for GIs in Afghanistan; at least 65 have been killed, 13 in August alone. With the elections next month, everybody expects attacks to increase.
An unnamed Afghan security official told the NYT that al-Qaida men have come back from Iraq and taught local fighters an unspecified "new tactic they learned in Iraq." The Post says the bomb that killed the GIs destroyed an armoredHumvee , which was "tossed into the air." Have insurgents in Afghanistan used such big bombs before?
Yesterday's Post interviewed a Pakistani jihadist who was recently caught in Afghanistan. He talked about training at a base in Pakistan. "We've given the Pakistanis all the information we have," said an Afghan intel official. "We're waiting for Pakistan to show the willingness to fight." The LAT had a report last month on the apparent plethora of such bases.
The Post fronts Harvard scientists announcing that they've used regular old skin cells to create embryonic stem cells. The research is still in the embry ... early stages. But obviously it offers the (vague, distant) possibility of an end run around the whole embryonic stem-cell debate.
Everybody mentions that just one small settlement is left to be cleared in the Gaza Strip. The strategically located but tiny Netzarim was repeatedly attacked by Palestinians over the years. According to the WP, Prime Minister Sharon once equated its importance with that Tel Aviv. Still, residents are expected to go quietly. Then soldiers will move on the four slated-to-be-cleared settlements in the West Bank, two of which are now filled with outside protesters. "We expect some harsh resistance there," said an army official. "We know that some of them are armed."