Sunni Side Up

Sunni Side Up

Sunni Side Up

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Oct. 12 2005 4:23 AM

Sunni Side Up

The Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox, and Washington Postall lead with two big Sunni political parties saying they'll now support the draft constitution after they won a few last-minute changes. A suicide car bombing in the northern city of Tal Afar killed 30 civilians. Another roughly 10 Iraqis died in other attacks. The military also announced that two GIs were killed Monday by a roadside bomb. USA Todaystuffs the agreement and leads with a newly released CIA-sponsored report concluding that the administration—hold on to your hats—covered its eyes when it came to prewar intel suggesting that Iraq might unravel after Saddam's fall. The report, which was written by former CIA guys and commissioned by former chief George Tenet, concludes, "In an ironic twist, the policy community was receptive to technical intelligence (the weapons program), where the analysis was wrong, but apparently paid little attention to intelligence on cultural and political issues (post-Saddam Iraq), where the analysis was right."

The tweaks to the draft constitution, which were apparently pushed by U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, allow the yet-to-be-elected parliament to amend the constitution with a two-thirds vote. "I think it is an important change, to be honest," said one Sunni politician who had opposed the earlier draft and wasn't involved in the talks. "Now the only opponents should be the Zarqawi people," said another Sunni leader. "They oppose everything. If they wrote the constitution, they would oppose it."

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Here's what TP doesn't understand about the announced agreement: Sunnis are about 20 percent of Iraq's population, with Shiites and Kurds—who oppose Sunnis' constitutional preferences—representing most of the remaining 80 percent. With changes to the constitution requiring support of two-thirds of the next parliament, aren't Sunnis' chances of pushing through revisions darn slim? And if that's the case, why are they so excited about the announced tweak?

The LAT and WP front and NYT reefers heavy rains slowing already inadequate relief efforts in Pakistan. The army has not yet reached "hundreds of villages," said a Pakistani military spokesman. The NYT says there are a total of 34 helicopters operating in Pakistan's relief effort, representing "virtually every helicopter" in the country's apparently enfeebled fleet.

The NYT flags 18 Afghan police killed in an attack by suspected Taliban. It was one of the worst guerrilla attacks since the Taliban fell four years ago.

The NYT says inside that aides for six of the 10 Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee "expressed some dissatisfaction" with the president's nomination of Harriet Miers. "Everybody is hoping that something will happen on Miers, either that the president would withdraw her or she would realize she is not up to it and pull out while she has some dignity intact," said one anon aide.

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A front-page NYT piece argues that Tom DeLay is, quietly, still king of the House. "DeLay is driving the agenda," said one "senior Republican" lawmaker. When Republicans were a few votes short in last week's energy bill—and subsequently held the roll-call open against House tradition—it was DeLay who roamed the floor whipping up votes.

USAT details an "unprecedented" federal government effort to count the homeless. The government isn't actually planning to release final numbers, saying the counting methods across the country weren't uniform. USAT does the math on its own and comes up with 727,304 homeless; 42 percent are families with children.

The LAT fronts and the NYT off-leads about-to-be-released Catholic Church personnel files from L.A. detailing how the church there kept at least eight priests on duty after they had been accused of molesting children. The files were actually provided by the church itself, and the lawyers in a civil suit on the abuses said the church left out the most damaging documents

Everybody mentions that the NYT's Judy Miller had a chat yesterday with the special prosecutor in the Plame case and will now talk to the grand jury again; she's scheduled to appear today. The movement comes after some notes Miller recently rediscovered helped her jog her memory regarding a previously undisclosed chat she had with the vice president's chief of staff, Scooter Libby, about White House critic Joseph Wilson weeks before Wilson went public questioning the administration's prewar uranium claims. The National Journal—a respected beltway publication—reported yesterday that Libby also has had a bit of a senior moment and didn't disclose the chat during testimony.

The Post describes "numerous lawyers" in the Plame case as "bracing for ... criminal charges against administration officials."The Journal reads the tea leaves and guesses that the special prosecutor "might be investigating not a narrow case on the leaking of the agent's name, but perhaps a broader conspiracy."

The least-detailed (but least-speculative!) piece on Miller's appearance comes from the NYT. The paper's editor, Bill Keller, sent out a memo yesterday explaining that the Times is doing a big takeout on the case but hasn't finished yet because Miller has stayed mum on some things since "she remains under a contempt-of-court order, and is not yet clear of legal jeopardy." A few questions: What does the contempt-of-court order cover? Is it only her grand jury testimony, or something more? In other words, what are the legal risks in Miller talking? And, again, this is unclear: Is the Times delaying its reporting in deference to those stated legal concerns?