The Los Angeles Times leads with, and the New York Times and Washington Post both front, the International Atomic Energy Agency voting 27-3 to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council over its nuclear program. Iran, which now has a month to comply with the IAEA's demands, responded by announcing that it would end its cooperation with the nuclear committee and resume its uranium enrichment activities. The NYT leads with corrupt Iraqi officials in the oil industry enabling the insurgency. In one example, the crooked director of a major oil-storage plant near Kirkuk is accused of orchestrating an attack on his own facility. But fear not, American officials have declared the week starting Feb. 19 to be Anti-Corruption Week. The WP leads with the president's proposed budget, which would increase defense and security spending while eliminating or reducing 141 programs.
The Post calls the referral to the security council "a blow to Iran's prestige," while the NYT says such a move "is deeply humiliating." Humiliating maybe, but does it carry any real significance? The Russians, who voted for the referral, immediately contradicted themselves by saying the problem would be "solved within the framework of the IAEA without additional interference." Similarly, China doesn't want anyone "taking any action that might further complicate or deteriorate the situation." Even the U.S. seems hesitant. The NYT notes that "administration officials have said that no move will be made to impose heavy economic penalties on Iran, like an oil embargo. Instead, the United States would likely seek punitive diplomatic or political steps like suspending travel or freezing assets for top Iranian officials and business leaders in nuclear-related industries."
If Iran wants to see what the U.N. has in store for it, the case of North Korea may provide a good example. The country has been reported twice to the security council over its nuclear activities. It is still waiting for it's punishment. As the WP points out, "In many ways, North Korea has become the disappearing nuclear crisis."
The curious thing about the NYT lead on graft in the Iraqi oil industry is that the WP places a very similar story on page A17. Both stories, the Post's more so, focus on the case of Meshaan al-Juburi (Mishan Jubouri in the WP), an Iraqi lawmaker who is accused of stealing millions from a program aimed at protecting the country's oil pipelines and, possibly, funneling some of that money to the insurgency. But while the Post sticks to the events surrounding al-Juburi, the Times examines the broader "pattern of government corruption enabling the flow of oil money and other funds to the insurgency." Ali Allawi, Iraq's finance minister, estimates that nearly half of all oil-smuggling profits goes to the insurgents.
The WP is a little late to the game in reporting on the president's budget proposal—the NYT led with Bush's proposed $35 billion cut to Medicare yesterday. With the extra time it would have been nice if the Post produced a little more analysis of the president's numbers. But kudos to the Post for pointing out that Bush "continues a pattern of leaving substantial military expenditures out of the budget." Last week the Pentagon said it would ask for an additional $120 billion outside of the budget for its operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. That's over a quarter of the president's proposed defense spending.
The NYT and WP tease new information on the sinking of an Egyptian ferry returning from Saudi Arabia. Survivors say that a fire broke out shortly after leaving shore, but crew members assured them that everything was alright. "All the people rushed to the deck and begged the captain to turn back," said one passenger. "He refused. He contacted no one. He was crazy!" When all hope was lost, the captain apparently did his best Bruce Ismay impression and escaped by lifeboat, abandoning the wet and weary passengers. The ferry operator denies this. The majority of the 1,400 passengers and crew members are presumed dead.
Meanwhile, the furor in the Muslim world continues to grow over cartoons published in European papers satirically depicting the prophet Mohammed. Syrian protesters torched the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus yesterday, while the leader of Hamas called for the death of those responsible for the drawings.
The WP fronts the administration's wiretapping program yielding few potential terrorism suspects. (Didn't the NYT lead with this story three weeks ago?) The Post's convoluted piece focuses on the technical aspects of the program, specifically the role automated filters play in selecting leads. Turns out these filters ain't so good at picking out possible terrorists from innocent bystanders.
For the second day in a row, U.S. and Afghan forces continued to pursue a large group of militants in the mountains of southern Afghanistan. The battle, says the NYT, is "the largest in Afghanistan in months." The Post lets the AP do the reporting.
The NYT has the scoop on a new forward-looking counterterrorism strategy produced by the Pentagon. The plan establishes a review system to determine "whether more terrorists are being captured, killed or persuaded to give up their violent struggle than are being created."
The WP and LAT front the death of feminist icon Betty Friedan, who turned 85 yesterday. The Post says the founder of the National Organization for Women and NARAL "almost single-handedly revived feminism" with her 1963 book "The Feminine Mystique." (Slate's Emily Bazelon, remembers Friedan, a cousin, here.)
Finally, the NYT fronts a story on how schools across the country are trying to improve attendance by offering students rewards. Some schools have offered students with perfect attendance records cars, trips, iPods and cash. This TPer only missed one day of class during his four-year high-school career. His reward: graduating. What a gyp!