Mullah It Over

Mullah It Over

Mullah It Over

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
March 13 2006 3:28 AM

Mullah It Over

The Washington Postleads with what it bills as"plans for a sustained campaign against the ayatollahs of Tehran." The WP's big play aside, the "campaign" isn't exactly of the shock-and-awe variety. According to the Post, it includes "huddling in closed-door meetings on Iran, summoning scholars for advice, investing in opposition activities, creating an Iran office in Washington and opening listening posts abroad dedicated to the efforts against Tehran." The plans to fund opposition efforts have already been well-reported. Everybody also reports inside that Iran has turned down a Russian offer to host its nuclear enrichment. The Los Angeles Times'top nonlocal story is a feature on the growing influence of firebrand cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who controls the ministries of transportation and health, not to mention hundreds of thousands and maybe a few million supporters. "The true nightmare in Iraq is not Anbar, it's Basra," said one "high-level U.S. official," citing the main city in the Shiite-dominated south. "It's the intermingling of criminality and the push for individual power, all blended into one." USA Todayleads with a study showing that the blood-thinner Plavix doesn't seem to help people who haven't yet had a heart attack or stroke and might actually increase the risk for them. The New York Timesleads with an autopsy showing that Slobodan Milosevic died of a heart attack while there's now evidence of drugs in his system that counteracted his blood-pressure pills.

The NY Times says high up that the new details about Milosevic's death serve "only to deepen the mystery" of what happened. Then the paper goes into depth about Milosevic's recently voiced fear that he was being poisoned. Except, as the NYT itself mentions, judges were told by doctors months ago that Milosevic "seemed to be manipulating his health." Said the main prosecutor, "He has a proven track record of taking unprescribed medicine, of messing with his medication." Should the (seemingly outlandish) claims of a sadist dictator really be given equal weight as those of respected jurists and doctors?

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The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with about 50 Iraqis killed and 200 wounded after at least two car bombs exploded at markets in Baghdad's Sadr City. The area is all but controlled by Moqtada al-Sadr's militia, whom, as the NYT picks up, the attacks seemed aimed at provoking. "Everyone knows Sadr City is the main Shia area in Baghdad and the main support for the Shia alliance," said one Sadr follower. After last month's bombing of the Shiite shrine, it was al-Sadr's men who led revenge attacks.

The AP notes that right after the market bombings, "as crowds rushed to assist the victims, mortar shells slammed into nearby homes." Mortar attacks against civilian targets were a favorite of Serbs back in the day and seem to be increasingly common in Iraq.

In the second excerpt from their coming book, NYT reporter Michael Gordon and Bernard  Trainor say then top-Mideast Gen. Tommy Franks threatened to fire one of his main commanders after the lower-ranking general had paused in the drive to Baghdad and acknowledged, "The enemy we're fighting is a bit different than the one we war-gamed against, because of these paramilitary forces."

Also interesting is Gordon and Trainor's reminder that Franks and SecDef Rumsfeld canceled the deployment of another U.S. division soon after the fall of Baghdad. Finally, there are a few details about how now U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad helped prepare for the post-war situation but then was frozen out after, apparently, Paul Bremer demanded sole control.

The papers all go inside with four GIs killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. Also, a suicide bombing in Kabul targeted the convoy of a former Afghan president. Two people were killed, and the president, who was lightly wounded, promptly accused Pakistani forces of having "launched a plot" to kill him and said Pakistani leader Gen. Pervez Musharraf does not want Afghanistan to be "safe and secure."

Everybody mentions Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold unveiling a proposal to censure President Bush for the warrantless spying. The chances of it passing are not exactly high. Last week, the Republican-controlled Senate intel committee voted down an effort to investigate the snooping.

Citing "people involved in the negotiations," the NYT fronts word that big newspaper chain Knight Ridder will be bought by the midsized chain McClatchy for about $4.5 billion. Given that Knight Ridder fetched a 25 percent premium from when it first went on the block, says the Times, newspaper execs should get a good vibe even in their current age of anxiety.

Eric Umansky, previously the "Today's Papers" columnist for Slate, is currently a Gordon Grey Fellow at Columbia University's School of Journalism.