Iran signaled its willingness to negotiate over its nuclear program yet refused to submit to the U.N.'s top demand: that Tehran suspend uranium enrichment before the end of August. The story leads today's New York Times, Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox. The Los Angeles Times leads with the U.S. Marine Corps announcing that it will begin calling up about 2,500 recently retired Marines for duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, the same sort of "back-door draft" that the Army has infamously been using. USA Todayfronts the Marine story but leads with news that an increasing number of states are setting up "meth-offender" registries.
As expected, Iran on Tuesday delivered its formal response to a proposal by the U.S. and Europe that Tehran give up uranium enrichment in exchange for a package of incentives including better trade relations and help with civilian nuclear technology and fuel.
Few details about Iran's counterproposal were available yesterday, as apparently the officials who got the document wanted time to pick through the 20-plus pages of "convoluted" (according to a NYT source) reasoning before talking to the press. Condoleezza Rice even cut short her vacation to read it. Iran spun the proposal as a step toward better relations with the West and a "new formula" for negotiations, while the U.S. said, well, thanks, but we were happy with the old formula. John Bolton, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said Iran had been presented with a "very generous offer" and signaled that Washington would push for sanctions now that Tehran appears to have not accepted it.
The Post notes that Iran, as a major oil producer, is in a good position to play hardball with the West: "Iran is feeling emboldened in the region and the Security Council is juggling a multitude of crises in the Middle East, including the Iraq war and recent fighting in southern Lebanon."
The NYT suggests that Iran may be trying to work out an arrangement whereby it keeps the enrichment program but with safeguards to ensure no nuclear material goes to a weapons program, and that Tehran believes it could get China and Russia to support that compromise. But the Post says Iran may be willing to deal, and cites Iranian sources as saying Tehran would freeze the program if it got assurances that Washington was dealing in earnest and was not trying to engage in regime change on the sly.
Up to now, the Marines have been able to fill gaps in units deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan with volunteers from the ranks of the recently retired. But there are no longer enough volunteers for upcoming rotations, and the LAT story calls the move "a potential signal of the growing unpopularity of the Iraq war among young veterans." The Post notes that "the authority for involuntary recalls is until the end of the 'Global War on Terror,' " which the Pentagon has said could last for decades.
Israel is stepping back from its plan to shut down settlements in the West Bank, the Post reports on the front page. The justification: The government needs the money and energy for repairing war damage in northern Israel. The plan got Israel brownie points with the Bush administration, and the Post says that just 10 days ago Bush asked the Israeli prime minister in a phone call, "What about that plan you presented to me?" Sadly, the reader is left to wonder how the rest of the conversation went.
Proposed U.N. rules of engagement for international peacekeepers in Lebanon would allow the use of force for self defense, to protect civilians, and to back up the Lebanese armed forces, according to the AP in a story none of the papers seem to carry. The strong mandate would likely make it easier to find countries to contribute troops to the force, and now France is apparently considering a "significant" increase to its heavily mocked contribution of 200 soldiers.
A NYT poll finds that a majority of Americans don't believe the war in Iraq is part of the war on terror, which jibes well with the Democrats' national security message heading into the midterm congressional elections.
Also in the papers … The judge who ruled that the NSA wiretapping program was unconstitutional was a trustee of a group that has donated at least $125,000 to the American Civil Liberties Union—one of the parties to the case—and didn't disclose it, the NYT and USA Today report. The ongoing astronomer summit in Prague appears to have agreed on a definition of planets that excludes Pluto, the NYT reports. A Russian airplane crashed in Ukraine, killing all of the more than 170 aboard. An Education Department study has found that students at charter schools test worse than their counterparts at public schools, even controlling for race, socioeconomic class, and other factors, the NYT and Post report. Both the Journal and the LAT front news that Viacom has cut its relationship with Tom Cruise, citing the star's increasingly bizarre public behavior. The Post fronts a finding that being even moderately overweight decreases one's lifespan. "Kind of a bummer," says one expert.
Breaking the Law, Breaking the Law: Chicagoans took part yesterday in a citywide act of civil disobedience … by eating foie gras. The city has banned the fatty goose liver dish, citing the cruelty involved in force-feeding the birds. But Chicago chefs were undaunted the day the ban came into effect, serving it on pizza and with soul food. One chef served it as part of an all-outlaw menu including wild morels, absinthe, unpasteurized imported cheese, and hemp seeds, and topped the foie itself with Pop Rocks.