Front Page: Iraq, April 15, 2003

Newspapers world press
The following is a compilation of today's newspaper reports about the Iraq crisis from around the country and around the world. It is a sampling of different perspectives, designed to offer additional context into the conflict. Compiled by's Andrew Cohen.

From around the country:

Mark Bixler of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution focused on a happy ending: "When she finally sees her son again, maybe one day this week, Kaye Young plans to tell him how much she prayed during his three weeks as a prisoner of war. 'I'm going to tell him how much I love him,' she said. 'I'm going to hold him in my hands.' Her husband, Ronald Sr., will try not to ask too much about his son's captivity. 'If he wants to talk about it, we'll let him talk about it,' he said. The Youngs could be reunited this week with their son, Chief Warrant Officer Ronald Young Jr. of Lithia Springs. He became a POW after his attack helicopter went down during an assault in central Iraq on March 23. A team of U.S. Marines freed him and six other American prisoners of war Sunday. His parents said the Army plans to fly their son from Kuwait to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. They plan to visit him there and are awaiting word of his travel plans. They hope he returns this week. After a reunion in Washington, the Youngs will return with their son to Lithia Springs in Douglas County. County officials plan to escort him in a motorcade of police cars and fire engines to the five-bedroom house on South Martin Way where he grew up."

James Hagengruber of the Billings (Mont.) Gazette filed this: "Laurel High School graduate Stephen "Bob" Kirby has already earned a 'wall of awards' during his 11 years of service in both the U.S. Army and Air Force, said his mother, Nancy Kirby. On Sunday, though, Chief Warrant Officer II Kirby flew a relatively swift mission that will be hard to top. Kirby, 30, was one of two helicopter pilots who helped rescue seven American prisoners of war from captivity near Baghdad. 'I'm just so proud of that boy,' his mother said Monday. Kirby relayed the news to his wife, Celeste, Sunday night with a phone call to the couple's home near Fort Carson, Colo. Although the rescue sparked a surge of happiness in both the homefront and among overseas troops, Celeste Kirby said she didn't press her husband for details. Simply hearing his voice was all the news that mattered to her. 'He just said it was really cool, that was about all,' Celeste Kirby said. 'That's a really cool mission to get.' Marines from the 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion were led to the seven prisoners by cooperative Iraqi soldiers. The men and women had been shuttled between prisons during their three weeks of captivity. Their final stop was a home in Samarra, a city 110 miles north of Baghdad. The Marines burst into the home and whisked out the swarthy, pajama-clad soldiers. Kirby then flew his newly liberated passengers to an airfield south of Baghdad. From there, the soldiers were put on a C-130 Hercules Transport plane bound for Kuwait. Six Americans are still missing."

Thanassis Cambanis of the Boston Globe filed this from Iraq: "Adnan Hamid spends his days hunched in the front room of his squalid clay house in the slum called Saddam City, staring at the shrapnel scars that mark the death of his three children and his sister. Hamid's quarrel is not with the U.S. military; it's with the bands of Saddam Hussein's Fedayeen fighters, loyalists whom he blames for the random shelling that decimated his family Wednesday. 'The Fedayeen hate us because we're Shia, and they know we were against the government,' Hamid said yesterday, surrounded by relatives armed with AK-47s who do daily battle with the bands of Fedayeen still terrorizing the area. To win the war and keep this metropolis of 5 million from erupting into civil war, U.S. forces need to capture the loyalty of the disenfranchised Shia Muslims in this sprawling exurb northeast of Baghdad's center. It will be a struggle. The estimated millions who live in Saddam City are among Iraq's poorest citizens. They have been politically marginalized partly because of their fierce adherence to religion in a secular totalitarian state, and partly because many men here have refused to perform their mandatory military service."

Matthew Schofield of the Kansas City Star offered this from Baghdad: "Baghdad is getting better. There is little to eat here in the Iraqi capital. Much of what food exists is rotting behind shop fronts that have been shuttered for days, or weeks. The few grocers who have opened have little to sell, pointing to mounds of moldy bread and freezers that have not had electricity for days. Trash and broken glass cover the sidewalks. But locals note that a few more stores open each day. Downtown Baghdad on Monday was a jumble of honking car horns and blaring music. One store owner, who opened Monday for the first time in a week, said, 'Now, soon, more will open. Every day, maybe every hour.' Baghdad is getting better. There is no work. When the bombing began in March, many residents fled to the country and to cities such as Basra and Nasiriyah, which, despite their prominence in the headlines, never attracted the air war that affected the capital. So the stores are closed, and there is no need for clerks. Locals gather each morning by 6 outside the razor-wire perimeter of the Sheraton and Palestine hotels in the center of town, hoping for work. The hotels are an oasis of activity, overflowing with journalists, aid workers and coalition military officials carrying wads of foreign currency. Locals are not allowed in the two-block area, however. They stand outside and push passports and resumes into the hands of young Marines, who study the Arabic seriously before returning the documents. 'Not today, but maybe next week,' they say."

J.D. Sparks of the Sacramento Bee filed this local angle: "Albert Pride — a Sacramento track star whose name is emblazoned on track and field record books across the state — has taken his game to the next level. The legend whose times in the men's high hurdles remain among the state's top 10 after 15 years is now an Army second lieutenant, helping oversee 300 men in an armored division in the 3rd Brigade stationed in Iraq. And while Pride faces new and deadlier challenges, both he and his family say that his training on the playing field has prepared him for the battlefield. 'Being involved in sports helped me foster a teamwork mentality,' he said from the barracks at Fort Riley, Kan., just hours before being deployed in a combat unit to Iraq. 'It's not me getting the job done — it's everyone collectively,' he said. 'You're only as strong as your weakest link.' Pride's rise from a celebrated track star to a military leader came as no surprise to his family. His father, John Pride, said his son thrives in a military environment because the expectations of a soldier are the same as for athletes. 'He likes discipline, likes the regimen and knowing what's expected of him,' he said. 'The military was a natural for him. Like in sports, he's part of a team. He understands that.'"

And from around the world:

The United Arab Emirates' Gulf News focused upon this: "Looting in the southern Iraqi city of Basra has caused the near collapse of the Iraqi dinar, currency traders in the city's old souq [market] said yesterday. Looters at the Central Bank took $1 million after the British took the city just over a week ago, the majority in 10,000 dinar denominations. 'They brought the money here and exchanged it for dollars,' said 47-year-old Mahmoud Jaber, a former engineer, but now one of hundreds of currency traders lining the streets of the old city. 'We know the serial numbers, but I won't take any more 10,000 dinar notes.' The dinar currently trades locally at 4,000 to the dollar. Those traders that still accept the 10,000 dinar note said they would give a rate of 10,000 to the dollar. The effect has been devastating for some people. 'I have to feed my children but all I have is this money,' said one man, angrily waving a wad of the devalued currency. Three currencies are in major circulation in Basra. The new Iraqi dinar: those with the face of Saddam Hussein on them; the old dinar: known as 'Swiss' because it is said to be backed by gold in Switzerland; and the U.S. dollar. Few hold dollars or 'Swiss.'"

Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported on the fate of Iraqi officials: "Dozens, and perhaps hundreds, of Iraqi officials escaped to Syria, according to fresh assessments by intelligence organizations including the U.S., British and Israeli services, which were surprised by the large numbers involved after initial estimates that only a few dozen made their way to Syria during or prior to the war. But while the escapees include relatively high-ranking officials, and at least one minister, Saddam Hussein and his inner circle are not believed to be in Syria. The large number of Iraqis who found refuge in Syria is why Washington and London have stepped up pressure on Damascus and the reason for U.S. warnings that it might take action against Damascus. That pressure regarding people wanted by the U.S. has already begun to have an effect on Syria, which told American and British officials it has closed its border and is not accepting more Iraqis seeking refuge. The Syrians say they had turned down a request by the former Iraqi industry minister to be granted political asylum in Syria, and two deputy ministers were also turned down."

London's Daily Telegraph focused upon the remarks of the prime minister: "Tony Blair claimed victory in Iraq for the first time and told the Commons that he hoped elections could be held there in little over a year. While there was no mood of 'triumphalism' among the British and American forces, 'the cause was just, the victory right,' he said. Brig. Gen. Tim Cross, the senior British official involved in the American effort to run Iraq since the fall of Saddam, said he hoped that an administration would be set up in Baghdad in two weeks and that the first oil sales would be held in three months. It had been feared that Saddam's Tikrit heartland might prove the scene of a desperate last stand, but in the end there was little resistance. There were cautious if genuine waves from people who emerged from alleys onto the main street where each lamppost bore a portrait of Saddam. Unlike in Baghdad, they and the statues were intact. Cars with white cloths tied to wing mirrors made brief, wary explorations before disappearing. Near the main American checkpoint a single tea shop opened in a line of otherwise closed shops. Among the huddles of people who emerged onto the streets, none said they had ever seen Saddam. Every year lavish birthday celebrations had been held. Children sang songs of tribute to Saddam, parades lauded his glorious record and dignitaries handed the governor gifts for the 'Great Uncle.'"

Pakistan's Dawn newspaper focused upon news from Saudi Arabia: "Saudi Arabia has convened an urgent foreign ministers' regional conference to discuss Iraq and the emerging scenario. The neighboring countries of Iraq would be invited to participate in the conference, to be held here on April 18. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud pointed out that the conference would be held in the light of the situation in Iraq and its expected impact on the countries of the region in general and on the Iraqi people in particular. In the meantime, the Saudi foreign minister rushed to Syria on a short unannounced visit. He met the Syrian President Bashar Al Assad in Damascus on Monday. According to reports reaching here, the two leaders reviewed the developments in Iraq and the efforts being exerted by the neighboring countries to restore security and stability to the country. The two sides apparently also discussed the Saudi proposal for a regional foreign ministers' conference. Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq Al Shara and a number of senior officials also attended the meeting. The foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council will hold here on Tuesday an extraordinary session. The secretary-general of the GCC, Abdulrahman Al Atiyyah, said the participants of the meeting were scheduled to review the development of the situation in the Arab region following the collapse of the Iraqi regime."

Compiled by Andrew Cohen