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Stand-off Gets Messier

Reported by Eleanor - August 17, 2004 -

On Studio B with Shep Smith (Aug. 17, 3:00 p.m.), the key topic was Najaf, and the stand-off with al Sadr.

Shep asked the question, "Why not go in there and kill the guy? John Cookson said that mediators are trying to talk truce with al Sadr forces. The conference is in its fourth day, trying to select a 100 member Parliament, but they cannot agree. Najaf is a distraction as Iraq tries to work out a peaceful withdrawal from the Shrine.

This story continued with : "Should the U.S. take out al Sadr? The Iraqis are talking to him with a new policy every day; one last chance after another; a new round of negotiations. How much has his support grown? The polls show him plateauing in the last few weeks. The Iraqi conference is "overwhelmingly" against him.

The dialog continued with Robert McGannis (?) saying we have to kill him. We lost credibility in Fallujah. Now we're doing it again. The Iranians are fueling this with money from behind the scenes. It's 130 degrees, many months, with 40 pounds of weight, our soldiers are being shot at. It's disheartening to our soldiers. Al Sadr is engaging in political calculations.

Breaking news at the end of the program: Al Sadr has declined to meet with the peace delegation "due to American aggression."

Comment: What to do? This standoff is difficult, and the media offering up opinions is not helpful. Speculation feeds the grapevine, and not much else. Bringing Iran into the equation doesn't help either. In any case, what's missing here is any visible diplomatic effort on the part of the U.S. It seems that with 140,000 troops in the middle of this, we really haven't "turned it over to the Iraqis," no matter much we say that we have. In such an explosive situation, it seems that the media should be telling us about U.S. efforts at diplomacy, rather than bringing pundits out to tell us what should happen next. We're still at war, and it's our problem. I feel a leadership gap.