TODAY’S NEWS: THE BIG LEAK & OTHER IRAQ ISSUES

By Ben WhitfordPosted Saturday, May 12, 2007, at 6:39 AM ETThe New York Times leads with news that vast quantities of oil have gone missing in Iraq over the past four years, presumably siphoned off by smugglers or corrupt government officials. The Wall Street Journal heads its world-wide newsbox, and the LA Times off-leads, with news that amid fresh violence in Baghdad, the senior US commander for northern Iraq is calling for more troops….

According to a draft US government report obtained by the New York Times, up to 300,000 barrels of oil a day have gone missing in Iraq over the past four years, at an estimated cost of up to $15m a day. It’s not yet known whether the shortfall is due to theft or overstated oil production; there are concerns that the missing oil may be helping to fund insurgents. Some observers see parallels to the UN oil-for-food scandal, in which up to half a million barrels of oil a day were smuggled out of the country.

The senior US commander for northern Iraq said that rising troop numbers in Baghdad were causing insurgents to focus on undermanned areas outside the capital, and called for reinforcements. The LA Times fronts the news, speculating that Defense Secretary Robert Gates, believed to be skeptical about the surge strategy, has instructed officers to speak their mind about conditions on the ground. The Post runs the story inside, focusing on bombings in Baghdad that damaged bridges and killed 25 people yesterday. The New York Times notes that Iraqi lawmakers are drafting legislation that would set out a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops.

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