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Assessing The Bush Strategy Version 2007

US President George W. Bush
by Marianna Belenkaya
UPI Outside View Commentator
Moscow (UPI) Jan 15, 2007
President George W. Bush has finally come up with his long-awaited new strategy for Iraq. In a way, it may be a prelude to the new U.S. strategy in the Middle East as a whole. However, Bush has not said anything really new, at least, as far as Iraq is concerned. The change has affected tactics rather than strategy.

Two points in his speech can be accepted without any reservations. The first one is that there is "no magic formula for success in Iraq," and, second, that the start of the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq in the near future will only make the bad situation worse, and help the extremists consolidate their positions in the Greater Middle East.

All other provisions of the president's speech give rise to questions.

Tactical change primarily concerns an increase in the strength of the U.S. troops in Baghdad. Military experts will ask why this effort will succeed when previous operations to secure Baghdad did not. Bush explains the differences: In earlier operations, Iraqi and American forces cleared many neighborhoods of terrorists and insurgents, but when U.S. forces moved to other targets, the killers returned. This time, the United States will have the force levels it needs to hold the areas that have been cleared. The strength of U.S. forces should be increased mostly for a total control over Baghdad.

What will be the price of this control, and how effective it will be is a big question. In earlier operations, political and sectarian interference prevented Iraqi and American forces from going into neighborhoods that are home to those fueling the sectarian violence. This time, Iraqi and American forces will have a green light to enter those areas. In other words, this time the Iraqi government has approved such operations.

On the one hand, this is the right decision. The matter deals with the routine obligation of security forces to stand in between the conflicting sides. But on the other hand, this decision will involve the United States in a civil war in Iraq, something it tried to avoid before. Democrats in the U.S. Congress have already voiced their apprehensions on this score. Moreover, the neutrality of Iraqis, even wearing military or political uniforms, is a huge doubt, especially among the Iraqis. Now the Americans will join them. Won't it exacerbate inter communal strife in Iraq?

However, Bush has taken precautions. He said, even if the new strategy works as planned, acts of violence will continue. He quotes two principal reasons for a failure of the past efforts to secure Bagdad: There were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods that had been cleared of terrorists and insurgents. And there were too many restrictions on the troops the U.S. did have. But was this the only problem? It is alarming that Bush does not say a word about the political and economic mistakes in his administration's actions in Iraq, which have largely created chaos in Baghdad. Everything else is a consequence rather than a cause.

The U.S. president should be given credit for talking in his speech about increasing economic aid to Iraq, and taking steps to monitor its spending. He mentioned that the Secretary of State would soon appoint a reconstruction coordinator in Baghdad to ensure better results for economic assistance to Iraq. But doesn't this mean that he is going to tacitly legalize U.S. control over the Iraqi economy? However, there is nothing new about that.

Probably, the only new decision is that Bush has eventually fixed the time when the Iraqis are able to be responsible for national security -- November 2007. But even this date does not mean that the U.S. may consider itself a victor in Iraq when it comes. Bush said that the victory would be scored when democracy spread to the entire Arab world.

Incidentally, for the first time the U.S. president has given a clear definition of democracy for the region's countries: "A democratic Iraq will not be perfect. But it will be a country that fights terrorists instead of harboring them -- and it will help bring a future of peace and security for our children and grandchildren." These words may be applied to all countries of the Greater Middle East. This is the focal point of his speech rather than an increase in U.S. forces.

The gist is that the United States will keep its strategy in the Middle East intact. It will not betray its old allies - Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, and the Gulf monarchies, and will not change its attitude to Syria and Iran.

Bush did not heed the advice of the Study Group on Iraq, lead by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, and former Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., who insisted on the involvement of Damascus and Tehran in dialogue on the Iraqi situation. Instead he has again accused Syria and Iran of supporting terrorists.

The president said: "Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity and stabilizing the region in the face of extremist challenges. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We'll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq."

In effect, Bush has ruled out a possibility of dialogue with these countries. He has all but declared war on them.

This does not mean that the United States is going to strike at these countries, but it has become obvious that Washington is getting ready for a possible war, and is prepared to defend its interests in the region, to talk in the language of force rather than seek compromise. This is what Bush said on this subject: "We're also taking other steps to bolster the security of Iraq and protect American interests in the Middle East. I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region. We will expand intelligence-sharing and deploy Patriot air defense systems to reassure our friends and allies."

It is perfectly obvious who these allies are -- the Gulf nations and Israel. It is also clear that the Patriot systems will be deployed against Iran.

But the question is whether these steps will reassure U.S. allies in the region. Arab countries, especially the Saudis, will be content that the U.S. forces will remain in Iraq. They will also be relieved to know that Washington does not want Tehran involved in an Iraqi settlement. But they are not likely to be happy about mounting tensions in the region, and Bush's appeal to them to be more active in facilitating a settlement in Iraq. They do not need the U.S. president to tell them that Washington's defeat in Iraq will be a disaster for the Middle East. But the U.S. allies are not ready to tackle the U.S.-initiated problems -- they are doing what they can, and are not likely to do much more. But Arab countries will still be able to help Bush on certain terms. The bargaining has just started.

(Marianna Belenkaya is a political commentator for the RIA Novosti agency. This article was reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti.)

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interest of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

Source: United Press International

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A Recipe For Greater Disaster
Washington (UPI) Jan 15, 2007
Since President Bush unveiled his "new strategy" for Iraq the debate in the House, the Senate, and the media has centered around two main options: immediate withdrawal or an escalation of troop levels. If either is pursued, it will precipitate an even greater disaster in Iraq than the existing situation. Sadly, the president simply does not get the consequences of escalation, while the Democrats seem clueless about those of a hasty withdrawal. The reality is that there is no military solution, but the United States also cannot leave the Iraqis to their own devices having brought them to this sorry state.

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