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Bush Focuses On Iraq

US President George W. Bush (C) speaks with the press following a meeting with the Interagency Team on Iraq 12 June 2006 at Camp David in Maryland state. After the first of two days of high-level talks with top US diplomatic and military aides to map the way forward in Iraq, Bush said that Iraq's neighbors "ought to do more to help" the war-torn country's fledgling government. Photo courtesy of Jim Watson and AFP.
by Richard Tomkins
UPI White House Correspondent
Washington (UPI) Jun 13, 2006
President George W. Bush and the nation's war council are meeting at Camp David to set their bearings in Iraq. The meeting, comprised of at least two lengthy sessions Monday and another Tuesday at the suburban Maryland retreat, is a virtual who's who of key officials in the war.

Present for the discussions are Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, national security adviser Stephen Hadley, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalizad, as well as top intelligence officials and military commanders on the ground in Iraq, by videolink.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and some members of his 38-person Cabinet join discussions by videolink on Tuesday as the Bush administration gauges their plans, determination, capabilities and needs to achieve the incremental hallmarks of what Bush has labeled success.

"I've told the American people I'd like to get our troops out as soon as possible," Bush said last week during comments on the death of al-Qaida leader in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. "But the definition of 'as soon as possible' is depending upon victory in Iraq.

"And victory in Iraq is a country that can sustain itself, govern itself and defend itself."

That type of government in a long time in coming, and it's uncertain whether Maliki can deliver. His government - the first fully elected constitutional government in the country's history - is a fragile coalition reflecting the deep, bitter sectarian and political rivalries in the country unshackled by the forced demise of the Saddam Hussein dictatorship in April 2003: Sunni versus Shiite, Shiite versus Shiite, Shiite and Sunnis versus Kurds, all exacerbated by anti-coalition insurgents, foreign jihadists, Iranian meddling and criminal gangs.

A stated goal of al-Qaida in Iraq was civil war between Sunnis, who were the beneficiaries of Saddam's regime, and Shiites - the persecuted majority. Sectarian bombings, kidnappings, mass executions by rival militias and death squads wax and wane, but are unlikely to stop until the Maliki government, with coalition help, can field an adequately trained and operationally effective army and police that gain the confidence and support of the general populace.

The fact that information from Iraqis helped bring about the death Zarqawi in an airstrike last week was a hopeful sign. The Mao Zedong dictum for revolutionaries being like fishes in the sea applies to insurgents and terrorists as well. But until the Maliki government can disarm or neutralize the militias its authority will always remain a matter of conjecture.

Meanwhile, the economy remains a shambles. Oil production is slightly less than 2 million barrels per day, about 15 percent more than a year ago. Prior to the 2003 war, production was 3 million bpd. Crumbling oil infrastructure following years of sanctions and the war, plus insurgent attacks on oil pipelines continue to hamstring efforts to revitalize the country's cash-cow, which Washington had hoped would fund a large portion of reconstruction efforts.

Hussain al-Shahristani, the country's new oil minister, told a conference in Turkey last week Iraq needs an overall $12 billion to $20 billion investment to raise production to 6 million bpd by 2012.

Electricity generation, a daily burr to Iraqis, still lags behind pre-war levels, which were already constricted.

Bush made it clear last week that the war council this week would not set a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. and coalition forces. His position on withdrawal is unchanged: It will not occur until conditions on the ground allow for it, and that means the establishment of security conditions that allow for democracy to flourish.

Maliki has said he wants Iraqi security forces to be able to bear the brunt of security operations in 18 months, and with public anxiety over the protracted conflict rising, Bush has made it clear he'd like to see that as well.

"We'll get a realistic appraisal of the capacity for standing up Iraqi troops as this new government begins to function as a government," Bush said. "Once we make those assessments, then I think I'll be able to give the American people a better feel for what 'stand up/stand down' means.

"One of the reason's we're coming here ... (is to) analyze the new government, to look carefully at what their blueprint for the future looks like, and to figure out how we can help."

Source: United Press International

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