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Bush Predicts 'Victory' Three Years After Iraq Invasion

US President George W. Bush. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Mar 20, 2006
Three years after invading Iraq, President George W. Bush said Sunday he had a strategy for "victory in Iraq" while administration officials denied that the country had sunk into civil war.

But with a mounting Iraqi death toll from bombs and assassinations and the failure of Baghdad's political leaders to agree on forming a new government, a top member of Bush's own Republican Party said US policy needs "some new thinking".

"It's important that we stop this talk about we're not going to leave until we achieve victory," said Republican Senator Chuck Hagel.

"We need some new thinking here," Hagel told ABC television.

On Sunday Bush said he had been informed by US ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad "of the progress the Iraqis are making toward forming a unity government" three months after national elections were held.

"We are implementing a strategy that will lead to victory in Iraq and a victory in Iraq will make this country more secure and will help lay the foundation of peace for generations to come," the president told reporters on the White House lawn.

Meanwhile Vice President Dick Cheney and General George Casey, commander of US military forces in Iraq, said in television interviews they remain optimistic that a stable democratic society can emerge.

Both also rejected claims by former Iraqi premier Iyad Allawi that the country has already plunged into civil war.

Cheney told CBS Sunday that ongoing violence only reflects "desperation" by Al-Qaeda to foment civil war.

"That's been their strategy all along, but my view would be they've reached a stage of desperation ... They are doing everything they can to stop the formation of a democratically elected government."

"I don't think they've been successful," Cheney said.

Casey told Fox News that an Iraq civil war was neither "imminent" nor "inevitable".

"I personally don't believe ... that we're there now (in a civil war)," he said.

"I believe that as the leadership of this country comes forward, forms the government of national unity and that begins to move forward ... you'll gradually see these tensions ebb."

The Bush administration faced rising doubts about its Iraq policy following weeks of deadly violence across the country, three years after the March 20, 2003 US-led invasion to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

US opinion polls this week showed support among Americans for Bush and the war had plunged to new lows.

On Friday Newsweek magazine's newest poll showed that approval of Bush's handling of Iraq had plummeted to 29 percent while those who disapprove of his Iraq policy shot up to 65 percent.

A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll Thursday put Bush's overall approval ratings at 37 percent.

With political party and faction leaders in Baghdad deadlocked over forming a national government, top US senators called on Bush to put greater pressure on them.

Hagel, who said the country had been in a "low-grade" civil war for as long as a year, added that the United States has to stop talking about "victory" and think through responses to a worst-case scenario, like all-out civil war.

"Are we better off today than we were three years ago? Is the Middle East more stable than it was three years ago? Absolutely not," Hagel told ABC.

"We've got to think in a big-picture way here that we haven't thought before," he said, mentioning talking more with Iraq's neighbors including Iran.

Also on ABC, Democratic Senator Jack Reed said that the United States needs to threaten Iraq's leaders with the pullout of US troops if they cannot come to an accord over governing the war-riven country.

"I think we have to make it clear to the Iraqi political leaders that if they're not able or willing to come together with a political solution that recognizes the differences and pulls together different factions, that our presence can't be indefinite there," Reed said.

Democratic Representative John Murtha, a retired Marine colonel, called on the White House to withdraw troops from Iraq, which "is already a civil war".

"We could do it in six months," he told NBC's "Meet the Press."

"And I think we'd be better off. The troops would be better off. The country would be better off."

Source: Agence France-Presse

related report

US Leaders Deny Iraq Faces Civil War Three Years After Invasion
Washington (AFP) Mar 20 - Three years after the invasion of Iraq, US leaders rejected claims that the country is sliding into civil war, and said they remain optimistic that a stable democratic society can emerge. US Vice President Dick Cheney insisted Sunday that ongoing violence only reflects "desperation" by the radical Al-Qaeda islamist group, which is attempting to spark internecine conflict.

His remarks followed widely publicized comments Sunday by former Iraqi premier Iyad Allawi that the country had already plunged into civil war.

"Clearly there is an attempt underway by the terrorists, by Zarqawi (Iraq Al-Qaeda leader Abu Musba al-Zarqawi) and others to foment civil war," Cheney said.

"That's been their strategy all along, but my view would be they've reached a stage of desperation ... They are doing everything they can to stop the formation of a democratically elected government."

"I don't think they've been successful," Cheney said.

General George Casey, commander of US military forces in Iraq, argued Sunday that an Iraq civil war was neither "imminent" nor "inevitable."

"I personally don't believe ... that we're there now (in a civil war)," he said on Fox News Sunday.

"I believe that as the leadership of this country comes forward, forms the government of national unity and that begins to move forward, I believe you'll gradually see these tensions ebb," he said.

Casey later told CNN that, "by our most pessimistic estimates," less than 0.1 percent of the Iraqi people are involved in the insurgency.

Casey and Cheney were speaking as worries grew over the failure of Iraqi political leaders to form a government after weeks of negotiations, three years after the March 20, 2003 US-led invasion to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

Those concerns fed US opinion polls, which showed uniformly during the week that support among Americans for the war and for President George W. Bush had plunged to all-time lows.

On Sunday Newsweek magazine's newest poll showed that popular approval of Bush's handling of Iraq plummeted to 29 percent while those who disapprove of his Iraq policy shot up to 65 percent.

Earlier a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll Thursday put Bush's overall approval ratings at 37 percent.

Bush defended the invasion decision Saturday and insisted that things were improving in Iraq.

"It may seem difficult at times to understand how we can say that progress is being made," Bush said in his weekly radio address.

"We will finish the mission. By defeating the terrorists in Iraq, we will bring greater security to our own country."

Meanwhile, top US senators called on the government to remake Iraq policy and warned Baghdad leaders that the US will pull out if they fail to establish a national unity government soon.

Republican Senator Chuck Hagel and Democrat Senator Jack Reed both told ABC television Sunday that the United States needs to put greater pressure on Iraq's leaders to break their impasse, backed by threats to pull US troops out.

"I think we have to make it clear to the Iraqi political leaders that if they're not able or willing to come together with a political solution that recognizes the differences and pulls together different factions, that our presence can't be indefinite there," Reed said.

However, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warned in the Washington Post Sunday that a quick US pullout will result in terrorists taking it over, tantamount to handing Germany back to the defeated fascists after World War II.

Even as he insisted that the insurgents were "losing in Iraq", Rumsfeld said that "if we retreat now, there is every reason to believe Saddamists and terrorists will fill the vacuum."

"Turning our backs on postwar Iraq today would be the modern equivalent of handing postwar Germany back to the Nazis," he warned.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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