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Et Tu Maliki

By mid-January relations between Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki suddenly took a turn for the worst after Bush criticized Maliki's handing of Saddam's execution in a television interview Bush gave earlier this week. Bush said the hanging "looked like it was kind of revenge.". Photo courtesy AFP.

About 3,200 new US troops arrive in Baghdad
Baghdad (AFP) Jan 21 - About 3,200 new US troops have arrived in Baghdad as part of the new security plan announced by US President George W. Bush to stabilise the violent Iraqi capital, the military said Sunday. The 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division will be deployed in and around the city of Baghdad, the military said. "The effort represents the first of several planned troop movements that will assist Iraqi security forces in reducing violence and protecting Iraqi citizens," it said.

The brigade will be fully operational within Baghdad on or about February 1, the military added. "Their mission will be to assist Iraqi security forces to clear, control and retain key areas of the capital in order to reduce violence and to set the conditions for a transition to full Iraqi control of security in the city," the military said. "Soldiers from the 82nd come to us ready to engage in a wide variety of operations, in support of the Iraqi Baghdad Security Plan," the statement quoted Lieutenant General Ray Odierno, commander of multi-national corps, Iraq as saying.

"The brigade adds operational flexibility that will assist in securing the population." "We are continuing to assist the government of Iraq in building a stronger, more self-reliant Iraq," Odierno said, adding "securing the population of Baghdad is an imperative in achieving that end." Baghdad is engulfed in a violent sectarian conflict that has left thousands of people dead last year. On January 10, Bush announced plans to dispatch more troops to Iraq with the aim of stabilising the capital.

by Claude Salhani
UPI International Editor
Washington (UPI) Jan. 19, 2007
This past year was not a very good one for President George W. Bush. The war in Iraq dragged on with no apparent end in sight and the insurgency was getting stronger and more brazen. Attacks against American troops were rising, as were the number of casualties. By the end of 2006 the United States had lost more people in Iraq than were killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon just outside Washington.

By the end of 2006 the United States had been at war in Iraq longer than it had been involved militarily in World War II. The opposition to the war in Iraq was beginning to take its toll politically, too. In the November mid-term elections the president's party lost its majority in both houses of Congress, along with a slew of gubernatorial seats around the country.

Old allies, such as one-time Pentagon adviser Richard Perle, a staunch neoconservative and one of the original architects of the Iraq war, admitted that the Bush administration has turned the situation in the war-ravaged country and U.S. policy on Iraq into a disaster. In the early days of the administration Perle chaired a Pentagon advisory committee that was instrumental in convincing the president for the need to invade Iraq.

Perle told Vanity Fair magazine just prior to the November elections that if he had been able to see how the war would turn out, he probably would not have pushed for the removal of Saddam Hussein.

Then immediately after the November elections former Secretary of State James Baker III released the results of the bi-partisan Iraq Study Group's report which openly criticized the president's Middle Eastern policies, his lack of initiative in trying to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and the administration's decision to shun, rather than engage, Syria and Iran.

These accusations by former administration insiders greatly contradict the White House's mantra that all is well in Iraq and that the situation is constantly improving. The former insiders single out the president as the number one cause of the current mess, stating that the lack of a clearly defined policy is to blame.

In fact, the president seemed to be looking ahead to 2007 before the year began and appeared quite happy once 2006 was over. Bush sought to put a fresh start on 2007. In early January the president unveiled his new Iraq policy -- the surge of some additional 20,000 troops in the Baghdad area and in Anbar Province. But the honeymoon of 2007 -- if there ever was one to begin with -- was very short-lived.

From its onset, the new year 2007, did not look as though it would be any kinder to President Bush. Critics of his new "surge-ical" plan for Iraq was already under heavy fire, and not only from the Democrats. A number of Republican lawmakers were jumping into the fray.

By mid-January relations between Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki suddenly took a turn for the worst after Bush criticized Maliki's handing of Saddam's execution in a television interview Bush gave earlier this week. Bush said the hanging "looked like it was kind of revenge."

Prime Minister Maliki responded that Saddam had been treated with greater respect than the former leader himself had treated his opponents. The Iraqi prime minister also reacted sharply to comments from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was touring the area that Maliki's government is on "borrowed time."

Rice, who tried to make light of the tension between the Bush administration and the Maliki government, skipped Baghdad as she visited a number of Arab capitals in a renewed effort to win support for President Bush's Iraq strategy from the Arab world.

Speaking to reporters during a stopover in London, Rice said she was sorry if Maliki had taken offense at her remarks.

"Sometimes things don't translate very well," Rice said. "We know what 'on borrowed time' means -- it means there's a sense of urgency, you've got to get it done now, there's not a moment to lose. I think we're on the same page. He knows that things are urgent."

Maliki responded by questioning which government was on borrowed time, his or Bush's? "I understand and realize that inside the American administration there is some kind of a crisis situation, especially after the results of the last election," he said.

Maliki said that if Washington had sent more U.S. troops sooner and spent more money on training the Iraqi army, there would have been fewer Iraqi and American deaths.

But there is more than meets the eye; beneath the surface all is not well between Bush and Maliki. The Iraqi prime minister is opposed to the deployment of more U.S. forces in his country.

"There are concerns about whether the Maliki government is prepared to take an even-handed, nonsectarian path," Rice said. "There's no doubt about that."

Tension between the Maliki government and the Bush administration also rose over the raid by U.S. forces on an Iranian consulate in the Kurdish city of Irbil last week.

President Bush will attempt once more to convince the American people that he is on the right track in Iraq during next Tuesday's State of the Union address. It will not be an easy task.

(Comments may be sent to claude@upi.com.)

Source: United Press International

Related Links
Iraq: The first technology war of the 21st century

The Strategy Of Surge In Iraq
Washington (UPI) Jan 19, 2007
Gen. Dave Petraeus' new "surge" strategy to tame Baghdad has been eagerly adopted by the Bush administration, but its success seems unlikely. First of all, the surge has been much hyped, but it is exceptionally underpowered. Of the 21,500 U.S. troops supposedly being added to the forces in Iraq, especially in Baghdad, initially only 7,000 will be going out by the end of February.







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