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. Gates Points To Strategic Reassessment In Iraq But Will Retain Residual US Force

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates admitted that the US administration had underestimated the depth of mistrust between Sunni and Shiite factions, and said the leadership's failure to pass legislation to further reconciliation was "disappointing." Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Aug 06, 2007
Iraq's failure to make political progress will lead to a strategic reassessment next month but the United States still envisions a residual US military presence for a protracted period, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Sunday. Gates called national reconciliation efforts "disappointing," and said he had warned Iraqi leaders that leaving on vacation was unacceptable because "every day we buy you ... we are buying with American blood."

But in television interviews, Gates said the US "surge" strategy had succeeded in dampening violence and that progress was being made in places like Iraq's western Al-Anbar province, where former opponents of the US occupation have "flipped."

Moreover, Gates said he told regional leaders during a trip to the Middle East last week that the United States anticipates working out arrangements with the Iraqis to keep a residual force in Iraq "at some fraction of the current level."

He said in an interview with CNN that it would be "a stabilizing and supporting force in Iraq for some protracted period of time."

"So I think that that's generally the view of almost anybody who is looking at this, that some kind of residual force for some period of time will be required beyond when we begin a drawdown," he said.

Gates admitted that the US administration had underestimated the depth of mistrust between Sunni and Shiite factions, and said the leadership's failure to pass legislation to further reconciliation was "disappointing."

Asked in an NBC television interview whether there would be a strategic reassessment if Iraq did not pass legislation to unify the country by mid-September, Gates said: "I think we would have to, Yes. That's the whole point of the Crocker-Petraeus effort."

He was referring to US Ambassador Ryan Crocker and General David Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq, who are scheduled to report to Congress by September 15 on whether a surge in US forces was working and what the next steps should be.

The lack of political progress by the government of Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki has fueled calls for a timetable for a US withdrawal from Iraq.

Gates gave no indication what will come out of the September reassessment. He said it was "possible" that there could be a reduction in the 155,000 US force in Iraq.

Gates said that, as a former member of the Iraq Study Group, he probably would have supported its recommendation that support for the central government be withheld if it failed to meet political benchmarks.

But he said the turnabout in Al-Anbar province and other Sunni areas had changed the circumstances.

"So it is a disappointing picture for the central government right now, but there are some positive things happening at the local level. And obviously in the security arena," he said.

He went on to say, "At some point there has to be reconciliation at the national level."

"I think we all perhaps underestimated the depth of the misunderstanding and mistrust among these sections in Baghdad over time," he said.

earlier related report
UPI Daily Iraqi Press Roundup
by Hiba Dawood - UPI Correspondent
Al Ahali (UPI) a Kurdish liberal weekly newspaper, wrote in its editorial Friday the Iraqi soccer team achievement was a "great victory" in a time where people live a suffering that can't be described. It said that these young people achieved a victory in the middle of a political frustration storm.

"These 11 young Iraqi were able to draw a smile on the faces of millions of Iraqis, and fill the streets of Iraq from Kurdistan to the south with joy and chants," the editorial said.

The report added the players were only loyal to Iraq and didn't represent the Iraqi politicians or leaders, but they represented the Iraqi people.

"There is no comparison between the two. The politicians, who failed in all the meanings this word has, have to learn from this lesson."

The article ended by addressing the players: "God bless you who fail all the bets that claim Iraq is a divided nation."

-0-

Al Mada, an independent paper established after 2003, had a report on its first page this week on the meeting between Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Interior Minister Jawad al-Bulani and the Kirkuk police chief. The meeting focused on the importance of increasing the number of investigations aiming to release the arrested people who haven't been convicted.

The president also called for the necessity of ethnic and sectarian diversity in employing people at the Interior Ministry.

The president, the paper said, thanked the minister "for the efforts he is doing to fight terrorism, provide security, and purify the security system from corruption and promote its capability to perform its tasks."

-0-

Al Sabah Al Jadeed, an independent paper, had a title on its security section reporting on the assassination of the residential engineer who was working on reconstructing the Al Sarafiyah bridge. It is a large, old bridge in the east of Baghdad that was bombed last April, destroying big parts of it. The paper reported the engineer was killed after he left home going to work.

Sources said that "after the explosion, many parts of the bridge were damaged as well as many of the surrounding houses. The Iraqi government gave reconstruction contracts to local contractors to fix the bridge in a short time doesn't exceed few months."

-0-

On the 'local affairs' section, Al Sabah Al Jadeed published an article titled "Our holiday is a constitutional right, and it doesn't include any attitude against Bush." It referred to the holiday that the Iraqi Parliament started Tuesday after a scheduled two-month holiday was cut in half.

The paper also mentioned that a Parliament member representing the Accord Front, which has 44 out of 275 seats, said, "The U.S administration have been pressing on the Iraqi Parliament to cancel the holiday and as quickly as possible pass important issues, like the oil law."

From his side, Hassan Al Shumarri from the Fadhila Party, a Shiite party with 15 seats in the Parliament, described the U.S. demand of canceling the holiday as "unreasonable" and that "the Parliament has decided to take the holiday and don't take those demands in any consideration. It is possible that Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki has been under the U.S pressure to quickly pass laws like the oil law and debaathification."

Members of the governing coalition parties also supported the holiday and criticized U.S. opposition.

The paper mentioned that the Parliament will start sessions again on Sept. 4, just before a report to the U.S. Congress on the U.S. policy evaluation in Iraq.

-0-

The Al Zamman newspaper reports that "sources in the ministry of interior, defense and health announced that violence in July has increased 33 percent compared to June." Private sources said that 1,652 people were killed in July. In June, 1,412 people were killed. The newspaper complained that the government refuses to announce official statistics for violence victims.

Source: Agence France-Presse

Source: United Press International

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The Loss Of Will On Iraq
Arlington VA (UPI) Aug 02, 2007
Something happens to countries when they become empires -- real or metaphorical. Over time their ruling elites grow so affluent and insular that they lose discipline and abandon the habits that made them great. They rationalize away evidence of internal decay and ignore external threats in pursuit of their factional desires. And then one day, they discover they are empires no more.

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