Wednesday, October 25, 2006
This is kind of a long one...but it's important, so read it all if you can.
Today, President Bush addressed the nation on Iraq and had a press conference afterwards, as did Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki.Let's deal with President Bush first.
In listening to the president, I was immediately struck by what a heavy load he's carrying and even though I have my areas of disagreement with him, I have to respect the fact that he is not taking the easy way out but appears to have the idea that `honest mistakes were made, we need to make some changes, but I'm not wavering from my goal one iota.'
President Bush acknowledged that there have been some setbacks in Iraq,and that some Iraqi forces have performed below expectations. He said that it was important not to let disappointment turn to disillusion. "I know many Americans are not satisfied with the situation in Iraq. I'm not satisfied, either," he said at his second press conference in two weeks.
"But we cannot allow our dissatisfaction to turn into disillusionment about our purpose in this war," he said.
"We're winning and we will win, unless we leave before the job is done."
The President still considers iraq an important part of our war strategy. He said: `If I thought our mission in Iraq was not vital to US security, I would bring our troops home tomorrow.'
The President remained upbeat on Iraq, but admitted that the US is adapting its tactics to help the Iraqi government take control, as the enemy shifts its tactics. A failure in Iraq, he said would result in a radical Islamic empire `from Spain to Indonesia' that will control oil and blackmail the world and `an Iran with a nuclear bomb.'
President Bush, without going into details, said Baghdad had accepted a "schedule" for resolving contentious issues such as disarming militias, sharing oil revenues and amending Iraq's constitution.
"We are pressing Iraq's leaders to take bold measures to save their country. We're making it clear that America's patience is not unlimited."
President Bush referred to Maliki as "the right man" to lead Iraq but emphasised "we'll push him" and warned US support would last "so long as he continues to make tough decisions".
"We've got patience, but not unlimited patience.
"Yet we also understand the difficult challenges Iraq's leaders face. And we will not put more pressure on the Iraqi government than it can bear," the president said.
"Our mission is to help the Iraqi government control its territory and stand on its own, and that in the end the Iraqi government will have to solve the problems of security and sectarian violence."
Bush also urged Iran and Syria to support the governments of Iraq and the Siniora government in Lebanon and warned against creating instability in those democracies.
"Iran and Syria understand full well that the world expects them to help Iraq. And we've made that very clear to them," Bush said.
"Our message to Syria is consistent: Do not undermine the Siniora government in Lebanon," Bush said.
"Help Israel get back the prisoner that was captured by Hamas. Don't allow Hamas and Hezbollah to plot attacks against democracies in the Middle East. Help inside of Iraq. They know our position, as well," he said.
When asked about Iran during the press conference part of the festivities, the President was uncompromising in saying that Iran knew very well where the US stood: "If they would verifiably stop their enrichment, the United States will be at the table with them," Bush said. "In the meantime, they understand our position and they understand, more importantly, the Iraqi position about the interference inside their country."
Interestingly enough, and almost in passing, the President mentioned, almost in passing that he had talked to neighboring Sunni governments about exercising their influence on their clerics and co-religionists to help end the sectarian violence in Iraq. And mentioned the Saudis, the UAE and Jordan by name.
This is major...if true, it means that Bush has enlisted the Sunni autocracies in an attempt to shut down the Shiite bloc, for their own survival if nothing else.
Maliki had something very different to say.
For one thing, he was livid about US forces leading a raid on Moqata al-Sadr's Mahdi Army stronghold in the Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City, and said it was done without his approval and `would never happen again.'
Maliki also denied a claim by our ambassador to Iraq that he had accepted a "timetable" for action. Maliki was clearly irritated, denied he had accepted any kind of timetable and said that he would tackle the Shiite militias at his own pace and not under American orders.
My take on this is that Maliki definitely got some tough love from the Bush administration today..and that it may even have consisted of a formal timeframe for a US withdrawal if he doesn't quit walking the tightrope. I think he was told plainly that he could either be in Iran's camp or in America's, and that the raid on Sadr City, which also utilized Iraqi as well as American troops was designed to underline that message...which would explain Maliki's near temper tantrum today. I think that a request by us to Iraq for long term bases was also on the agenda. In fact, when President Bush was asked about it, he simply said that Iraq was a sovereign nation and would have to make it's own decisions on that.
In view of Bush's remarks on Iran and what apparently seems to be a major change on iraq, things could get very interesting in the next couple of months...stay tuned...
Posted by Freedom Fighter at 12:27 PM