Monday, September 3, 2007

Bush in Iraq

President Bush is in Iraq on a surprise visit. In a symbolic gesture, the Commander in Chief did not go to Baghdad and confer with the government there, opting instead to visit Anbar province. Bush's team hopes that local government and leaders will emerge as the best agents of progress in the war torn country.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki was part of the delegation that met with Defense Secretary Robert Gates before the President's arrival. As the AP reports, having the Prime Minister, who is a Shiite, travel to Sunni- dominated Anbar also sends a powerful message to war critics: al- Maliki is indeed capable of reaching out to Sunnis, and uniting Iraq's religious factions.

National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley told the AP that the trip was decided on 6 weeks ago to coincide with Congress' return to Washington, and the heating up of the war debate. Hadley said there has been marked progress in Anbar, making it a good place to show the administration's strategy.

The next week is very important for the administration, and pivotal for the war effort overall. General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker will testify before Congress on progress against the sectarian violence that has been steady since the US overthrew Saddam Husein in 2003. Support for troop withdrawal has gained steam over the Congressional break, especially in light of a critical GAO report leaked in the media last week that said little to no political or infrastructural headway was being made. The time for al- Maliki to broker a solution among Iraq's politicians appears to be at hand.

February's 30,000 troop surge has seen some increase in stability, but opponents argue such stability will be fleeting, so long as Iraq's political factions fail to build any kind of power-sharing consensus.

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