Syria: ME peace not currently possible

Bush: Iran, Syria must help stabilize ME; 21,000 more US troops to be deployed.

bush 298.88 with posse a (photo credit: AP)
bush 298.88 with posse a
(photo credit: AP)
Peace in the Middle East was an impossibility in light of US President George Bush's announcement to send more troops to Iraq, Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Shara said on Thursday, according to a report on Israel Radio. "There is no reason to expect that the peace process will be restarted without the clear commitment of the Americans," al-Shara said.
  • Jones: US will stand by Israel in face of Iranian threat Meanwhile, A key goal of Bush's policy speech on Iraq, delivered early Thursday morning Israel time, was to encourage Iran and Syria to work toward stability in the region. "What it does is make it clear to Iran and Syria the importance of playing constructive roles," a senior administration source said of the White House plan to send additional American forces to Iraq to stamp out sectarian violence in the capital and clear out al-Qaida fighters in Anbar province. Democratization also remains a central theme, noted the official, pointing to Bush's stress on "the broader regional context, the importance that the effort in Iraq not fail, that the experiment in democracy is a piece of a broader struggle in the Middle East between the forces of moderation, the responsible forces committed to democracy, and those extremist forces that are using terror as an instrument of their own agendas - and the consequences of failure in Iraq for all our allies and friends and supporters in the region who are moderate and are pursuing democracy." To that end, Bush announced he would send 21,000 additional US troops in an acknowledgement that his administration erred in not having more US and Iraqi troops fighting in the war. "Our current strategy in Iraq is not working," the official said. "There are no silver bullets here... but we must succeed." Although it did not adopt the Iraq Study Group's recommendation for new diplomatic initiatives with Iran, Syria and other regional players, the administration source said Bush's plan incorporated many of the Study Group's suggestions, such as embedding more American troops with Iraqis. Even before Bush spoke, Democrats were laying plans to register their opposition to the troop buildup. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pledged to hold a vote on the increase, in an attempt to isolate Bush on his handling of the war. Democratic leaders in the Senate, saying they hoped to win some Republican support, plan to have their chamber debate a symbolic measure next week that would also express opposition to troop increases. Ahead of the president's speech, White House adviser Dan Bartlett acknowledged some of the mistakes in America's approach to the war. "Military operations sometimes were handcuffed by political interference by the Iraqi leadership," he said. Bartlett also said the Iraqis had failed to deliver on earlier pledges to commit more of their troops. The Iraqis "are going to have more boots on the ground," he said. "They're going to be the ones doing the knocking on the door." Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has assured Bush that "this is going to be an operation in Baghdad that will make no differentiation between Shi'ite, Sunni or other types of illegal militia or illegal activity," Bartlett said. The Democratic congressional election victory in November showed that "American voters expect us to help get us out of Iraq," Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, a 2008 presidential hopeful and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said as his panel heard independent experts on Iraq. In the latest sign of Republican unease on the war, Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, his party's top leader on the committee, said, "The president and his team need to explain what objectives we are trying to achieve if forces are expanded, where and how they will be used," and how long more troops may be needed. In addition to the additional troops, who are set to start arriving within the month, the administration wants to pump some $1 billion more into decentralizing reconstruction efforts. The number of Provincial Reconstruction Teams will be increased from 10 to 19, with the additional units based in Baghdad and in Anbar province, seats of most of the worst violence. The teams, under State Department control, will administer some of the economic aid, including small loans to start or expand businesses. "A vast majority of the American people are not satisfied with the progress in Iraq," Bartlett said. "President Bush is in their camp. He's not satisfied. He's going to say the strategy was not working, he's going to tell them specifically how we're going to fix the strategy." The White House wants to make the infusion of additional American forces conditional on Iraq taking specific steps to curb sectarian violence as well as making other moves to deal with political and economic problems. Bartlett said the White House perspective was that "America's commitment is not open-ended," and that "milestones" had to be reached both on the security side as well as the political side and economic side. After nearly four years of fighting, $400b. spent, and thousands of American and Iraqi lives lost, the White House has called the president's prime time address from the White House library just the start of a debate over Iraq's many problems. The address - one of the most pivotal of Bush's presidency - is the centerpiece of an aggressive public relations campaign that will include detailed briefings for lawmakers and reporters, trips abroad by cabinet members and a series of appearances by Bush, starting with a trip Thursday to the Army's Fort Benning base in Georgia. Crafting the new policy took the president nearly three months. Relevant agencies conducted reviews, outside experts were called in, and the president consulted several times with Maliki and other prominent Iraqi leaders. In the meantime, the sectarian violence in Iraq continued unabated, and public approval of Bush's handling of the Iraq war hit a record low of 27 percent in December, according to an AP-Ipsos poll. AP contributed to this report.•