U.S. officials reaffirm Bush administration’s confidence in Iraqi leader
Washington -- Much of the discussion between President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Amman, Jordan, will focus on how best to improve the Iraqi government’s capability to deal with sectarian violence through improved security measures, as well as economic incentives that would benefit all Iraqis.
Presidential adviser Dan Bartlett, speaking November 29 in Latvia, said a “key aspect” of the November 30 meeting would be an update on the findings of U.S. and Iraqi Cabinet members and military personnel concerning ways that Maliki’s government can take “a more direct hand” in dealing with the violence “whether it be the Sunni-based insurgent aspect of it, or the illegal militia aspect.”
Bush and Maliki were scheduled to also meet November 29 with Jordan’s King Abdullah, but Bartlett told reporters in a separate briefing that Maliki’s meetings with Abdullah earlier in the day “negated the purpose for the three of them to meet tonight.”
White House press secretary Tony Snow said Maliki has an “avowed goal” of developing Iraqi security capability “because he understands that ultimately it is going to be the Iraqi people who have to govern, sustain, and defend themselves.”
Snow described recent “aggressive” actions by the prime minister such as changes at the Ministry of the Interior, and efforts to “comb out” Iraqi police “who have been involved in acts of violence, rather than peacekeeping.”
He added that the Iraqi government has been discussing a proposed hydrocarbon law that would allow the entire country to share oil and natural gas revenues. The program would provide “a very powerful economic incentive for people in all regions and of all backgrounds to work to sustain the Iraqi state.”
Maliki’s government has “an enormously complex task” in its effort to build the country’s first democratic political apparatus amidst “long pent-up angers” among different factions in Iraq. However, Snow said that despite a “tough time,” the government leaders have “demonstrated unity and determination.”
BUSH ADMINISTRATION REMAINS CONFIDENT IN IRAQI GOVERNMENT
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in an interview with Germany's ZDF television November 28, said that the United States remains steadfastly committed to helping Iraqis realize their goal of a peaceful, democratic, and unified Iraq. Rice is traveling with Bush to the Amman meeting between the president and Maliki.
She said that the president looks forward to hearing how Iraqi authorities view the current security situation and what additional capabilities might be needed. When asked about the roles that Iraq’s neighbors – Iran and Syria – could play in stabilizing the country, Rice highlighted the Iraqi government’s contacts with both Tehran and Damascus in recent months. If Iraq’s neighbors are serious about their support, she said, actions would speak louder than words.
“The Syrians and the Iranians can at any time follow policies that help in the stability of Iraq,” Rice said. “They don't need us, the United States, to tell them what will help stabilize Iraq. Syria needs to stop permitting the flow of foreign terrorists across their border, many of whom are suicide bombers. Iran needs to act as a respected neighbor that will not stir trouble in the south.”
Senior Bush administration officials took questions on excerpts from a November 8 classified memo by National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley that were leaked to the media. Part of the memo was portrayed as being critical of Maliki.
The officials reaffirmed the Bush administration’s confidence in the Iraqi leaders, saying President Bush “is convinced of Prime Minister Maliki's determination and good intentions,” and there is “a great deal of respect for the enormity and complexity of the challenge he faces.”
They described the memo as a “probing look at the situation in Iraq,” that has assessed that challenge as being “a capability issue,” adding that the Iraqi leader “understands a lot of the complexity of the situation that he faces and is eager to address it,” they said.
They added that Bush and Maliki will hold detailed and candid discussions to share ideas on “precisely what challenges they face and how we can be of assistance.”
The officials acknowledged that “we're not doing well enough fast enough” in Iraq, and both governments are factoring in the country’s layout, history, place in the region, and the “novelty of democracy” to the country in their discussions.
They also pointed out that the Iraqi government is struggling against various insurgencies engaged in a “concerted effort … to blow up the democracy.”
The insurgents are fighting “not to vie for authority, not to come up with a competing ideology, but simply to create a failed state, and it is obvious that the prime minister has an enormous challenge,” they said.
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