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The New York Times filed a story at 1:37 am this morning (the time on the RSS feed timestamp) from John Burns and Sabrina Tavernise that paints the Iraqi government as leery of the proposed increase of troops in Baghdad. According to the Times, the Maliki government doesn't want more troops, as it will force them to deal with Shi'ite bad actors:
As President Bush challenges public opinion at home by committing more American troops, he is confronted by a paradox: an Iraqi government that does not really want them.
The Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has not publicly opposed the American troop increase, but aides to Mr. Maliki have been saying for weeks that the government is wary of the proposal. They fear that an increased American troop presence, particularly in Baghdad, will be accompanied by a more assertive American role that will conflict with the Shiite government’s haste to cut back on American authority and run the war the way it wants. American troops, Shiite leaders say, should stay out of Shiite neighborhoods and focus on fighting Sunni insurgents.
“The government believes there is no need for extra troops from the American side,” Haidar al-Abadi, a Parliament member and close associate of Mr. Maliki, said Wednesday. “The existing troops can do the job.”
It is an opinion that is broadly held among a Shiite political elite that is increasingly impatient, after nearly two years heading the government here, to exercise power without the constraining supervision of the United States. As a long-oppressed majority, the Shiites have a deep-seated fear that the power they won at the polls, after centuries of subjugation by the Sunni minority, will be progressively whittled away as the Americans seek deals with the Sunnis that will help bring American troops home.
Oddly enough, the Iraqis responded after the Times story went up on their site. Their response seems a little different than that painted by Burns and Tavernise:
Iraq's government welcomed President Bush's new strategy and promised it was committed to making sure it succeeds. But ordinary Iraqis gave it mixed reviews, with many expressing skepticism that an increase in U.S. troops would quell the violence ransacking their country. ...
In a speech broadcast live on Iraqi state television, Bush said he was increasing U.S. troops by 21,500 — 17,500 to Baghdad, where much of the sectarian violence has been blamed on predominantly Shiite militias. The plan also envisions 10,000 to 12,000 Iraqi troops to secure Baghdad's neighborhoods.
"The failure in Iraq will not only affect this country only but the rest of the region and the world, including the United States," said Sadiq al-Rikabi, an adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said.
"The current situation is not acceptable — not only for the American people but also for the Iraqis and their government. As Iraqis and as an elected government we welcome the American commitment for success," he added. "The Iraqi government also is committed to succeed."
It appears that reporters get different stories dependent on which "close associate" of Maliki's they chat up. Certainly, dissent exists within the Iraqi government on the deployment of more American troops to Baghdad, but despite what the Times reported, the official position of the Iraqi government welcomes the extra deployments and the new mission and its rules of engagement.
Maliki had the perfect opportunity to kneecap the entire exercise by criticizing it this morning, which would have all but ended the mission and probably the entire American involvement in Iraq. The analysis by Burns and Tavernise makes it clear that the Shi'ites want the Americans out so that they can exercise their new powers without the constraining hand of the US military. If so, the Maliki government -- which supposedly represents those interests -- could have been rid of us in a heartbeat. Instead, they acted to continue and deepen the frustration that the Times says exists from the presence of American troops.
Bush and his team let it be known that the plan either came from Maliki or had his blessings during the leakfest that preceded last night's speech. The Maliki government could have left Bush twisting in the wind, but did not. That strongly indicates that they have an interest in getting more help to end the sectarian violence that has racked their capital. Burns, who really has provided more reliable reporting than most of the mainstream media from Iraq, seems to have missed the boat on this one.Sphere It View blog reactions
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Tracked on January 12, 2007 9:55 AM
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