February 17, 2007

Rice Flies To Baghdad

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made an unannounced trip to Baghdad to personally observe the start of the new surge strategy. Rice told reporters that she's "pleased" with the initial implementation, and that the increased American troops will have a big impact on the city's security:

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived Saturday in Baghdad to assess the security crackdown there, she told reporters traveling with her on the unannounced visit.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Rice will discuss security and reconstruction in various provinces across the war-ravaged nation. She will meet with U.S. and other Iraqi officials, an embassy spokesman said.

The secretary is scheduled to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories after the talks in Baghdad.

Rice said she had been told the Iraqis are "doing the job alongside their coalition counterparts and they are off to a good start."

The military command has taken a very cautious public stand on the significant drop in violence since the US and Iraq implemented the new security plan. They do not want to inflate expectations too soon in the operation, and believe that the hard-core jihadis will wait for a while to get a feel for the new tactics before conducting offensives. Rice acknowledged this as well, but also remarked that she would be satisfied if they decided not to confront security forces at all.

Rice will meet with Maliki later today to review the security situation. Her presence will remind Maliki that the US will not countenance any backsliding on his commitments to the new strategy. At the moment, he has plenty to gain from a drop in violence in the capital, and we can expect him to maintain his tenacity. When the jihadis begin their counteroffensives, Rice will probably have to make more trips to Baghdad to underscore the Bush administration's insistence on the new rules of engagement and the end of political cover for Shi'ite militias as well as Sunni insurgencies.


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