Friday, January 12, 2007

Perspective: In Baghdad, Bush Policy Is Met With Resentment

BAGHDAD, Jan. 11 — Iraq’s Shiite-led government offered only a grudging endorsement on Thursday of President Bush’s proposal to deploy more than 20,000 additional troops in an effort to curb sectarian violence and regain control of Baghdad. The tepid response immediately raised questions about whether the government would make a good-faith effort to prosecute the new war plan.

The Iraqi leader, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, failed to appear at a news conference and avoided any public comment. He left the government’s response to an official spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, who gave what amounted to a backhanded approval of the troop increase and emphasized that Iraqis, not Americans, would set the future course in the war.

Mr. Dabbagh said that the government’s objective was to secure the eventual withdrawal of American troops, and that for that to be possible there had to be security for Iraqis. “If this can be achieved by increasing either Iraqi or multinational forces,” he added, “the government, for sure, will not stand against it.”

Mr. Dabbagh suggested that much about the Bush plan depended on how circumstances in Iraq would evolve over the coming months — an echo, in its way, of senior Bush administration officials. They have implied that they might halt the month-by-month inflow of additional troops if they think Mr. Maliki is failing to meet the political and military benchmarks Mr. Bush identified as the Iraqi government’s part in making the new war plan work.

“The plan can be developed according to the needs,” Mr. Dabbagh said. Then he added tartly, “What is suitable for our conditions in Iraq is what we decide, not what others decide for us.”

Read the rest at the NY Times