Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Taking resonsibilty and charting a new course

The principles and specific points of the President's address on strategy adjustments in Iraq are, by now, well known. The White House has posted an exhaustive review on their website - Highlights of the Iraq Strategy Review. The six fundamental elements of the new plan, as enumerated by the White House, are:

  1. Let the Iraqis lead;
  2. Help Iraqis protect the population;
  3. Isolate extremists;
  4. Create space for political progress;
  5. Diversify political and economic efforts; and
  6. Situate the strategy in a regional approach.
The full text of the President's address is here. The following includes some key excerpts of the speech.

The President claimed personal responsibility for mistakes made in Iraq.
When I addressed you just over a year ago, nearly 12 million Iraqis had cast their ballots for a unified and democratic nation. The elections of 2005 were a stunning achievement. We thought that these elections would bring the Iraqis together, and that as we trained Iraqi security forces we could accomplish our mission with fewer American troops.

But in 2006, the opposite happened. The violence in Iraq -- particularly in Baghdad -- overwhelmed the political gains the Iraqis had made. Al Qaeda terrorists and Sunni insurgents recognized the mortal danger that Iraq's elections posed for their cause, and they responded with outrageous acts of murder aimed at innocent Iraqis. They blew up one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam -- the Golden Mosque of Samarra -- in a calculated effort to provoke Iraq's Shia population to retaliate. Their strategy worked. Radical Shia elements, some supported by Iran, formed death squads. And the result was a vicious cycle of sectarian violence that continues today.

The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people -- and it is unacceptable to me. Our troops in Iraq have fought bravely. They have done everything we have asked them to do. Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me.

The thrust of troop increases and the focus of the new effort are aimed at the Baghdad area:
The most urgent priority for success in Iraq is security, especially in Baghdad. Eighty percent of Iraq's sectarian violence occurs within 30 miles of the capital. This violence is splitting Baghdad into sectarian enclaves, and shaking the confidence of all Iraqis. Only Iraqis can end the sectarian violence and secure their people. And their government has put forward an aggressive plan to do it.

Our past efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principal reasons: There were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods that had been cleared of terrorists and insurgents. And there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have. Our military commanders reviewed the new Iraqi plan to ensure that it addressed these mistakes. They report that it does. They also report that this plan can work.

Bush's major steps to confront these problems:
Now let me explain the main elements of this effort: The Iraqi government will appoint a military commander and two deputy commanders for their capital. The Iraqi government will deploy Iraqi Army and National Police brigades across Baghdad's nine districts. When these forces are fully deployed, there will be 18 Iraqi Army and National Police brigades committed to this effort, along with local police. These Iraqi forces will operate from local police stations -- conducting patrols and setting up checkpoints, and going door-to-door to gain the trust of Baghdad residents.

This is a strong commitment. But for it to succeed, our commanders say the Iraqis will need our help. So America will change our strategy to help the Iraqis carry out their campaign to put down sectarian violence and bring security to the people of Baghdad. This will require increasing American force levels. So I've committed more than 20,000 additional American troops to Iraq. The vast majority of them -- five brigades -- will be deployed to Baghdad. These troops will work alongside Iraqi units and be embedded in their formations. Our troops will have a well-defined mission: to help Iraqis clear and secure neighborhoods, to help them protect the local population, and to help ensure that the Iraqi forces left behind are capable of providing the security that Baghdad needs.

Bush made clear to Iraqis that it is time to step-up and beginning taking control of their own country:
I've made it clear to the Prime Minister and Iraq's other leaders that America's commitment is not open-ended. If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people -- and it will lose the support of the Iraqi people. Now is the time to act.

The President also addressed the Syrian and Iranian problems:
Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity and stabilizing the region in the face of extremist challenges. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We'll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.

And he addressed Iraq's neighbors that can help stabilize the region:
We will use America's full diplomatic resources to rally support for Iraq from nations throughout the Middle East. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the Gulf States need to understand that an American defeat in Iraq would create a new sanctuary for extremists and a strategic threat to their survival. These nations have a stake in a successful Iraq that is at peace with its neighbors, and they must step up their support for Iraq's unity government. We endorse the Iraqi government's call to finalize an International Compact that will bring new economic assistance in exchange for greater economic reform. And on Friday, Secretary Rice will leave for the region, to build support for Iraq and continue the urgent diplomacy required to help bring peace to the Middle East.

Though I was among those that did not believe an increase in troops was necessary, I do think that we can succeed in Iraq with this new direction. However, success is contingent upon the Administration allowing the military to do the job on the ground. That means adjusting the cumbersome rules of engagement now in place.

Most importantly, Congress should put aside the ridiculous partisan rhetoric that is poisoning the political well over Iraq. (see Gingrich below)


______________________
Right now on H&C:
  • Giuliani agrees with Bush plan. He calls for "sincere" bipartisan involvement.
  • Vilsack disagrees with Bush and Giuliani - big surprise. It's "not the time to escalate in Iraq." He calls Bush's speech the same old plan, dressed up in new language. He believes U.S. troops should leave Southern Iraq and the Baghdada region, redeploy to the north, and prepare to withdrawal completely.
  • Gingrich believes made some steps in the right direction, including pressure on Maliki and beefing-up security forces around Baghdad. Overall, a solid speech. Gingrich challenges Dems that oppose the war effort to vote to defund the war and admit their position of defeat. Congress should give the President and the military a chance to win the war.

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