Gas Week

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Bush reclaims political initiative on Iraq: a long-term US position created from the Iraq mess will keep Australia in the region for years

Posted by gasweek on 28 September, 2007

Where, exactly, was the US political system on Iraq after the reports from ambassador Ryan Crocker and General David Petraeus and the new policy from Bush, asked Paul Kelly in The Australian (22/9/2007, p. 20). Bush back in control of debate: “As Haass argues, the majority view in US politics is that a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq would be strategic folly that would undermine the US,” wrote Kelly. “Signs are that Bush has thwarted the intense anti-war pressure from Congress and has managed to regain control of the political debate. Bush has seized on the contentious report to Congress by Petraeus given 10 days ago. Petraeus said: ‘The military objectives of the surge are, in large measure, being met. Though the improvements have been uneven across Iraq, the overall number of security incidents in Iraq has declined in eight of the past 12 weeks’.

Success in a decade? “This is what Bush wanted and needed to hear,” Kelly wrote. “Note Petraeus said it was ‘my testimony’. It was not cleared by the Pentagon. But what sort of time frame did he envisage for success? Perhaps the answer was given several weeks ago when his former adviser, Australia’s consultant to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, retired officer David Kilcullen, said no counter-insurgency could be won in less than a decade.

Smart politics: “The President’s September 13 national address reveals the complex multifaceted strategy he now runs,” wrote Kelly. “Most Australians have convinced themselves that Bush is a fool, but they would be wise to examine his effort to transform the nature and politics of this war. Bush said he would start to recall troops because the surge was working, hoping to restore order to Republican ranks, boost morale and begin to defuse Iraq as a domestic issue. So the Bush administration controls the pace of withdrawal rather than having an exit from Iraq imposed on it. Note, it has no detailed timetable. None. This is a managed reduction as opposed to a hasty pullout. Any hasty pullout (if it happens) will come under the next president, presumably a Democrat, not Bush.

Iraq strategy aimed at Iran: “Haass, who previously served secretary of state Colin Powell, says: ‘I can imagine an American presence in Iraq of, say, 75,000 troops for years if the costs were not high (and) if people continue to believe that the alternatives are dire. We are beginning to see the emergence of an Iraq strategy that has a regional dimension.’ That dimension involves the US working with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iraqi Sunnis to ‘push back against Iran and its proxies’. This is an entirely different situation from 2003, when Bush in his naive hubris launched this fateful war,” wrote Kelly

The Australian connection: “Does this mean anything for Australia? Yes, you had better believe it,” Kelly wrote. “If Bush creates a long-term US position from the Iraq mess, then Australia will be in the region (a combination of Iraq, the Gulf and Afghanistan) for years. This is consistent with the foreign policy of both John Howard and Kevin Rudd.”

The Australian, 22/9/2007, p. 20

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