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Jan 30, 2008
Be Patient on Iraq, Bush Tells Americans
WASHINGTON, — President George W. Bush, standing before Congress one last time, asked the American people on Monday night to stand strong against fears of a US recession and to remain patient with the long war in Iraq.
He pressed Congress to quickly pass a plan to rescue the economy, while acknowledging rising food and gas prices, increasing unemployment and turmoil in the housing and financial markets.
Some political analysts called his final State of the Union address “an unfinished symphony.”
One commentator on MSNBC said: “Bush had a lot of ‘fat chance’ moments in his speech. When he spoke, the American people said: ‘Fat chance that’ll happen.’”
Here’s a look about what Bush said about his foreign policy, Iraq and the Middle East peace process. Bush’s speech was dominated by his description of a policy shift that he said had brought success and the promise of victory in Iraq.
A year ago, he said, the situation in Iraq was approaching chaos. But, he said, the promotion of a new commander, Gen. David Petraeus, and a new “surge” strategy put Al-Qaeda on the defensive, forcing it from Baghdad and Anbar province into northern Iraqi cities like Mosul and to the remote areas south of Baghdad.
He cautioned against accelerating US troop withdrawals from Iraq, saying that withdrawing American troops from the situation too quickly could bring Al-Qaeda back and allow sectarian fighting to resume. Bush said 20,000 troops were coming home and would not be replaced, but that further withdrawals would await the judgment of commanders in the field.
In reality, the surge was designed to give the Iraqi government breathing space for reconciliation and, so far, there has been little of that. The legislation which the president sought and the “benchmarks” that he called for last year have largely not been met.
There is no oil law. There have been no provincial elections. In his speech, the president noted that the Iraqi Parliament recently passed a de-Baathification law; but he failed to mention that the measure is far more restrictive than the one the Bush administration had wanted.
On peace in the Middle East, Bush said that the security of every nation in the region would be helped if Israel and the Palestinian Authority could sign a peace agreement this year.
He said continued US involvement would help the two sides reach a deal that will create a Palestinian state and provide increased security for Israel. Arab nations in the region should actively support the peace process.
In reality, such an agreement was sought by President Clinton in 2000, to no avail. Peace there now is a long shot, considering the political weakness of Bush, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. But Bush believes continued violence in the region actually could help by clarifying the choice for both sides and making peace more attractive.
The president voiced familiar themes on Iran, accusing it of “funding and training militia groups in Iraq, supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon, and backing Hamas’ efforts to undermine peace in the Holy Land.” He also accused Iran of continuing to “develop its capability to enrich uranium, which could be used to create a nuclear weapon.” He called on Iran’s leaders to verifiably suspend nuclear enrichment, paving the way for the United States to enter into wide-ranging talks on economic and diplomatic issues with Iran.
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