We're winning in Iraq, says defiant Bush, as US angers Iraq's Malaki
AFP - President George W. Bush insisted that the United States was "winning" in Iraq, as he defended his war strategy two weeks before elections that may see his Republican party lose control of both chambers of Congress.
Iraq is dominating the political discussion as opposition Democrats seek to gain control of the US House of Representatives and Senate in the November 7 vote.
"I know many Americans are not satisfied with the situation in Iraq. I'm not satisfied, either," said Bush, speaking in his second press conference in two weeks.
"But we cannot allow our dissatisfaction to turn into disillusionment about our purpose in this war," he said. "We're winning and we will win, unless we leave before the job is done."
Bush acknowledged "serious concern" about a tidal wave of violence in October, the deadliest month for US troops in Iraq in a year.
Ninety-one US soldiers have been killed in Iraq in October, which is on course to become the bloodiest month for US troops since November 2004 when they fought fierce street battles in the western town of Fallujah.
Bush spoke just hours after US forces in Baghdad led a raid on a Shiite militia stronghold in the suburb of Sadr City -- a stronghold of radical cleric Moqtada'a al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia.
Sadr supports Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and the raid was apparently conducted without Malaki's approval.
A joint team of Iraqi special forces and US advisers, supported by helicopters, triggered a fierce pre-dawn gunbattle with militia fighters in the raid.
The US military said the troops were hunting the leader of a death squad cell. They said the forces captured 13 suspects and killed up to six enemy fighters in an air strike.
But Iraqi officials said that four civilians were also killed and 20 more wounded, while Maliki demanded an explanation from the US-led coalition.
The raid came as Maliki was already bridling at pressure from US officials to speed up his national reconciliation program and move decisively against militias like the Mahdi Army.
Reacting to a claim by a senior US envoy that he had accepted a "timetable" for action, a clearly irritated Maliki reiterated a pledge that he would tackle the militants at his own pace and not under US orders.
"We will strike hard against those who break the law and endanger state security. There is no place for militias alongside the state," Maliki told reporters.
Bush, who fiercely resisted any talk of a timetable for a US withdrawal, said Baghdad had accepted a "schedule" for resolving contentious issues such as disarming militias, sharing oil revenues and amending Iraq's constitution.
"We are pressing Iraq's leaders to take bold measures to save their country. We're making it clear that America's patience is not unlimited," Bush said.
Bush called Maliki "the right man" to lead Iraq but emphasized "we'll push him," warning that US support would last "so long as he continues to make tough decisions."
"We've got patience, but not unlimited patience," he said.
In a bid to stave off a rout of fellow Republicans in looming congressional elections, Bush said he took full responsibility for the war.
"If you are asking about accountability, it rests right here --- that's what the 2004 campaign was about ... if people are unhappy about it, look right to the president," Bush said at his news conference.
With the US military and Iraqi civilian death toll mounting and public support for the war plunging, Bush and his top aides in Iraq are working hard to rally enthusiasm for the mission.
At least 2,797 members of US forces have been killed or died accidentally in the Iraq campaign since the March 2003 invasion, according to an AFP count based on Pentagon figures.
A CNN poll published on Tuesday found that only one in five Americans believes the United States is winning the war in Iraq. Eighteen percent believe insurgents are winning, but the majority, 60 percent, say no one is winning.
The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll found that the elections would be a referendum on the Iraq war, and that 57 percent of voters said it was not worth fighting.
In one bit of bright news for the Bush administration, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Wednesday Danish troops would remain in Iraq, despite his recent call for an unspecified change of strategy in the volatile country.
"We should remain in Iraq as long as the Iraqi government wants us to," Rasmussen said during a question-and-answer session at the Danish parliament.
Denmark has 470 soldiers in Iraq, mostly deployed in the southern city of Basra under British command.
Last edited by ballz2wallz; 10-26-2006 at 08:31 AM..