The Financial Times (UK) noted Thursday that George W. Bush's "new Iraq strategy" spurns the Baker-Hamilton recommendation of a diplomatic offensive involving Iran and Syria aimed in part at addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.[1]  --  Guy Dinmore also reported that "Officials revealed the strategy would include an increase in the military presence in the region, beyond extra frontline troops for Iraq.  Analysts took this to mean a boost in the U.S. naval presence in the Gulf directed at Iran."  --  (NOTE: In the Bush's speech, he mentioned Iran several times.  --  He accused Iran of playing a role in the current violence:  "[I]n 2006 . . . [t]he 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."  --  And he accused Iran of abetting terrorists and of "providing material support for attacks on American troops":  "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.  --  We're also taking other steps to bolster the security of Iraq and protect American interests in the Middle East.  I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region.  We will expand intelligence-sharing and deploy Patriot air defense systems to reassure our friends and allies.  We will work with the governments of Turkey and Iraq to help them resolve problems along their border.  And we will work with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating the region.") ...


In depth

Iraq in crisis

By Guy Dinmore

Financial Times (UK)
January 10, 2007

In setting out a new Iraq strategy on Wednesday night, President George W. Bush appeared set to ignore the advice of allies and the Baker-Hamilton commission by refusing to accept any link with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and continuing to isolate Iran and Syria.

"There is nothing about a new diplomatic offensive," said a senior administration official ahead of the speech. To launch a joint diplomatic offensive with Iraq was the first of the 79 recommendations made by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group led by James Baker and Lee Hamilton last month.

The commission, supported by European allies, had also urged the Bush administration to "engage directly with Iran and Syria," without conditions, to obtain their support. Incentives should be offered, it said.

The official said Mr. Bush would tell Iran and Syria they had to play constructive roles.

Officials revealed the strategy would include an increase in the military presence in the region, beyond extra frontline troops for Iraq. Analysts took this to mean a boost in the U.S. naval presence in the Gulf directed at Iran.

The ISG and Arab allies had pressed Washington to make a renewed push for peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Condoleezza Rice, the ­secretary of state, is to travel to Israel and the Palestinian territories as part of a wider regional tour this weekend. But analysts and diplomats are sceptical that the U.S. is serious about making the necessary commitment to heal divisions.

"It's Bush saying 'I am not going to do Baker-Hamilton,'" said Flynt Leverett, a former official and analyst at the New America Foundation think-tank.

"Rice will go through the motions with trips to Israel and the Gulf. But just showing up on trips is not a measure of success."

According to excerpts of his speech released in advance, Mr. Bush was sticking to the liberation rhetoric that has marked his presidency since the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. by al-Qaeda.

"The challenge playing out across the broader Middle East is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of our time," he said.

The new strategy talks of strengthening defense ties in the region -- a reference to the Gulf Security Initiative, a U.S.-led effort to draw Arab allies into a closer military and diplomatic alliance to counter the growing influence of Iran.