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Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Bush bent on defying Congress on new Iraq plan
United States President George W Bush and other senior Administration officials have vowed to press on with their controversial plans to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq, notwithstanding opposition in Congress, including threats to cut off funding for the new troop deployment.

President Bush, in a television interview on CBS’s 60 Minutes, was defiant: “Congress could try to stop me from doing it, but I made my decision, and we’re going forward.”

However, Bush admitted that that the US had made errors in Iraq and that Iraq was more unstable now than it was under Saddam Hussein. “I think history is going to look back and see a lot of ways we could have done things better,” Bush said.

He also admitted that the execution of Saddam Hussein had been mishandled, describing the event as “discouraging.” He said he had only watched a part of the execution on the internet, because he had not wanted to watch Saddam fall through the trap door.

However, he stood by his decision to invade Iraq and topple the dictatorship, and his aides had defended his move last week to intensify US action against Iranian agents in Iraq.

Democrats in Congress are expected to introduce a non-binding resolution later this week condemning the President’s Iraq plan. But Vice-President Dick Cheney had said on Sunday that such a resolution “would not affect the President’s ability to carry out his policy.”

Democratic opposition to the plan would just ‘revalidate’ the views of America’s enemies in the region, that “if you kill enough Americans you can force us to quit,” Cheney said in a television interview. “The US,” he declared, “cannot run a war by committee.”

Both Bush and Cheney also sounded defiant on the Administration’s controversial pursuit of Iranians in Iraq.

While Bush warned Iranian leaders that “if we catch your people inside the country harming US citizens or Iraqi citizens, you know we will deal with them,” Cheney declared that the White House was not prepared to moderate its aggressive stance toward Iran, however vocal the criticism from inside and outside Congress.

“Iran is fishing in troubled waters inside Iraq and the threat that Iran represents is growing,” Cheney said.

Meanwhile, the confrontation between the US and Iran over Iraq has escalated as Tehran demanded the release of five “diplomats’ captured in northern Iraq, while the Bush Administration insists that the detainees are elite Revolutionary Guards fomenting the insurgency and warned that America was going to “deal with” Iranian activity in Iraq.

Hours after Bush unveiled a tough new policy on Wednesday to “seek out and destroy” Iranian and Syrian-supported networks supplying Iraqi insurgents and sectarian militias, five Iranians were seized by American forces from the northern Iraqi city of Irbil.

A US military statement said that an initial investigation found the detainees were linked to the Qods force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, “an organisation known for providing funds, weapons, improvised explosive device technology and training to extremist groups attempting to destabilise the government of Iraq and attack coalition forces.”

An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman denied the claims, insisting that the detainees had been working to build a consulate in Iraqi Kurdistan and had diplomatic immunity.

As part of the offensive against militias, Iraqi soldiers arrested 50 suspected insurgents and seized 2,000 Katyusha rockets in a Shia area north-east of Baghdad. Over 30 suspected insurgents were detained near Abu Ghraib.

RICE PLEA TO ARAB ALLIES: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, on a tour of the Middle East, asked Arab allies to help support the fragile government in Iraq, on whose success much of President Bush’s new plan to turn the war around will depend.

Rice met diplomats and leaders in Egypt and Saudi Arabia on Monday, a day after a similar session in Jordan.

The scheduled meetings with Sunni Arab leaders fell on the same day that Saddam Hussein’s half brother and the former head of Iraq’s Revolutionary Court were hanged in Iraq on Monday morning.

The top US diplomat is also meeting on Tuesday with counterparts from eight Arab countries in Kuwait. Moderate Arab governments plan to tell Rice that they will help Washington stabilise Iraq if the US takes more active steps to revive a broad peace initiative between Israel and its neighbors, Arab officials and media said.

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posted by a correspondent @ 12:47 AM    
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