New York Times
January 14, 2007
BAGHDAD, Jan. 13 (AP) — Warming from its initial response this week, the Iraqi prime minister’s office on Saturday expressed support for President Bush’s new war strategy. But it continued to emphasize that the Iraqi government would retain control over all military action in Baghdad, and Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki maintained a public silence on the issue.
Mr. Bush announced Thursday that he would send more than 20,000 additional combat troops to Iraq, with most bound for Baghdad, the capital, in an effort to set up round-the-clock security operations.
Mr. Maliki’s government, however, initially gave what appeared to be grudging acceptance of the plan at best. His spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, emphasized that the government’s ultimate goal was to ensure a permanent withdrawal of American troops. But if the increase would help security for Iraq, he said, “the government, for sure, will not stand against it.”
He also asserted Baghdad’s right to demand changes. “We will tell the American administration to amend any point that we feel is not suitable,” he told reporters then.
On Saturday, however, Mr. Dabbagh’s tone was more positive toward the plan, saying that the prime minister saw the new security strategy as representing “a common vision and a mutual understanding between the Iraqi government and the American administration.”
He added, “The Iraqi government affirms that security and stability in Iraq is a strategic necessity to the people of the region and the world since terrorism is a threat to everyone.”
Mr. Dabbagh reiterated that American forces would be working in support of the Iraqis as they apply Mr. Maliki’s new security plan to restore peace in Baghdad, which he announced in a speech on Jan. 6. The prime minister said then that he would fight against “safe haven for any outlaws, regardless of sectarian or political affiliation.”
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, the New York Democrat who has opposed Mr. Bush’s plans to send more troops, arrived in Iraq on Saturday.
Senator Clinton was traveling with Senator Evan Bayh, Democrat of Indiana, and Representative John M. McHugh, a Republican from upstate New York. The three, all members of armed services committees, were to meet with Iraqi officials and American military commanders. They also planned to go to Afghanistan.
A sniper killed a policeman walking on a street in the commercial district of Karada in central Baghdad on Saturday, and a bomb in a parked car struck a mixed neighborhood in a western neighborhood, wounding three civilians.
At least five people also were killed in attacks in northern Iraq, including two Iraqi contractors who were checking a bridge in Kirkuk and a Shiite grocery store owner.Mr. Maliki, who outlined an Iraqi-led security plan to Mr. Bush when they met in Amman, Jordan, in November, has argued for Americans to pull out of cities and leave security to the Iraqi Army, which is 80 percent Shiite.
An Iraqi general said this week that the army intended to put nine brigades on the streets of Baghdad, or a total of about 27,000 men.
The military officer said for the most part the Iraqi force would not be directed against the Shiite militias, including the dominant Mahdi Army. The majority of fighting against the Mahdi Army would be left to the Americans in tandem with the Iraqi Special Operations forces.