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Bush rhetoric hard to square with facts
Yahoo News/AP
By LARRY MARGASAK, Associated Press Writer
January 11, 2007

WASHINGTON - Winning support among Middle Eastern countries is part of President Bush's revised strategy for Iraq. But he pitched the new plan by leaving out a pertinent fact: Anti-U.S. rhetoric in those nations has grown increasingly hostile since the execution of a man Bush never mentioned — Saddam Hussein.

Bush said in his speech to the nation Wednesday that he's sending Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the region on Friday in a new diplomatic offensive to build support for Iraq. He portrayed average citizens in the Middle East as supportive of U.S. goals.

In fact, opinion leaders in the Middle East used Saddam's execution in recent days to rail against Bush.

In the past, the president mentioned Saddam's "evil mind" in building his case for war.

In contrast to Bush's view about Middle East opinion:

_The religious establishment in Saudi Arabia, which is rooted in the hard-line Wahhabi stream of Sunni Islam, has stepped up its anti-Shiite rhetoric. Last month, about 30 clerics called on Sunnis around the Middle East to support their brethren in Iraq against Shiites and praised the insurgency.

_In Friday prayers in the Qatari capital, influential Sunni cleric Sheik Youssef Qaradawi accused Iraq's Shiite government of "a genocide" against Sunnis and appealed to the Sunni world to intervene.

Bush's view Wednesday night: From " Afghanistan to Lebanon to the Palestinian territories, millions of ordinary people" are asking: "Will America withdraw and yield the future of that country to the extremists or will we stand with the Iraqis who have made the choice for freedom?"

Bush also declared the need to address Iran and Syria's support for insurgents.

Again, he left out a key fact: The president has refused to engage either country diplomatically, as many U.S. allies and the independent Iraq Study Group urged him to do.

Other contrasts in Bush's speech:


The president promised stepped-up local reconstruction efforts. He ignored the facts on the ground that were cited in the October report of the special inspector general for Iraq.

The pledge Wednesday included doubling the number of State Department-led teams who help coordinate local reconstruction projects, and more money for quick-response teams to do local reconstruction and rebuilding projects.

The inspector general's report said continued violence and the lack of security seriously impeded reconstruction. Workers have been prevented from traveling to project sites and the lives of contractors at rebuilding sites are in danger.

The report quoted Iraq's minister of electricity as saying: "Every day I send repair teams, but they can't get to the area; there are too many insurgents. ... No one can help."

The U.S. commitment

The president stated the U.S. commitment in somewhat different terms than he had previously.

Bush said in his speech that he made it clear to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other Iraqi leaders "that America's commitment is not open-ended."

"If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people — and it will lose the support of the Iraqi people" he said Wednesday.

In the past he said, "We will stay until the job is done."

Description of the situation

Bush said on Wednesday, "The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people — and it is unacceptable to me."

This was in marked contrast to past statements by the president and his commanders that the U.S. was "on the brink of success," insurgents had been "brought to their knees," and "we have broken the back of the insurgency."

Associated Press Writer Calvin Woodward contributed to this report.

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