20/12/2006 18:19 - (SA)
Washington - President George W Bush on Wednesday warned Americans of the need for new "sacrifices" in Iraq next year, and said hard choices await in a war he now grimly admits the United States is not winning.
"I'm not going to make predictions about what 2007 will look like in Iraq except that it's going to require difficult choices and additional sacrifices," Bush said in a news conference, warning "the enemy is merciless and violent".
A sombre Bush had earlier admitted for the first time that the United States was not winning in Iraq.
"We're not winning, we're not losing," Bush said in an interview with Wednesday's Washington Post, in a reversal of a remark he made before congressional elections in November: "Absolutely, we're winning."
Bush is under fierce pressure to change course in Iraq, following the rout of his Republican party in the polls, rising public demands to bring the troops home and mounting US combat deaths.
He has been locked in a string of consultations with heavy-hitting national security and foreign policy aides in his administration, and is expected to lay out a change of course early in the New Year.
But Bush has backed away from calls by the independent Iraq study group to seek to pull most combat troops out of Iraq by early 2008 and for a direct dialogue with US foes Syria and Iran.
Increase US troops
The White House said on Tuesday Bush may temporarily increase the number of US troops in Iraq but denied he was feuding with top military commanders over such a plan.
"It's something that's being explored," spokesperson Tony Snow said amid reports Bush might order a 'surge' of tens of thousands of soldiers in a bid to quell what the Pentagon warns is the worst violence on record.
Bush also announced in the Post interview that he would seek to expand the overall size of the US military.
"I'm inclined to believe that we do need to increase our troops, the army, the marines," he said, adding that he had directed defence secretary Robert Gates to consult military commanders on the issue and report back.
Iraq 'on brink of collapse'
19/12/2006 21:35 - (SA)
Baghdad - Iraq is on the brink of total disintegration and could drag its neighbours into a regional war, a leading think-tank said on Tuesday, after the Pentagon confirmed violence was at an all-time high.
The warning from the International Crisis Group came amid lawless chaos in Baghdad, where police were hunting for 16 kidnapped aid workers and a former minister who escaped from jail, allegedly with the help of US hired guns.
The ICG's report called on Washington to distance itself from Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's beleaguered government - which has failed to tackle sectarian militias - and reach out to the US's arch-foes, Iran and Syria.
The permanent members of the UN security council and Iraq's six neighbours should engage with all the parties to Iraq's spiralling conflict, it urged, while nevertheless holding out little prospect of success.
"Implementation of the various measures mapped out in this report is one last opportunity. It is at best a feeble hope," the ICG paper said.
"But it is the only hope to spare Iraq from an all-out disintegration, with catastrophic and devastating repercussions for all," it warned.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon's quarterly report into the US military mission in Iraq said violence had soared to the highest level on record, with an average of 959 attacks per week over the past four months - up 22%.
Even this figure is likely to be a gross underestimate of the bloodshed because - as was noted in a highly critical bi-partisan review of US policy released earlier this month - the defence department's figures exclude most attacks.
The panel complained that most attacks that fail to hurt US troops are simply left out of the Pentagon's calculations, meaning that on any given day there could be 10 times more violent acts than noted by the military.
So, what was the following fuss all about???
Bush chides father for election remarks
U.S. President George W. Bush gently admonished his father for saying he hates to think what life would be like for his son if the Democrats win control of Congress in the Nov. 7 election.
It was the latest sign of possible strain in the relationship between the two men.
"He shouldn't be speculating like this, because -- he should have called me ahead of time and I'd tell him they're not going to (win)," a smiling Bush told ABC "This Week" in an interview broadcast on Sunday.
It follows the recent release of a book, "State of Denial," by journalist Bob Woodward, that says the 82-year-old former president was "anguished" over how the Iraq war has played out, although he has dismissed that account.
Earlier this month, the elder Bush was reported to have told a Republican fund-raiser in a Philadelphia suburb that "if we have some of these wild Democrats in charge of these (congressional) committees, it will be a ghastly thing for our country."
He was also quoted as saying, "I would hate to think ... what my son's life would be like" if their Republican Party lost its majorities.
The two men have rarely appeared together in public in recent years. But they praised each other at the Oct. 7 christening of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, named the USS George H.W. Bush, after the 41st president.
Though the elder Bush has said his job is to stay on the sidelines, that did not stop him from raising a warning about the prospects for a Democratic takeover of Congress.
Asked whether he had thought about the possibility, the president told ABC: "Not really ... I'm a person that believes we'll continue to control the House and the Senate."
Polls show Democrats running ahead. They must pick up 15 House seats and six Senate seats to take over Congress.
A power shift would create a political nightmare for Bush, whose public approval ratings are below 40 percent. His domestic legislative agenda would be stymied and he would see stepped-up pressure to withdraw from Iraq while possibly facing congressional investigations into the unpopular war.
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