From Maliki and a U.S. general, skepticism over escalation

The Iraqi prime minister suggests that Bush should just send more weapons instead.

By Tim Grieve
Published January 18, 2007 2:40PM (EST)

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Pete Schoomaker -- soon to be replaced by Bush's ousted Iraq commander, Gen. George Casey -- reportedly told the House Appropriations Committee in a closed session Wednesday that the president's new plan for Iraq has only a "50-50 chance" of succeeding.

Meeting with reporters in Baghdad Thursday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki offered a similarly not-so-certain prognosis. "We have to see how the situation in the field will go," he said, adding that he "cannot rule out" the possibility that "the situation will drastically improve, allowing U.S. troops to leave the country in great numbers in three to six months."

While Maliki didn't criticize the Bush escalation plan directly, he seemed to suggest that he had a better idea: Provide more weapons and other equipment so that Iraqi security forces can do the job themselves. "The situation would be much better if the United States had immediately sent our security forces more adequate weapons and equipment," Maliki said. "If they had committed themselves more and with greater speed we would have had a lot fewer deaths among Iraqi civilians and American soldiers."

What Maliki did criticize: The statements that Bush and Condoleezza Rice have been making of late. Maliki took issue with the president's (belated) condemnation of the way in which Iraqis executed Saddam Hussein, and he said that the secretary of state's Senate testimony that Maliki's government is on "borrowed time" was less than helpful in his fight for survival. "I believe that such statements give morale boosts to the terrorists and push them towards making an extra effort and making them believe that they have defeated the American administration," Maliki said.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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