Bush prepares to meet with Maliki
The president hinted that U.S. patience is wearing thin.
RIGA, Latvia -- President Bush signaled plans to both reassure and pressure Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki over deteriorating conditions in Iraq, as the White House prepared for an unusual summit today in Jordan aimed at arresting the slide in security.
Speaking with reporters Tuesday in Tallinn, Estonia, before flying here for a NATO summit, Bush hinted at the U.S. government's growing impatience with Maliki when he said he would query the prime minister about his "strategy to be a country which can govern itself and sustain itself."
"My questions to him will be: What do we need to do to succeed? What is your strategy in dealing with the sectarian violence?" Bush said. Despite his pointed emphasis on the Iraqi government's role in controlling the violence, Bush also made clear his view that Iraq has not yet fallen into civil war and voiced determination to keep U.S. troops there despite growing pressure to bring them home.
"We will continue to be flexible, and we'll make the changes necessary to succeed. But there's one thing I'm not going to do: I'm not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete," Bush said later, in a speech here in the Latvian capital. "We can accept nothing less than victory for our children and our grandchildren."
With violence in Baghdad reaching levels not seen since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, both Bush and Maliki face increasing pressure to accelerate a turnover in responsibility for security to Iraqis and begin withdrawal of more than 140,000 U.S. ground troops. The White House is conducting an internal review of Iraq policy, and the commission headed by former secretary of state James Baker and former Indiana representative Lee Hamilton is finishing its deliberations on what the U.S. government should do.
National security adviser Stephen Hadley said Tuesday that the White House review is not yet complete, suggesting that Bush's meetings with Maliki, scheduled for this evening and Thursday morning, will not produce any major developments -- at least publicly. But the meetings, the third between the two leaders since Maliki took office in May, will offer an opportunity to resolve tensions between the two governments over how to proceed in Iraq.