Bush pledges support for al-Maliki

US president says he has confidence in Iraqi leader amid comparisons with Vietnam.

    The US president's support for al-Maliki comes amid  unease in the efficacy of Iraq's government [EPA]
    "It's not up to the politicians in Washington, DC, to say whether he will remain in his position," Bush said.
     
    "It is up to the Iraqi people who now live in a democracy and not a dictatorship."
     
    Vietnam comparison 
     

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    In his speech, Bush called the campaign in Iraq an "ideological struggle" and drew comparisons to US military involvement in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
     
    In a warning of the consequences of pulling troops out of Iraq, Bush referred to violence that ensued in Vietnam after US troops pulled out in 1973.
     
    Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera's senior political analyst, said Bush's referral to prior US military campaigns during World War II and in Vietnam within his speech to the veterans was an attempt to court US public opinion in the wake of the troop surge.
     
    "The US president is pretty desperate today for a [positive] public opinion. Fifty-four per cent of Americans still do not support the [troop] surge. They don’t think the surge is working," he said.
     
    "Only 10 per cent of the American public, according to recent polls, think the surge is working."
     
    Al-Maliki responds
     
    Earlier on Wednesday, al-Maliki rejected US criticism of his administration, saying no one had the right to impose timetables on his government.
     
    Al-Maliki's statement came after Ryan Crocker, the US ambassador to Iraq, described Iraq's political progress as "extremely disappointing".
     
    Crocker and General David Petraeus, the most senior US commander in Iraq, are to report to the US congress by mid-September on efforts to stop sectarian violence in Iraq and return the country to viable self-governance.
     
    Senators Carl Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and John Warner, the panel's top Republican, have also said they are not optimistic about the political situation in Iraq.
     
    Speaking on the third and final day of a trip to Syria, al-Maliki said the remarks about his government had been made within the context of the US presidential campaign.
     
    "Those who make such statements are bothered by our visit to Syria. We will pay no attention.
     
    "We care for our people and our constitution and can find friends elsewhere."
     
    No pullout
     

    Bush said Washington would not withdraw its 
    forces after a troop surge [AFP]

     
    In Wednesday's speech to the veterans association, Bush said that pulling US troops out of Iraq was not an option.
     
    "As long as I am commander in chief we will fight to win… I'm confident that we will prevail," he said.
     
    "As [US forces] take the initiative from the enemy, they have a question: 'Will their elected leaders in Washington pull the rug out from under them just as they are gaining momentum and changing the dynamic on the ground in Iraq?'
     
    "Here's my answer: We'll support our troops, we'll support our commanders, and we will give them everything they need to succeed."
     
    Clinton comments
     
    Meanwhile US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called for al-Maliki's removal for failing to make any progress in restoring peace in Iraq by resolving factional differences.
     
    She said he should be replaced by a "less divisive and more unifying figure" who could reconcile political and religious factions.
     
    "Iraqi leaders have not met their own political benchmarks to share power, modify the de-Baathification laws, pass an oil law, schedule provincial elections and amend their constitution," she said in Washington.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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