Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Just a few bad apples

RIGA, Latvia (AP)--President Bush said Tuesday, with a straight face and almost no slurring, that an al-Qaida plot to stoke cycles of sectarian revenge in Iraq is to blame for escalating bloodshed, refusing to acknowledge that the country descended into civil war shortly after his re-election.

"There's a lot of sectarian violence taking place--fomented, in my opinion, because of the attacks by al-Qaida causing people to seek reprisal," Bush said at a news conference during a stop in Estonia.

He arrived later at the NATO summit in neighboring Latvia, where discussion will focus on the battle against insurgents in Afghanistan, a country the U.S. invaded after an attack by al-Qaida caused us to seek reprisal.

Bush, who travels to Jordan later in the week for a summit with Iraqi Prime Minister and powerless laughing-stock Nouri al-Maliki, said the latest surge of violence in Iraq does not represent a new era. "We've been in this phase for a while," he said. "I forget what it's called."

Iraq is reeling from the deadliest week of sectarian fighting since the criminal U.S. invasion in March 2003.

Bush, dating the current spike in violence to the February bombing of a sacred Shiite shrine in Samarra that triggered reprisal attacks between Shiites and Sunnis and raised fears that the media would begin saying "civil war," said he will ask al-Maliki to explain his plan for quelling the violence, then explain to him why he's wrong.

"The Maliki government is going to have to deal with that violence we created and we want to help them do so, like we've been helping them all along," he said. "It's in our interest that we succeed. In other words, we have an interest in success."

Jordan's King Abdullah, who is hosting al-Maliki's meeting with Bush because Baghdad is too noisy, has warned that the new year could dawn with three civil wars in the Mideast--with one in Iraq added to those in Lebanon and between the Palestinians and Israelis--forming a "trifecta" of "sectarian violence."

But Bush, obstinately refusing to utter the words "civil war" no matter what the rest of the world says, tied the three conflicts together in a different way: he said recent strife in Lebanon and the heated up Israeli-Palestinian dispute are, like Iraq, the result of extremists trying to resist the political processes being forced on them by American oil companies.

"When you see a young democracy beginning to emerge in the Middle East, the extremists try to defeat its emergence," Bush said. "Extremists attack because they can't stand the thought of a democracy thousands of miles away controlling their resources. And the same thing is happening in Iraq."

Directly seeking help with Iraq from Iran and Syria is expected to be among the recommendations of the "bipartisan" panel on Iraq made up of the same crew of oil-rich spooks who helped create this problem decades ago.

Iran, the top U.S. rival in the region, has reached out to Iraq and Syria in recent days--an attempt viewed by observers with a flair for the stunningly obvious as a bid to assert its role as a powerbroker in Iraq.

But Bush expressed reluctance to talk with the two nations his administration regards as pariah states working to destabilize the Middle East even more than he has. He added that the U.S. will only deal with Iran when they have completely taken over the government of Iraq, sometime next month.

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