Bush Makes Unnanounced Visit to Baghdad

President Bush made an unnanounced visit to Baghdad on Tuesday for a face-to-face meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and top members of the newly installed Iraqi Cabinet. Madeleine Brand discusses the presidential trip and the latest news from Iraq with Jamie Tarabay, reporting from Baghdad.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

From the studios of NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

MADELEINE BRAND host:

And I'm Madeleine Brand. We're following the big news story of the day. President Bush's unannounced visit to Baghdad and his meeting with Iraq's new prime minister.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: I have come to not only look you in the eye, I've also come to tell you that when America gives its word, it'll keep its word. And it's in our interests that Iraq succeed.

BRAND: In a few minutes, we'll have reaction to the President's visit from Capitol Hill, Senator Edward Kennedy on setting a deadline for pulling troops out of Iraq and on a controversial presidential appointment.

CHADWICK: Also the President's trip comes just one day before a security crackdown scheduled in Baghdad, a joint effort between U.S. and Iraqi forces. We'll hear more about that later in the program.

BRAND: First, though, the details of Mr. Bush's announced visit. I spoke earlier with NPR's Jamie Tarabay in Baghdad.

JAMIE TARABAY reporting:

Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki was only told about five minutes earlier that he had a special guest and then in walked George Bush with U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and General George Casey, who's the top U.S. military commander in Iraq.

President Bush arrived today in just over about 100-degree heat here at the airport in Baghdad and took a helicopter to the Green Zone and met Malaki there in the temporary U.S. embassy headquarters.

BRAND: And what did they discuss?

TARABAY: George Bush came to tell Nouri al-Malaki that he had his support and that he was very impressed with his strategy and the cabinet that he put together and it looked like this new government truly represented Iraq.

BRAND: And there had been talk of a big videoconference today, a hook-up between Prime Minister Al-Malaki and President Bush, Baghdad to Camp David. But President Bush arrived in person. What is the significance of his in-person visit?

TARABAY: Well, that videoconference is actually still going. Except instead of being on the other side on the screen, President Bush is sitting right next to Prime Minister Malaki. And we've actually seen footage of President Bush and Prime Minister Malaki on one screen and President Bush's war council, his Vice President and national security advisors and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on the other screen.

For him to come here himself is a huge statement of support. You know, it's only his second time to Iraq in the three years since the U.S. invasion. And to come in person at this time when Malaki has just had this, he just finished putting his government together, is a very strong show of support from the U.S. to Iraq and to this new Iraqi prime minister.

BRAND: And this new Iraqi prime minister is expected to impose a major security crackdown in Baghdad. What can you tell us about that?

TARABAY: We understand that it's just going to be a huge effort. Tens of thousands of Iraqi police and Iraqi army going to be working together. Mobile checkpoints, bans on anyone who is carrying a weapon and doesn't have a license to do so.

We understand that there are going to be neighborhoods in Baghdad that are labeled, you know, hot areas that many people go into that are going to be surrounded, possible house raids.

And this is going to be the first time, I guess, for a really concerted effort to restore security to the capital. The stakes for Prime Minister Malaki are huge. He's made it his mandate to restore security, particularly to Baghdad. It's the center of the country. It's the center, it's the seat of the government.

If he fails then it's going to be very, very bad for him and his very new government.

BRAND: Alright. Thank you, Jamie.

TARABAY: You're welcome.

BRAND: NPR's Jamie Tarabay in Baghdad.

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