Options on Iraq: Bad, Worse and Worst

President Bush postponed his speech on Iraq policy because of internal disagreements about how to proceed, says NPR's Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr.

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DANIEL SCHORR: President Bush said today he wanted to allow time for Defense Secretary Robert Gates to get up to speed.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

NPR's senior news analyst, Daniel Schorr.

SCHORR: But postponing his new strategy speech until some unspecified future date must have come hard to the president, knowing that this could be regarded as a sign of indecision.

Spokesman Tony Snow appeared to confirm that when he told reporters it isn't ready yet. The internal disagreements appear to lie along two main axis. One has to do with military forces - numbers, length of stay. Mr. Bush said today that he would not withdraw troops before the job was done. Having so often promised to stay the course, he's apparently reluctant to accept a formula like the one in the Baker-Hamilton report looking towards withdrawal of American forces starting early in 2008.

There are also complicating factories like a proposal by Iraq to have Iraqi troops as early as the first months of 2007 assume responsibility for security in Baghdad with American troops moving to the periphery of the capital.

The other axis of indecision has to do with how to shore up the shaky Maliki government. Some advisors are said to believe that the United States should stand behind the present largely Shiite government, considering that Shiites represent 60 percent of the population, and with the Kurds in the north, 80 percent.

Others, said to include Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, believe that this is a recipe for continued insurrection, which is being mainly waged by the Sunni Arabs aided by Sunnis from outside Iraq. She is said to be pressing for an effort to bring Sunnis and Shiites together in reconciliation talks.

The Bush administration will have to deal with Saudi Arabia's deep concern about the growing Iranian influence in Iraq, conveyed to Vice President Cheney by King Abdullah during a recent trip to (unintelligible).

What seems clear is that there will be no peace in Iraq before there is a political understanding between Shiite and Sunni.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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