As Bush Adjusts Strategy, Iraqis Wait for Progress

At least 85 bodies have been recovered from different parts of Baghdad. Many Iraqis say they don't have much hope that President Bush's new strategy for their nation will prevent such violence.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

In Baghdad today, the Interior Ministry said that at least 85 bodies were recovered from different parts of the city, and there was an attack on Shiite pilgrims returning from Saudi Arabia with at least 10 killed there. It's a daily litany of violence. President Bush hopes his new strategy for Iraq will help stop it.

NPR's Jamie Tarabay is in Baghdad and joins us now. Jamie, first, you have more details about what happened today.

JAMIE TARABAY: Yes. We understand that this convoy of religious pilgrims were Shiites traveling through Anbar Province, which is a Sunni-insurgent stronghold. The convoy was ambushed, and among those killed was a deputy to Iraq's highest Shiite religious authority. It's believed this attack was in revenge for an ambush two days ago on Sunni pilgrims also returning from Saudi Arabia, and they were attacked by Shiite gunmen. And we also understand that the U.S. military has reported that that three soldiers were killed in Iraq today.

NORRIS: Do the Iraqis that you've been talking to think a new policy will make a difference for them?

TARABAY: They're not very optimistic. You know, some of them feel that the sectarian divisions are so ingrained in Iraqi society now that it wouldn't matter how many thousands of troops you sent to the capital, to the country. It's not going to lead to anything except perhaps more violence. They feel that's an Iraqi problem that needs to be dealt with internally.

And this is something that we are waiting for the Iraqi government to follow through on its promises to carry out this reconciliation program that they say, you know, it's designed to bring the two communities together. And right now, that's what they're waiting for. They don't particularly think that any new strategy here will make a difference.

NORRIS: And what about Iraq's political leaders? What are they saying about President Bush's new strategy for Iraq?

TARABAY: Well, some of the politicians who have interests that might be threatened by any military campaign are objecting to any more American troops. There are politicians with links to Shiite militias, which are widely believed to be targeted in any new offensive that's going to come out here. And they don't want to see any kind of surge of troops in the capital.

You know, there are also Sunni leaders who believe that this strategy will be like past strategies, and it will be sectarian driven and will target only Sunnis. But there are also Sunni leaders like Iraqi Vice President Tariq al- Hashemi, who wrote in The Washington Post today that there needs to be an American presence, and that any withdrawal at the moment would create a security vacuum. And that would be filled by extremists. He says Iraqi forces aren't ready to take over security yet.

NORRIS: Thank you, Jamie.

TARABAY: You're welcome.

NORRIS: That was NPR's Jamie Tarabay, speaking to us from Baghdad.

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