White House Reviews Iraq Strategy
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
NPR news analyst Juan Williams joins us to examine the White House's deliberations. Good morning, Juan.
JUAN WILLIAMS: Good morning, Renee.
MONTAGNE: Is this an internal White House debate, strictly internal about U.S. policy in Iraq, and is it a debate?
WILLIAMS: This time the focus was on getting out the message that the White House is committed to a smaller force on the ground, to pulling back American troops, and specifically limiting the fight to al-Qaida, not policing Baghdad or getting involved in a civil war.
MONTAGNE: And Juan, by next Sunday the administration has to issue a report on the progress the Iraqi government is making in meeting political, economic and military benchmarks, or progress. Will that add to the pressure on the Bush White House?
WILLIAMS: They're trying to slow down the political clock here. They don't want, as one person put it, July to become September. So the president will say that Congress asked for the report and they should wait to get it in September. With defense appropriation talks for next year now taking place on Capitol Hill, though, the president's aim is to buy time with the Senate, now through the August recess, and keep the focus on the September report.
MONTAGNE: And is there any sense in which the White House could be said to be repudiating or aiming at repudiating the troop surge?
WILLIAMS: That's a good question, Renee. No, but it is fair to say that they are more open than ever to acknowledging failure in Iraq - the slow political evolution under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki - and a willingness now to speak publicly. This is on the president's part, you will hear it later this week when he addresses this - to speak publicly the sacrifice that American troops, particularly the more than 3,600 who have died since the war started now - nearly five years ago, Renee, in March of '03.
MONTAGNE: Thanks very much, Juan.
WILLIAMS: You're welcome, Renee.
MONTAGNE: NPR news analyst Juan Williams. NPR senior Washington editor Ron Elving eyes the political shifts in the Senate over Iraq in his Watching Washington column at npr.org.
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