Iraq Government Backs U.S. Plan, Maliki Says Four days after President Bush announced his plan to deploy 21,000 additional U.S. troops in Iraq, the reaction of the Iraqi government is becoming clearer. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told reporters this weekend that the plan is identical to what his government wants.

Iraq Government Backs U.S. Plan, Maliki Says

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DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Debbie Elliott.

This weekend, as the U.S. prepares to deploy an additional 21,000 troops to Iraq, the Bush administration is making clear it expects cooperation from the Iraqi government. When the president announced his plan last week, he said previous U.S. efforts had failed in part because of restrictions on U.S. troops. Among those restrictions, the Iraqi government's refusal to allow U.S. forces to go after Shiite militias.

Today on Fox News Sunday, Vice President Dick Cheney said the administration had been frank on this point with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Vice President DICK CHENEY: We've been very direct with him, and I think Maliki and his government understand very well that they in fact need to step up and take responsibility, that we need to have new rules of engagement, that there will not be any political interference, if you will, phone calls from government officials that interfere with the legitimate military activities of the security forces.

ELLIOTT: NPR's Jamie Tarabay is in Baghdad, where Prime Minister Maliki made his first public statement about the new Bush plan this weekend. I asked Jamie about the prime minister's reaction.

JAMIE TARABAY: Maliki was speaking with Iraqi reporters yesterday and he said that the U.S. strategy was identical to everything that the Iraqis had worked out themselves. He said it was the same strategy and their intentions were the same. It's very important for him to show that he's in charge, not the Americans, and that whatever is being decided was more of an Iraqi plan than an American one.

When he announced that there was going to be a new security plan for Baghdad about two weeks ago, he stressed that all militias and anyone that was an outlawed armed group would be targeted, that this new campaign would focus on any militia, any armed group regardless of its political affiliation, regardless of its sect. And that was widely interpreted to mean that whatever protection Moqtada al-Sadr and his militia had before, that's no longer the case now.

It's widely expected that there will be an offensive on Sadr City once this new campaign comes into play.

ELLIOTT: What can you tell us about the general that has been named to head the effort to secure Baghdad?

TARABAY: His name is Lieutenant General Abud Kambar(ph). He's a Shiite from Amarra(ph), which is in the south of Iraq, and he was taken prisoner by the Americans during the 1991 Gulf War. That's pretty much it. There isn't a lot of detail out there about him. The Americans don't have a lot of experience with working with him, and that's why there are so many objections to him.

What also concerns U.S. officials is that he will apparently report directly to the prime minister, bypassing the defense ministry, which is run by a Sunni. Now, that might be a way for Maliki to sidestep approval for certain operations that a Sunni defense minister and American officials may not agree to. There are Iraqis in the government who accuse Kambar of having links with Moqtada al-Sadr, but that hasn't been verified. But if it's true, it could compromise military operations in Baghdad, especially those expected to target Sadr City. Kambar may decide not to go in at all or he may give Sadr and his militia a heads up.

ELLIOTT: NPR's Jamie Tarabay in Baghdad. Thank you.

TARABAY: Thank you.

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