Did John F. Burns Find True Strategy in Bush Speech?

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By: E&P Staff

In the wake of President Bush’s possible historic speech Wednesday night on a new plan in Iraq, pundits have examined the tea leaves for hidden meanings and motivations. Some have suggested that the new Iran emphasis is the key to the whole thing.

But Andrew Sullivan, the well-known blogger who once strongly supported the war but has now turned against it, feels that John F. Burns of The New York Times may have dug out the real thrust. Noting that the following was buried in Burns’ lengthy report today in the Times, Sullivan points to these passages.

A Shiite political leader who has worked closely with the Americans in the past said the Bush benchmarks appeared to have been drawn up in the expectation that Mr. Maliki would not meet them. “He cannot deliver the disarming of the militias,” the politician said, asking that he not be named because he did not want to be seen as publicly criticizing the prime minister. “He cannot deliver a good program for the economy and reconstruction. He cannot deliver on services. This is a matter of fact. There is a common understanding on the American side and the Iraqi side.”

Views such as these ? increasingly common among the political class in Baghdad ? are often accompanied by predictions that Mr. Maliki will be forced out as the crisis over the militias builds. The Shiite politician who described him as incapable of disarming militias suggested he might resign; others have pointed to an American effort in recent weeks to line up a ?moderate front? of Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish political leaders outside the government, and said that the front might be a vehicle for mounting a parliamentary coup against Mr. Maliki, with behind-the-scenes American support.

Sullivan adds his own appraisal: “If this is the case, this president is lying to us once again. It’s one lie too far. If all of this is a ruse to depose Maliki and attack Iran, the constitutional consequences of a runaway, duplicitous president are profound.”

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