As violence continued in Iraq, President Bush addressed the nation Monday night about his plans for the June 30 "transfer of power." Bush offered preliminary details about Iraqs forthcoming sovereignty.
Iraqi "sovereignty" will apparently include a large U.S. military and advisory presence for the indefinite future. No date is set for coalition troops to leave Iraq.
Speaking before an audience at the Army War College, Bush blamed the military for underestimating the number of troops needed for such a task.
"Our commanders had estimated that a troop level below 115,000 would be sufficient at this point in the conflict," he said. No comment yet from former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki.
"Given the recent increase in violence, we will maintain our troop level at the current 138,000 as long as necessary," he said, adding that he would send more troops if needed.
While Bush admitted that violence has worsened in Iraq, the news was not all bad. In a promising sign that the Iraqis understand the concept of sovereignty, the president noted, "In some cases, the early performance of Iraqi [military] forces fell short. Some refused orders to engage the enemy."
In response to recent torture scandals, Bush pledged meaningful reform.
"America will fund the construction of a modern maximum security prison," he said. "When that prison is completed, detainees at Abu Ghraib will be relocated. Then with the approval of the Iraqi government, we will demolish the Abu Ghraib Prison as a fitting symbol of Iraq’s new beginning."
As the president put it in his stirring conclusion, "We will persevere and defeat this enemy and hold this hard-won ground for the realm of liberty."
Related news and analysis:
- 12 killed in Najaf; Iraqi Governing Council president says draft U.N. resolution “fell short of our expectations.”
- The White House now says its considering moving the proposed Iraqi elections up, from next January to next fall.
- "Bush is a scorpion": Iraqis react to the presidents plan.
- Critics remark on Iraqs proposed "sovereignty lite."
- Deputy U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham says the resolution would give the Iraqis no power to make foreign troops leave.
- U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi will appoint a president, prime minister, two vice presidents and various ministers who will serve until the scheduled elections in January 2005. This new interim government will supposedly control the $10 billion Development Fund for Iraq, though a deputy in Iraqs foreign ministry claims that the U.S. is actually skimming from the oil revenues supplying the fund.
- France, Germany and others want the resolution to specify a date for coalition withdrawal. British and U.S. diplomats say the mandate can be reviewed after a year.
- The U.S. will not pressure the new government to retain the interim constitution, which guarantees minority rights. Shiite leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has protested these guarantees as undemocratic; Iraqi Kurds have insisted upon them.
- Iraqi troops and police will remain under U.S. control.
- Meanwhile, U.S. officials are backing away from plans to disarm militias.
- American and international advisers will stay on after the June 30 transfer. Security issues for the new embassy, which will be one of the worlds largest, have not yet been resolved.