Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The "Decider" In Irresolute Mode

When you have backed yourself into a corner in a bad part of town, there are usually no easy solutions.

The White House said Tuesday that President Bush would delay presenting any new strategy for Iraq until early next year, as officials suggested that Mr. Bush's advisers were locked in internal debates on several fronts about how to proceed.

The absence of an immediate new American plan for Iraq is adding to anxiety among Iraq's moderate neighbors, who identify with the country's minority Sunni Arab population, and has opened the way for new proposals from many quarters, in Iraq as well as in Washington, about the next steps. But several administration officials said Mr. Bush had concluded that the decisions about troops, political pressure and diplomacy were too complicated to rush in order to lay out a plan to the nation before Christmas.

The White House decision prompted criticism from Democratic Congressional leaders and from at least one Republican senator who said Mr. Bush was failing to show sufficient urgency about Iraq despite months of escalating violence there.

The Iraq Study Group's report last week portrayed the situation in Iraq as "grave and deteriorating," and on Tuesday alone, 70 Iraqis were killed and more than 200 wounded in a truck-bomb attack in a central Baghdad square. ...

Some members of the administration, including some in Vice President Dick Cheney's office, have argued that the administration needs to provide clear support to a strong Shiite majority government, but the State Department, led by Condoleezza Rice, views that as a recipe for perpetual civil war. Ms. Rice has instead advocated a proposal intended to woo centrist Sunni leaders to Mr. Maliki's side, including provincial leaders. ...

In an interview, Senator Chuck Hagel, the Nebraska Republican who is often critical of the president's war policy, called the delay "unpardonable" and added: "Every day that goes by, we are losing ground." Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader in the Senate, said in a statement, "Waiting and delaying on Iraq serves no one's interests."

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