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Expert mulls implications to new US strategy -

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ALI MOORE: Watching events closely in Washington was Dr James Carafano, a defence analyst at the
public policy research institute The Heritage Foundation, and I spoke to him shortly after the
President's address.

ALI MOORE: James Carafano, welcome to the program.


ALI MOORE: If this was President Bush's last roll of the dice on Iraq, has he delivered on paper?
And, I guess far more importantly, can he deliver on the ground?

JAMES CARAFANO: Well, I thought it was a very good speech. I thought he articulated well what he
plans on doing. If I would fault it for anything, there wasn't really much of a discussion of the
risk. The President's strategy is very much predicated on the fact that he expects the Iraqi
national reconciliation process to move forward and he expects the Iraqis to do the heavy lifting
in terms of providing security for Baghdad. Even if the United States does everything right in
terms of employing the forces, helping out with economic aid, if the Iraqi political will isn't
there and the Iraqi security forces don't continue to improve, and if the Iraqi police force isn't
substantially restructured something that wasn't even mentioned in the speech it could still not
work. It's a workable strategy but it does come with a significant amount of risk.

ALI MOORE: Indeed, it seemed to be a change of rhetoric. The emphasis is very much on the role of
the Iraqis, the responsibility of the Iraqis. Do you believe that Prime Minister Maliki can now
deliver? Has anything changed from prior to this speech?

JAMES CARAFANO: Well, I don't think it's fair to just call it a change of rhetoric. I think this is
probably one of the misinterpret the wrong-headedness of the debate. People say, well, 20,000
troops aren't enough to secure Baghdad, there aren't enough to make a difference. That's absolutely
right. But I think, if you listen carefully to the President's statements those 20,000 troops are
really going to be backboning the Iraqis. So they're not enough - but the point is, if the Iraqis
don't stand up, it's not going to happen.

ALI MOORE: But I guess the question has to be, doesn't it, what has changed for Prime Minister
Maliki - if he's not been able to succeed to date, what makes the President confident, what makes
others confident that he will succeed now?

JAMES CARAFANO: I think it is risky but, on the other hand, this is a government that has only been
in place for six months. This is a government trying to find its foothold and this is a series of
moving relationships. Everybody's kind of looking and seeing what's in the best case. You've got -
even within the Shi'ia community, for example, it's not unified, there are Shi'ia actually
attacking Shi'ia. There are some groups that want to see the country split apart and get their fair
share. There are other groups that want the whole thing, some are dependent on Syria and Iran. Some
of the Shi'ia groups are combating the Shi'ia. It's a very volatile political mix. If you're asking
can I guarantee they're going to get it right, absolutely not. I think it's a dicey mix. That's why
I said there is significant risk here. It's not a sure bet, absolutely.

ALI MOORE: President Bush has made it sure the US commitment to Iraq is not open ended. He says
that if the Iraqi Government does not follow through on its promises it will lose the support of
the American people. What does that mean? In the same breath it's very clear the US will not walk
away. It seems to be a threat, but a hollow one?

JAMES CARAFANO: It is important to end the notion of Iraq dependency. One of the clear criticisms I
think of this strategy is the fact that, you know, if Iraqis think that Americans are going to be
there and always going to be there, there's no incentive to step forward. And if you precipitately
withdraw the forces and you don't really give them a chance to do that, you might fail as well. So
the Democrat rhetoric of let's just do a phased withdrawal and tell the Iraqis to stand up, that's
equally as risky and problematic as the President's strategy. So there is no single strategy which
is going to be a silver bullet or guarantee success because, again, much of this is heavily
dependent on what the Iraqis do.

ALI MOORE: You talk about the risks, and the President himself posed the question today about why
this plan should succeed when previous ones haven't. The polls in the US are clearly showing that
the public is not in favour of more troops. Do you think the President today sold his argument?

JAMES CARAFANO: Oh, of course not. I think anybody who thought that there was going to be a
bipartisan support for any policy is out to lunch. There is no American consensus on this. I don't
think there's anything the President could have said, any course of action he could have picked
which would have gained broad consensus. But the point is, the President is the Commander in Chief.
He does direct the armed forces. If you think back to Vietnam in 1968, American popular opinion
turned significantly against the war but yet the United States stayed in Vietnam until 1973. We
didn't cut off support for Vietnam until 1975 and, quite frankly, if the President hadn't been
impeached as a result of the Watergate scandal and you didn't have an ineffectual unelected
president in place the US could have continued to provide military support. The poll numbers could
be in the single digits and the President can execute the strategy because that's the way our
system is designed and that's the way our democracy operates.

ALI MOORE: James Carafano, is there now an end game? We have a deadline of November for Iraq to
take control of most of the provinces, but is there an end game in sight?

JAMES CARAFANO: This is not a sporting event where you blow a whistle and everything is over. I
mean, it's a competition between two determined sides and, in this case, multiple determined sides
and the enemy always gets a vote. The enemy that's coming through Syria, coming through Iran, the
enemy funnelled in through al Qaeda and opposition forces within the country. They're all going to
do something as well. So I think the notion that, somehow, I'm going to do this - you're not
imposing your will on an inanimate object. An end game is not the right notion here. The question
is this, this is key, can you stand up an Iraqi government that has the broad support to sustain
and with security forces that can do that? This is a strategy that may work, but again, it has an
enormous amount of risk. The enemy, for example, could just lay down and they could go to ground
and wait for the American forces to ramp back down and then come up again. The question going
forward is not so much what the Americans do, whether they put in 20,000 troops more or 20,000
troops less, it's what do the Iraqis do? What do they do in terms of moving the political
reconciliation process forward? What do they do in terms of standing up and taking responsibility
for the country? The key thing for the US is standing up those Iraqi security forces, reforming the
police, pushing the political process forward. Those are the things in the end, not necessarily
more troops or less troops per se, that are really going to make the difference.

ALI MOORE: So a new plan but really nothing clearer. James Carafano, many thanks for joining us.

JAMES CARAFANO: Thanks for having me.