Fri, Sep 14, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Democrats go on the offensive ahead of Bush's speech

QUESTION OF TIMIMG: Senator Barack Obama said that the Bush administration's `bar for success is so low that it is almost buried in the sand'

AGENCIES , WASHINGTON AND BAGHDAD

Democrats assailed US President George W. Bush's tentative plan to withdraw up to 30,000 US troops from Iraq by next July even before he was to announce it yesterday.

Bush was scheduled to make a 15-minute, televised address last night saying he could bring force levels back to where they were last December if the conditions are right.

A senior aide said that Bush would closely follow the strategy laid out by the US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, which would end the military "surge" ordered in January.

That would leave roughly 130,000 US troops in Iraq about six months before Bush hands over the White House keys.

With the war-weary US public largely in favor of a withdrawal from the strife-torn country, it was unclear whether Bush's announcement would take some pressure off his Republican allies ahead of next year's elections.

A top White House official who asked not to be named said that Bush would say that "all draw-downs will be based on the conditions on the ground" and that the withdrawal, to be completed next July, could start this month.

Democrats were having none of it. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called the decision not to replace some 30,000 troops when they are rotated out "neither a drawdown nor the change in mission we need."

"It appears the president is dug in," Reid said, calling Bush's plan "more of the same."

"This is unacceptable to me. It is unacceptable to the American people," said Reid, who vowed to craft legislation this month "that changes the mission in Iraq and begins a true redeployment of our troops."

On the campaign trail, Democratic White House hopeful Senator Barack Obama demanded a withdrawal of US combat troops from Iraq by late next year.

"Unfortunately, conventional thinking in Washington lined up for the war," Obama said.

Turning to the Bush administration's strategy, Obama warned "the bar for success is so low that it is almost buried in the sand."

But some Republicans saw a possible breach in the Democrats' drive to bring troops home faster.

"I think that Democratic colleagues invested their political capital all year in failure in Iraq," said House Republican minority leader John Boehner in a conference call with reporters just after arriving in Iraq. "Now we are having success in Iraq, and hopefully continue to have success in Iraq, I don't think they have any place to go."

Meanwhile, the most prominent figure in a US-backed revolt of Sunni sheiks against al-Qaeda in Iraq was killed yesterday by a bomb planted near his home in Anbar Province, 10 days after he met with Bush, officials said.

Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha and two of his bodyguards were killed by the roadside bomb in Ramadi.

Abu Risha was leader of the Anbar Salvation Council -- an alliance of clans backing the Iraqi government and US forces.

See:

US soldiers writing of war in Iraq killed in accident

A wrong ID, a wrong turn, can mean death on Iraqi streets

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