Bush says victory in Iraq is still possible

(nytimes) - President Bush warned Americans today that the war in Iraq would require difficult choices and additional sacrifices in the coming year, but he said he remains confident of victory there and vowed the United States would not be run out of the Middle East by extremists and radicals, reports Trend.

Mr. Bush, appearing somber and at times reflective during a news conference to wrap up the year, conceded that 2006 was a difficult year for our troops and the Iraqi people.

But after a month in which he has been under intense pressure to change course in Iraq from Democrats and the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, whose report implied he should reframe his goals away from democracy and victory and toward mere stability the president showed no indication that he is inclined toward such a shift.

Victory in Iraq is achievable, Mr. Bush said, addressing reporters in the ornate Indian Treaty Room across the street from the White House, in an historic office building once occupied by the Navy. He went on: The fact that there is still, you know, unspeakable sectarian violence in Iraq, I know that's troubling to the American people. But I don't believe most Americans want us just to get out now.

Responding to a question about a remark he made in an interview published today in The Washington Post that America is not winning he said, I believe we are going to win. I believe that and, by the way, if I didn't think that, I wouldn't have our troops there. That's what you got to know. We're going to succeed.

But declined to make predictions about 2007 other than to say that the war would require difficult choices and additional sacrifices because the enemy is merciless and violent.

Mr. Bush also confirmed plans, disclosed today in the interview he gave to The Post, to propose an increase in the permanent size of both the Army and the Marines to meet the challenges posed by the global war on terror. But though he has been reviewing strategy in Iraq, including proposals to send additional troops to Baghdad for a short-term surge, the president said has not yet made up his mind on what he calls the way forward in Iraq.

With Democrats soon to take control of Congress after an election that was widely viewed as a referendum on Iraq, and polls showing public support for the war at all-time lows, Mr. Bush is caught in the difficult spot of coming up with a policy that will satisfy the public and Democrats, while also producing substantive change.

But Mr. Bush's rhetoric on Wednesday left many Democrats cold.

The incoming speaker of the House, Representative Nancy Pelosi, complained the president gave no indication that he is willing to make the changes needed to reverse the disastrous situation in Iraq. A former adviser to the Democratic presidential campaign of Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts said the president owes an apology to Mr. Kerry who proposed increasing the size of the military, only to be ridiculed by Republicans.

I think you could say that so far, in this reevaluation process, he is only dressing up stay the course, said the adviser, Richard Holbrooke, a former ambassador to the United Nations. The only significant thing he's done is adopt another one of Senator Kerry's campaign proposals.

At his press conference today, the president said he was willing to talk to Iran and Syria, as advocated by the Iraq Study Group, but only with conditions. He said Iran would have to stop its program to enrich uranium, which could allow it to develop nuclear weapons, before discussions could begin. And he said Syria would have to stop sending funds to insurgents in Iraq and stop interfering in neighboring Lebanon.

As the president spoke, his new defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, was in Baghdad, where he was meeting with military leaders and Iraqi officials to assess the situation.

Mr. Gates has warned that an American failure in Iraq could lead to a wider regional conflict in the Middle East

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