More U.S. Troops in Iraq Will Further Democratic Progress, Cheney Says
By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 14, 2007 Sending additional U.S. troops to Iraq will not only improve the security situation there, it will further the country’s democratic and economic progress, Vice President Dick Cheney said today during an interview on “Fox News Sunday.”
“We’ve made the decision and came to the conclusion that until we got a handle on the security situation in Baghdad, the Iraqis were not going to be able to make the progress they need to make on the economic front, on the political front and so forth,” Cheney said.
President Bush laid out a new strategy last week to help the Iraqis stop sectarian violence, which includes a pledge to deploy more than 20,000 additional U.S. troops to Baghdad and Anbar province.
Cheney said Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki and his government must step up and do their part if the strategy is to succeed. “He’s (Maliki) the one, ultimately, who has to perform in terms of the capabilities of Iraqi forces,” he said. “I do believe, based on the conversations we’ve had with Prime Minister Maliki and with his senior people, … that in fact we do have an understanding that will allow us to go forward and get the job done.”
The ultimate goal is to create an environment where the U.S. can hand over complete authority and security responsibility to the Iraqis, he said. “That’s always been our ultimate objective, and that hasn’t changed,” the vice president said.
Cheney made the point that since Iraq is part of the larger war on terror, it is vital the U.S. prevail there. He said it is also important to remember Osama bin Laden’s strategy against the United States. “He doesn’t think he can beat us in a stand-up fight. He thinks he can force us to quit,” Cheney said. “Iraq is the current central battlefield in that war and we must win there. It is absolutely essential we win there, and we will win there.”
Contrary to media reports, many good things have happened in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, the vice president said. He pointed to the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime, the writing of a new Iraqi constitution and multiple national elections as evidence of progress.
He said the change in Iraq strategy stems from the change in the situation on the ground there. “No war ever goes smoothly all the way,” he said. “Lots of times you have to make adjustments, and that’s what we’re doing here.”
Terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed in a June U.S. air strike, fomented much of the trouble in Iraq, Cheney said. For instance, Zarqawi orchestrated the February bombing of the Shia Golden Mosque in Samarra in an effort to provoke reprisals that would set off a sectarian conflict, he said.
“That precipitated the sectarian violence that we’re seeing now,” Cheney said.
The vice president also said America’s allies must have confidence the U.S. can be counted on to live up to its obligations.
“The most dangerous blunder here would be if in fact we took all of the effort that’s gone in to fighting the global war on terror, and the great work we have done in Pakistan and Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia and across the globe out there, and saw it dissipated because the United States now decides that Iraq is too tough and we’re going to pack it in and go home,” he said.
Cheney also touched on Iran’s involvement in Iraq, saying the Iranians use the terrorist organization Hezbollah “as a surrogate” in an attempt to topple democratically elected governments in the region.
“The threat that Iran represents is growing. It’s multi-dimensional, and it is in fact a concern to everybody in the region,” he said. “We do not want them doing what they can to destabilize the situation inside Iraq.”