For quite some time, President Bush has been under pressure to provide a new approach to solving problems in Iraq. In fact, Bush himself acted on this pressure by assembling and commissioning the Iraq Study Group (ISG) to assess the situation in Iraq and to offer possible solutions. The ISG’s report was delivered on December 6, yet Bush’s announcement of his New Iraqi Strategy is set for today, over a month after the group’s report was made public.

Even without the ISG report, the Administration has had over three years to elaborate and devise plans of action and has obviously plotted out many different options and scenarios. The advantage of creating the ISG was its independence from the Administration, providing a fresh assessment of the reality in Iraq. Its bipartisan nature was beneficial in avoiding potential situations of deadlock. It looks like such a situation may, in fact, occur if Democrats face off against President Bush’s plan.

Unsurprisingly, the new Democratic Congress is challenging a reported call for a troop surge set to be announced today.

Did President Bush truly need to wait a month to announce his New Strategy? With the Democrats touting their new majority in Congress (and their ability to hinder the Strategy), the choice makes absolutely no sense. Why not present the New Strategy in December, with a Republican Congress, to ensure that the plan is not put into question?

As it stands now, the Strategy will be shot down by the Democrats and will polarize the President’s worldview against that of high-profile Democrats.

If the Democrats are actually able to effectively intervene in the troop surge, the President will be in a position to say, “We tried, but the Democrats did not let us do our job.”

After all, an additional 20 000 (or 30 000) troops will not change much. Insurgents in Iraq are notorious for disappearing when the US military shows up, and for reappearing at later times. This is not the year 2003 and it’s clear that the US will be leaving Iraq sooner rather than later, so any troop surge is only going to be a cosmetic band-aid solution.

Whichever way this goes, announcing the Strategy now, plays in the Administration’s political favor. By challenging the plan, Democrats can be painted as unpatriotic and as stalling progress in Iraq for their own political benefit. Furthermore, it gives the Administration the ability to eventually withdraw from Iraq and say, “We did everything we could.” With the Democratic challenge in place, the troops increase can be made to look as something extraordinary that the Administration had to fight for. Resilience wins political points.

If the surge is in any way successful then the Administration can proceed with a quick withdrawal from Iraq, without looking like they bowed to pressure from the Democrats.

It makes sense. And with support for the Bush Administration at a new low, with the approval rating of the handling of the Iraq war at 26%, it may be what the Administration needs.

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As Wednesday approaches, there is more and more speculation on President Bush’s new Iraq strategy and what the Democrats can effectively do if they disagree with the Commander-in-Chief.

Senator Kennedy has been the most pro-active, saying he will introduce legislation today which will limit the President’s ability to get funding for more troops without Congressional approval. The Democrat from Massachusetts said that Iraq was in a state of civil war and that Senate would insist on accountability.

Not everyone in the Democratic party is favoring steps to stop the potentiality of a surge of troops. Notably, House majority leader Steny H. Hoyer has not backed the idea of financially blocking a troop surge.

Considering all this, the next few days will be a serious test of both President Bush’s leadership and the Democrats’ new majority in Congress.

Can Bush convince the opposition that an increase of troops can actually yield results? There already is a view that the whole Iraq campaign has been one gradual surge, with matters getting worse instead of better. When increased security is attempted, it oftentimes leads to an increase in violence. On November 23, during a week when the US sought to increase security in Baghdad, the city saw the biggest level of carnage in a day.

The Democrats have won Congressional dominance, but can they hold up as a party? The Bush Administration will be making compelling arguments for its strategy and some may feel they may be perceived as unpatriotic if they don’t go along.

The opportunities are there for both parties. The Bush Administration can show maturity and work together with the Democrats in finding a solution. The Democrats can offer a viable alternative that party members will stand by.

Led by Nancy Pelosi in the House and Harry Reid in the Senate, the Democrats have warned President Bush about increasing troop levels in Iraq.

“No issue is more important than finding an end to the war in Iraq,” states a letter to George Bush by Pelosi and Reid.

While the US President has of late veered away from the idea of an exit from Iraq, it now seems that the Democrats may push the President back to that strategy. They see a surge of troops as a strategy that has already been tried and has failed.

With other countries slowly pulling their troops from Iraq (Slovakia does so in February), and an imminent change of leadership in Britain, it’s clear that the US may end up alone to handle the difficult situation created in Iraq.

Unless the US has other plans in the region — like threatening Iran — then the Democrats may have a point. Since the war began, the strategy of Britain and the US has basically been one of increasing troops. But Iraq will not be solved with the massive presence of military; Iraq needs significant aid, as well as close cooperation with its neighbors. And whether the US likes it or not, Syria and Iran are part of the neighborhood and are important players in the region.

If President Talabani can get along with Iran, then the US should not be exclusively favoring PM Maliki as has been the case in recent weeks. It was Talabani who visited Tehran in late November to discuss how Iran could help. With Iraq’s restored diplomatic relations with Syria, the Iraqi President already has an invitation to visit Damascus.