Archive for November 28th, 2006

From CNN’s Situation Room


BLITZER: Former President Jimmy Carter has been a vocal critic of some Bush administration policies, including the war in Iraq. He has a unique perspective on international conferences fueled by religion and long histories of hatred. The Nobel Peace Prize winner has a new book entitled “Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid.”
He’s joining us now in the SITUATION ROOM. Mr. President, thanks for coming in.


It’s a pleasure, Wolf.

BLITZER: A very provocative title. We’ll get to the book shortly. Let’s get through some of the major issues of the day. The president spoke forcefully today about Iraq at the NATO summit, not backing down at all, seemingly repeating the lines he was saying before the Democratic victory in Congress. Listen to this little clip.


BUSH: We’ll continue to be flexible and we’ll make the changes necessary to succeed. But there’s one thing I’m not going to do — I’m not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete.


BLITZER: Smart strategy on his part to enunciate that policy the way he is?

CARTER: Well, I think that he and the American people, the members of Congress, everyone in the United States, and maybe around the world, are waiting to see what Lee Hamilton and Jim Baker recommend.

BLITZER: But is that outsourcing foreign policy, sort of kicking, punting the ball down the road to these outside 10 Democrats and Republicans giving him advice? Is that smart?

More after the jump…

CARTER: Well, I don’t think he did it. I think this was an initiation by the Congress. He has his own recommendations, to be derived from people in his administration. But I think it would be natural for President Bush to adopt as many of the policies that Jim Baker and Lee Hamilton recommend, and their committee, as he possibly can. If there are some things with which he disagrees, in order to save face, or to show his independence, that he’s still the commander-in-chief, then he will do it. But I think in general, the recommendations of the committee will be seriously considered by the White House and maybe a lot of them will be adopted.

BLITZER: He can reject or he can accept whatever he wants. You used to do the same thing…

CARTER: Sure, he’s the commander-in-chief. Absolutely.

BLITZER: … when you were president. Is this a civil war that the U.S. is involved in in Iraq right now?

CARTER: Well, I know that NBC has ordained that it be called a civil war.

BLITZER: But what do you…

CARTER: But we’re…

BLITZER: What about Jimmy Carter?

CARTER: I think civil war is a serious — a more serious circumstance than exists in Iraq. And I say that based on some of the civil wars with which we’ve been involved in the last few years. For instance, we’ve worked 19 years to try to get a civil war ended in southern Sudan, where two million people died. And we just helped to
hold an election in the Republic of Congo, where four million people have died in the last eight years.

BLITZER: So you’re saying this is not a civil war?

CARTER: Well, I think you can — if you want to call it a civil war, some of the news media, like NBC, or if you want to call it not a civil war, by the White House, it’s a matter of judgment. I think semantics or what you name it. It doesn’t have any real effect.

BLITZER: The U.S. this commission you’re talking about, this bipartisan Lee Hamilton, James Baker Iraq Study Group, one of their proposals that there’s a lot of speculation about, that they’re going to recommend the U.S. starts talking directly with Syria and Iran. Listen to what the president said today about Iran.


BUSH: We see the struggle in Iran, where a reactionary regime subjugates its proud people, arrests free trade union leaders and uses Iran’s resources to fund the spread of terror and pursue nuclear weapons.


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A former Republican speaker of the house mulling a possible presidential run has said that America may need to reexamine freedom of speech in order to prevent future terrorist attacks.

According to a New England newspaper, Newt Gingrich “spoke to about 400 state and local power brokers last night at the annual Nackey S. Loeb First Amendment award dinner, which fetes people and organizations that stand up for freedom of speech.”

Gingrich said that a “different set of rules” should be considered to reduce the ability of terrorists to use the Internet and abuse free speech to get out their message.

“We need to get ahead of the curve before we actually lose a city, which I think could happen in the next decade,” Gingrich said.

Gingrich also said that he would make a decision whether or not to run for president by September of 2007.


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Pope seeks Christian-Muslim dialogue in Turkey

ANKARA (Reuters) – Pope Benedict began a highly charged visit to mostly Muslim Turkey on Tuesday hoping his calls for understanding between religions would soothe anger over his recent comments seen here as insulting to Islam.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan met the Pontiff as he stepped off the plane and then held short talks with him before leaving for the NATO summit in Riga.

Security was heavy for Benedict’s first visit to the Muslim world, with sharpshooters on the roof of the arrivals building and troops guarding the airport. About 3,000 police have been posted in the Turkish capital to prevent any protests.

“The scope of this visit is dialogue, brotherhood, a commitment to understanding between cultures, between religions, for reconciliation,” the Pope told reporters on board his aircraft before leaving Rome for Turkey.

Benedict infuriated Muslims in September with a lecture that they said seemed to depict Islam as an irrational religion tainted with violence. He later expressed regret at the pain his comments caused but stopped short of a full apology.

About 50 civil servants held a peaceful protest at the Religious Affairs Directorate, where the Pope will meet Turkey’s top religious official later on Thursday. Turkey is mostly Muslim but the state is officially secular.

“We are not against his visit but he comes after insulting Islam,” said Ufuk Erdem, one of the protesters. “He can visit our country whenever he wants but without insulting our honor.”



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Bush pleads for more NATO troops for Afghanistan

RIGA (Reuters) – President Bush appealed to NATO allies on Tuesday to provide more troops with fewer national restrictions for the alliance’s most dangerous mission in Afghanistan, hours before a summit of allied leaders.

“To succeed in Afghanistan, NATO allies must provide the forces NATO military commanders require,” Bush told a joint news conference with Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves in Tallinn on his way to the NATO meeting in neighboring Latvia.

“Like Estonia, member nations must accept difficult assignments if we expect to be successful,” he said in a veiled reference to numerous so-called national caveats that restrict where, when and how allies’ troops can be used.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told a security conference in Riga it was unacceptable that allied forces in southern Afghanistan, the main battleground with resurgent Taliban fighters, were 20 percent below the required strength.

“Just as we need combat forces that can also handle reconstruction, we can ill afford reconstruction armies that cannot handle combat,” he told the Riga Conference.

“Afghanistan is mission possible,” de Hoop Scheffer said. “While we have to be frank about the risks, we also have to avoid overdramatising the difficulties.”

He was speaking a day after a suicide bomber killed two Canadian soldiers in the latest attack on an alliance convoy in southern Afghanistan, prompting Canada’s foreign minister to warn public support could turn against the mission if allies did not come to Ottawa’s assistance.



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A senior columnist for the inside-the-beltway publication Congressional Quarterly speculated on MSNBC’s Hardball this afternoon that Vice President Richard B. Cheney may be the next to exit the Bush Administration, a report first caught by ThinkProgress. ThinkProgress has the video here.

Speculation that Cheney could depart the White House has been rampant, and the claim by CQ political analyst Craig Crawford could be yet another ‘crying wolf’ in the Washington political scene. Still, in lieu of the depature of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and the continuing ostracization of Administration neoconservatives, the possibility isn’t beyond the pale.

Excerpts from ThinkProgress’ transcript:

CRAWFORD: I still wonder if he stays in this administration for the full term here. I really wonder if Rumsfeld’s leaving is just the beginning.

MATTHEWS: Well, who is showing up with the Ryder truck at his home. Who’s gonna get him out?

CRAWFORD: He has to make the choice himself. He can’t be fired, technically, under the Constitution.

MATTHEWS: Why would he leave?…

CRAWFORD: My point is I don’t know why he’d want to stick around.

MATTHEWS: He has assumed an awful lot of authority under this President.

CRAWFORD: I know, and that authority is waning, if not gone. And my point is why would he want to stick around in this environment? He might just choose to leave.

MATTHEWS: Let me check this. I rarely do this on the show. Are you teasing? Are you — do you actually think there’s a reasonable plausible case for this Vice President to give up all the power he enjoys as the President’s first counsel?

CRAWFORD: Not if he doesn’t enjoy it anymore. I mean all I’m seeing is the man getting isolated more and more. This seems to be his most vulnerable position in the entire Bush administration.


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Iraq wants U.N. Security Council mandate

UNITED NATIONS – Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has asked the U.N. Security Council to extend the mandate of the 160,000-strong multinational force in Iraq, according to a letter circulated Monday.

In the letter, al-Maliki said a top priority of his government is to assume full responsibility for security and stability but it needs more time.

The United States circulated a draft resolution that would extend the mandate for one year starting on Dec. 31, with a review at the request of the Iraqi government or by June 15.

The draft, obtained Monday by the Associated Press, contains the same provision as past resolutions — a commitment that the council “will terminate this mandate earlier if requested by the government of Iraq.”

Richard Grenell, spokesman for the U.S. Mission, said since the Iraqis requested the extension “we don’t expect there to be any problems with it.”

Al-Maliki’s request for the one-year extension with a termination clause came as the U.S. administration stepped up diplomatic efforts to stabilize the country, certain to be a top item on the agenda when President Bush meets al-Maliki later this week in Amman, Jordan.

Sectarian violence in Iraq is at its worst level in the 3 1/2 years since a U.S.-led coalition invaded the country and toppled Saddam Hussein.

Bush’s summit comes as members of the Iraq Study Group mull recommendations for changes in U.S. war policy that would help restore peace and security and enable the United States to reduce its contingent of 141,000 troops.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned Monday that Iraq is close to civil war.

“I think given the developments on the ground, unless something is done drastically and urgently to arrest the deteriorating situation, we could be there,” Annan said. “In fact we are almost there.”

Annan held a teleconference with members of the study panel Monday afternoon. Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown and top U.N. envoy Ashraf Qazi have also spoken to the group, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Al-Maliki gave no timetable for a takeover of military and security operations. But he said the government is committed to increasing the number of governorates fully under the control of Iraqi authorities until all 18 are under their control. This year, Iraqi forces took responsibility for security in the governorates of Al Muthanna and Dhi Qar.

“Establishing security and securing permanent stability are among the highest priorities of the Iraqi government’s program to realize the desired peace and prosperity for the Iraqi people,” al-Maliki said. “However, terrorists and forces hostile to democracy continue to target innocent citizens and the various state institutions.”

The prime minister stressed that “security and stability in Iraq are the
responsibility of the Iraqi government.”

Over the past 2 1/2 years, Iraqi security forces have acquired new responsibilities and experience, and have grown in size and ability which has been demonstrated “by their increased ability to assume full responsibility in the fields of security and defense,” he said.

In September 2006, al-Maliki said the Ministry of Defense assumed operational command of the ground, naval and air force commands as well as two military divisions.

When Iraqis assume responsibility for security in new governorates, the multinational forces have agreed they will be present at Iraqi bases to provide support if requested, he said.

“We have agreed on three common goals: first, assumption by Iraq of recruiting, training, equipping and arming of Iraqi security forces; second, assumption by Iraq of command and control over Iraqi forces; and third, transferring responsibility for security to the government of Iraq,” al-Maliki said.

He said a high-level working group has been formed to make recommendations on achieving these goals.

“It has also been agreed to work toward the Iraqi authorities’ assuming the apprehension, detention and imprisonment tasks on the basis of an agreement to be reached between the government of Iraq and the multinational force,” al-Maliki said.

“Hence, the Iraqi government requests the extension of the mandate of the multinational force … for another 12 months.”

Al-Maliki also requested one-year extensions for the International Advisory and Monitoring Board and the Development Fund for Iraqi until Dec. 31, 2007. The Security Council authorized the board in May 2003 to ensure the “transparent” operation of the Development Fund, which was set up to receive Iraq’s oil revenue and frozen assets from Saddam’s regime and is now controlled by the Iraqi government.

The prime minister also reiterated Iraq’s call for the council to stop using the country’s oil revenue to pay compensation to victims of the 1991 Gulf War and the salaries of U.N. weapons inspectors.


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