Saturday, June 16, 2007

Howard Out Of The Loop On US Troop Surge Facts

Says US Presence In Middle East Constrains Iran And Israel

Australia Refuses UN Demands To Send Troops To Fight In Darfur Conflict

Don't let anybody tell you that prime minister John Howard isn't on top of what's going on in Iraq, particularly when it comes to the final round of deployments in the US troop "surge" that is supposed to rein in all the death and destruction :
Mr Howard said "evidence about the success so far of the surge is mixed", but he had not given up hope.

"The surge has not reached its peak and it won't reach its peak for some weeks yet," he said.
According to the US Defence Department, who'd you expect to know the facts :
The full contingent of new U.S. forces being sent to Iraq -- what military leaders call a "surge" of troops to improve security and stability in the capital -- was completed by Friday, with 28,500 additional troops now posted in the country, a U.S. military spokesman said.
Howard often cites his friendship with President Bush, and his contact with the inner circle of the White House, as being evident of how the Bush administration cherishes Australia's troop commitment to the Iraq War. Clearly, they're not getting on the phone to him as often as they used to.

Howard is also disappointed with the democratically elected leader of Iraq. Not just disappointed, but "quite unhappy" :

The Prime Minister, John Howard, believes the Iraqi Government is not pulling its weight to help end violence in the country...

In an interview with the Herald yesterday, Mr Howard said the Iraqi Government, led by the Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, was not doing enough to rein in the sectarian violence.

"I'm still quite unhappy with the reconciliation process inside Iraq," he said.

"The Maliki Government should be doing more on that. They should be doing a lot more. It's absolutely critical; I made that clear when I saw him three months ago, and [the US President George] Bush makes that clear to him every week."

Mr Howard said the US presence in Iraq was all that was preventing it from descending into chaos and saving the rest of the Middle East from becoming "even more of a tinder box".

Mr Howard said if the US left the Middle East, constraints on both Iran and Israel could be lifted. "If the atmospherics alter, if the threat increases, the Israelis could go for a more hard-line government," he said.

Also yesterday, Mr Howard said Australia had rejected a United Nations request to send troops to Sudan because it was heavily committed elsewhere.

Of course, if Australian troops were deployed to the Darfur conflict they would very likely find themselves in military situations far more out of control, and deadly, than they now face in the relatively calm south of Iraq where the majority of Australian troops have been stationed since the war began.

Howard knows that he would have an even harder time winning the federal election at the end of the year if coffins wrapped in Australian flags are being unloaded on air force base tarmacs too close to polling day.

The Australian government is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on advertising and recruitment campaigns to boost the ranks of Australia's armed forces, but widespread labour shortages and the extreme unpopularity of the Iraq War has seen little success on the recruitment front.