President Bush insisted on Thursday his reworked Iraq strategy could succeed as he worked on a State of the Union speech expected to include a new defense of his much-criticized policy.
Bush’s plan to send 21,500 more U.S. troops has been hammered by Democrats and many Republicans since it was unveiled last week. He suggested it should be given a chance and challenged critical lawmakers to offer an alternative.
“I believe it will work,” Bush told Belo television, a U.S. group of local stations.
White House spokesman Tony Snow said Bush would use part of his prime-time televised address on Tuesday before a joint session of the U.S. Congress — now controlled by Democrats — to talk about the war on terrorism, which the administration says includes Iraq.
It comes as Democrats and many of Bush’s own Republicans are preparing to vote on a nonbinding resolution to protest sending more troops to Iraq and to call for more diplomacy and an “appropriately expedited” transfer of military responsibilities to Iraqi forces.
“I understand resolutions,” Bush told Sinclair television, another group of local stations. “My advice to those who are speaking out against a new plan that hasn’t been given a chance to work is present a plan you think will work. If disaster is not an option, what do you think will make it successful in Iraq?” he said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Congress would vote to oppose Bush’s new Iraq war strategy because it disagreed with the policy, but that she would not move to block funding for a troop increase.
“Democrats will never cut off funding for our troops when they are in harm’s way.” Pelosi said in a taped interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America,” airing on Friday. “The president knows that because the troops are in harm’s way, that we won’t cut off the resources. That’s why he’s moving so quickly to put them in harm’s way.”
Bush’s attempts to gain traction with his plan come amid frictions with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who disputed Bush’s contention this week that the hanging of Saddam Hussein looked like a revenge killing and said Iraq’s need for U.S. forces would drop dramatically if Washington would speed up the equipping and arming of Iraq’s security forces.
Bush tried to avoid a public clash with Maliki.
“My new strategy is aimed at helping the Iraqi government do exactly what the prime minister said what he wants to do,” he told Sinclair. “Now it’s up to him.”
Snow said while “there’s a disagreement on the handling of the Saddam execution,” the two governments are cooperating and “he’s (Maliki) not in a fight with us.”
With the debate in Washington dominated by Iraq, Bush planned to devote a great portion of his speech to raise the profile of his domestic agenda.
That includes changing immigration laws, improving health care and education and reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
He is widely expected to announce ways to expand the production and use of alternative fuels. He is under pressure from European leaders to take bolder steps to slow greenhouse-gas emissions many scientists blame for global warming.
Bush opposes mandatory limits on greenhouse-gas emissions, saying they would hurt the U.S. economy, and prefers voluntary ways of reducing them.
Snow said Bush’s objective was to “balance the needs of security and at the same time also the environment and you can expect him to make that linkage in the speech.”
(Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick and Tabassum Zakaria)
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