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Bush “manipulated” public over Iraq

Josef Litobarski
28 May 2008

By July 2008, US officials expect to have finalised an agreement to replace the current UN mandate in Iraq, which expires in December. The Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) will define the legal basis for the presence of US forces in the country. The SOFA will allow the US to continue stationing troops in Iraq, potentially indefinitely, in stark contrast to the administration's claims in 2002 when then-Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld rejected concerns that Iraq would become a quagmire.

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Ex-White House press secretary Scott McClellan is now publishing a book accusing the president of "manipulating sources of public opinion" and "downplaying the major reason for going to war." There is growing criticism of the Bush administration for its handling of the war, not just from Democrats, but increasingly from former allies in the White House. On Tuesday, former US anti-terror tsar Richard Clarke appeared on CNN saying that he feels that the American presence "in Iraq helps al-Qaida."

Defending the war in a speech to graduates from the U.S. Air Force Academy, President Bush promised "generations of security and peace" in the United States if the war on terror is won. He argued, however, that it would take "time and patience," drawing comparisons with the rebuilding of post-war Germany and Japan.

The SOFA has drawn calls for protests from some Shia leaders, most notably cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. The news comes as Iraq's main Sunni political bloc suspended talks to rejoin the Shia-led government, despite Washington's hopes for greater Sunni involvement in the political process.

The toD verdict: Criticism of the war, although varying in its intensity, is increasingly becoming the accepted media narrative in the run-up to the elections. President Bush, who is accused by his critics of being a "lame-duck president" now that he is in the last months of his final term in office, is being seen as a liability by the Republican Party.

In his White House bid, Senator John McCain is now reluctant to accept too much public endorsement from Bush, aware that his own support for the US troop presence in Iraq is already controversial. Violence in Iraq, after a spike in 2007, is currently at its lowest level in more than four years according to the U.S military, yet Iraq is still likely to be a key issue in the upcoming US elections.

Guinea's president reaches deal with mutinying soldiers

A military revolt in Guinea, which began three days ago in protest of President Conte's dismissal of Prime Minister Lansana Kouyate, has apparently ended. Guinea's new Prime Minister, Ahmed Tidiane Souare, announced that soldiers would receive back-pay and raises which they alleged had been promised them by Kouyate, and which they feared would be jeopardised by his dismissal.

President Conte, who has ruled the country since a 1984 coup, had appointed Kouyate last year as part of a compromise with trade unions seeking his resignation. In an effort to appease junior officers involved in the revolt, Conte also dismissed Defence Minister Bailo Diallo.

South Africa to establish temporary accommodation for refugees

South Africa's Department of Home Affairs has announced plans to establish shelters for foreign citizens who have been forced from their homes by xenophobic mobs over the past two weeks. The government denied that "refugee camps" are being established, and says that it prefers the term "temporary shelters." The camps will be able to support up to 70,000 people, although the plan has been greeted cautiously by aid agencies, which fear the government has little experience running such camps. Many people are currently sheltering in makeshift shelters in and around government buildings and police stations, where general health conditions are rapidly worsening.

Kurdish settlements in South Caucasus a potential flashpoint

Turkish and Azerbaijani media are reporting that Kurdish militants have been settling in Nagorno-Karabakh, and in other areas officially part of Azerbaijan but occupied by Armenia. The same media outlets accuse Armenia of promoting resettlement as a means of strengthening its hold on the region. Military leaders in both Turkey and Azerbaijan have hinted that they would be willing to carry out strikes in Nagorno-Karabakh, similar to strikes carried out by Turkey against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Northern Iraq in recent months.

More fighting in Sri Lanka

Sixteen Tamil rebels have been killed and 14 wounded in clashes between rebels and the Sri Lankan military, according to a military spokesperson. The conflict has escalated in recent months, and President Mahinda Rajapaksa vowed yesterday "not to stop until terrorism has been defeated." The president's comments came after a bomb killed eight and wounded over 70 in an attack which authorities blamed on the Tamil Tigers.

Yemeni forces defeat rebels in fight for capital

Yemeni security forces announced on Tuesday that they had "dealt with the rebellion in Bani Hushaish," following several days of heavy fighting in suburbs of the Yemeni capital of Sana'a that left dozens of casualties. Tribal sources have told AFP that the fighting was triggered on 16 May when rebels ambushed the security chief of Sana'a province, forcing security forces to send reinforcements from the capital.

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