Video: Bush meets with Shiite leader about Iraq

updated 12/4/2006 8:46:41 PM ET 2006-12-05T01:46:41

With Iraq falling further into chaos and the White House increasingly on the defensive, President Bush’s national security adviser said the president’s war policy has not failed.

Stephen Hadley also said Sunday that while Bush recognizes that something different needs to be done, he won’t use the recommendations due this week from the Iraq Study Group as political cover for bringing troops home.

The White House was preparing for an important week: Bush planned to meet Monday with Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, the Shiite leader of the largest bloc in Iraq’s parliament, and the recommendations from the bipartisan commission are to be released Wednesday.

“We have not failed in Iraq,” Hadley said as he made the talk show rounds. “We will fail in Iraq if we pull out our troops before we’re in a position to help the Iraqis succeed.”

He added: “The president understands that we need to have a way forward in Iraq that is more successful.”

On the defensive
But, with the leak of another insider’s secret memo, the second in a week, the administration found itself on the defensive. Video: Military families react to changing war opinions

The latest, first reported in Sunday’s New York Times, showed that Donald H. Rumsfeld called for a “major adjustment” in U.S. tactics on Nov. 6 — the day before an election that cost Republicans the Congress and Rumsfeld his job as defense secretary.

Hadley played down the memo as a laundry list of ideas rather than a call for a new course of action.

He said that Bush — just before a pivotal election — was not portraying a different sense of the war to the public than his own defense secretary was giving him in private.

The president “has said publicly what Rumsfeld said, that things are not proceeding well enough or fast enough in Iraq,” Hadley said.

‘Political fallout’
Democrats did not buy that.

“The Rumsfeld memo makes it quite clear that one of the greatest concerns is the political fallout from changing course here in the United States,” said Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., the incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “The bottom line is there is no one, including the former secretary, who thought the policy the president continues to pursue makes any sense.”

Bush has nominated Robert Gates to replace Rumsfeld. His confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee is on Tuesday.

As pressure builds for a new strategy, the report from the Iraq Study Group increasingly is viewed as perhaps clearing the way for a U.S. exit strategy in Iraq. Hadley, though, said the review will be just one factor the White House considers.

After a meeting last week in Jordan, Bush expressed confidence that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his government can lead the country toward peace with support from the United States.

Video: Iraq Study Group Yet Hadley found himself defending his own memo that called that very point into question.

Written on Nov. 8 but disclosed just before Bush’s meeting with the Iraqi leader, the memo described al-Maliki as “either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action.”

Hadley said Sunday about the memo: “I made an assessment, raised a number of questions, hard questions that should have been raised. But if you look at that memo and if you look at what the president said in the press conference after the meeting with Prime Minister Maliki, it is clear that this government shares our objective for Iraq and has the will and desire to take responsibility.”

Hadley appeared Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” NBC’s “Meet the Press,” and ‘Face the Nation” on CBS. Biden was on “Fox News Sunday.

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