Recommendations could lead to revision' in strategy

Updated: 2006-12-07 06:56

BAGHDAD: A close aide to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki yesterday sought to play down the significance of any threat to reduce American support for the Iraqi Government as a high-level US commission urged diplomatic and military changes in hopes of permitting the withdrawal of most combat troops by early 2008.

The al-Maliki aide said the country had enough oil resources to survive any reduction in US economic aid and that Iraqi forces were already well on their way to taking the lead role in security operations.

The aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to media, said he thought the group's recommendations would lead to a "revision" in strategy here but not a "drastic change."

Falah Shanshal, a Shi'ite lawmaker who is a member of the bloc loyal to radical anti-US cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, said it is up to Iraqis to solve their own problems and the country can stand on its own.

"Iraq exports oil and we are a rich country and we do not need such (economic) support," he told reporters.

"Iraq is capable of building it own military without the help of others."

Some US troops deployed in Iraq were less optimistic about the preparedness of the Iraqi army, welcoming the idea to shift the American military's role to focus on training, although they were sceptical how effective that would be.

"They're not really skilled. They sit around and drink chai (tea) instead of going on their patrols. They're afraid to do what needs to be done," Spc Diego Cabezas, 20, of Fresno, California, said in the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi in the volatile Anbar province west of Baghdad.

"Even if we do pull out, it's still going to be chaotic here. The government isn't strong enough and the army isn't ready to handle things on its own," he said.

Prominent Kurdish politician Mahmoud Othman said he thinks the US wants to gradually withdraw its support from the Iraqi Government to pressure it to step up efforts to disband the militias and control the sectarian violence.

"This is a double-edged policy, it could be negative one because according to Geneva convention, the occupiers are responsible for the country in all aspects and they should take responsibility, not abandon it," he said before the report's release.

"Reducing support for the Iraqi Government could lead to negative results, but on the other hand, it might make the Iraqi Government face reality to do something to stop the chaos."

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