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Bush's final throw of dice to pacify Iraq
George Bush made what amounted to a last throw of the dice in Iraq early this morning when he ordered 21,500 more US troops to be deployed, despite widespread scepticism about their chances of stabilising the increasingly turbulent country.
Only months after he declared that the US was winning, the president, in a 20-minute televised address from the White House, set out what he described as "a new strategy". He admitted that his administration had made serious mistakes in the course of the four-year-old conflict.
"Our past efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principal reasons," he said. "There were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighbourhoods that had been cleared of terrorists and insurgents, and there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have."
He added: "Our military commanders reviewed the new Iraqi plan to ensure that it addressed these mistakes. They report that it does. They also report that this plan can work."
Mr Bush claimed the new strategy, the third attempt to stabilise Baghdad, would focus primarily on trying to quell sectarian violence, by tackling not only Sunni Muslim killers but also Shia militia, such as the radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army, who have enjoyed relative immunity from the Shia-led Iraqi government.