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Iraqis Doubt Bush's New Strategy
BAGHDAD — Lay Iraqis and politicians doubted on Thursday, January11 , that US President George W. Bush's newly-unveiled strategy, including more troops and funds, would make much difference in their lives.
"The Americans will just come and sit in one place and do nothing," Ali Abdul Razzak, a Baghdad resident in his20 s, told Reuters a few hours after Bush announced his new Iraq strategy.
In a much-anticipated speech, Bush said he would send21 , 500more troops in the next four months to "break the cycle of violence" in Iraq.
He lashed out at the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki for failing to deliver promised reforms and security measures.
"The government has promised us a lot but nothing has changed," agreed Abdul Razzak as he waited to catch a bus in the morning rush hour.
Iraqi politicians also took issue with Bush's plan to surge Iraq troops.
"Sending more troops to Iraq is a wrong decision and it is against the will of Iraqis and the American people," said Nassar al-Rubaie, spokesman for the Sadr bloc in the parliament.
"We consider it a dictator's decision to use force towards the Iraqi people and a non-democratic decision towards the American people because it is against the American majority represented by the Democratic Party, which condemned and disagreed with sending troops to Iraq."
Democrats, who wrested control of both houses of Congress in the November mid-term elections from Bush's Republican Party, oppose sending more troops to Iraq and want a phased withdrawal in months.
A recent report by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group has recommended the pullout of all US combat troops from the war-torn country by 2008 to help stop Iraq from sliding into anarchy.
The Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS), Iraq's highest Sunni religious authority, has also inveighed against Bush's decision to send more troops.
"The American president is ignoring the dangerous political reality in Iraq," said Mohammad Bashar al-Faidi, the ASM spokesman.
"Bush is a prisoner of his own dreams," he told the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television.
Faidi said the situation will not improve in the clash-inflicted country as long as Sunnis are disenfranchised from the political process by the Shiite-dominated government.
"Those who are on the ruling side today have taken the path of exclusion, of marginalization and pursuit of others," he charged.
"There are no links between the Sunnis and those participating in the political process."
The AMS and other leading Sunni groups accuse militias loyal to several parties in the Shiite-led coalition government of spearheading a sectarian campaign against Sunni Arabs.
Security Before Jobs
Many Iraqis were not impressed by the more than $ 1billion pledged by Bush for rebuilding the dilapidated infrastructure and creating jobs for Iraqis.
"The most important issue is providing security first," Jamal Yaseen, head of a steel trading company in Baghdad, told Reuters.
"The $ 1billion from America won't do anything with bombs and suicide bombers terrifying people."
Bush decided to allocate an extra $1. 2billion for three programs to create jobs and help reconstruction in neighborhoods secured by Iraqi and US forces.
"They will create jobs for the Americans, not for the Iraqis," said a skeptical Abdul Razzaq.
Taha Ahmed Abdul-Salam, executive manager of the Iraqi Stock Exchange, said the extra US money could help if it was administered properly by Iraqi officials.
"All donations must go to the ministries which have economic projects to use the money in a proper way and to ensure that the unemployed get solid jobs," he stressed.
"The planning and trade ministries have projects to improve the private sector in Iraq and the US donation could help to implement that goal and then it could offer a large number of jobs to Iraqis."
The reconstruction of post-war Iraq, the world's third biggest oil reserves, has been marred by corruption scandals and mishandling.
Over eight billion dollars of money that was supposed to be spent on rebuilding war-scattered Iraq under the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) disappeared by the time Paul Bremer left his post as head of the authority in2004 .
Calling it the "extraordinary scandal of Iraq's missing billions", The Guardian reported in 2004 that Bremer maintained one slush fund of nearly $600m in cash for which there is no paperwork: $200m of it was kept in a room in one of Saddam's former palaces.
Millions of dollars have also disappeared into the pockets of corrupt officials or gone unaccounted for in the chaotic aftermath of the US invasion.