Cheney vis­its Bagh­dad, says Iraqis show greater ‘ur­gency’

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Joseph Curl

Vice Pres­i­dent Dick Cheney on May 9 made a sur­prise stop in Bagh­dad, where he ac­knowl­edged that Iraq re­mains a dan­ger­ous place, but stressed that he now sees “a greater sense of ur­gency” among Iraqi lead­ers to sta­bi­lize the na­tion and end sec­tar­ian vi­o­lence.

“I did sense, to­day, a greater aware­ness on the part of the Iraqi of­fi­cials I talked to of the im­por­tance of their work­ing to­gether to re­solve th­ese is­sues in a timely fash­ion,” said the vice pres­i­dent, who vis­ited the se­cure Green Zone and was in the U.S. Em­bassy when an ex­plo­sion rat­tled the build­ing’s win­dows.

“I do be­lieve that there’s a greater sense of ur­gency,” said Mr. Cheney. “I think they rec­og­nize it’s in their in­ter­ests as well as ours to make progress on the po­lit­i­cal front. [. . . ] They do be­lieve we are mak­ing progress but we have a long way to go.”

The vice pres­i­dent, who is on the first leg of a week­long Mid­dle East trip, also had some stern words for the Iraqi par­lia­ment, which has been plan­ning to take a two-month sum­mer re­cess.

“I did make it clear that we be­lieve it’s very im­por­tant to move on the is­sues be­fore us in a timely fash­ion and that any un­due de­lay would be dif­fi­cult to ex­plain and that we hoped they would approach th­ese is­sues with all de­lib­er­ate dis­patch, if I can put it in those terms,” the vice pres­i­dent said.

He de­clined to say whether he had per­suaded the Iraqi par­lia­ment to can­cel its re­cess. “I can’t make that pre­dic­tion. That’s a sov­er­eign is­sue.”

Sen. John Kerry, Mas­sachusetts Demo­crat, said it was “very dis­ap­point­ing to hear the vice pres­i­dent say that the Iraqis’ de­ci­sion to take a vacation while our troops are dy­ing is ‘a sov­er­eign is­sue to them.’ ”

Mr. Cheney re­jected con­gres­sional Democrats’ plan to fund the Iraq war in two-month in­cre­ments. He said any leg­is­la­tion should not limit “ei­ther the flex­i­bil­ity of our com­man­ders on the ground in Iraq or [. . . ] the pres­i­dent’s con­sti­tu­tional pre­rog­a­tives as com­man­der in chief.”

Mr. al-Ma­liki said he and Mr. Ch- eney dis­cussed “prac­ti­cal steps [. . . ] to sup­port our ef­forts work­ing on both the se­cu­rity front as well as the do­mes­tic po­lit­i­cal is­sues.”

The Iraqi leader was up­beat. “We have achieved in Iraq — we have achieved our own con­sti­tu­tion, we have achieved free­dom, we have achieved democ­racy and we have achieved sovereignty through­out our coun­try,” he said.

Mr. Cheney said his meet­ing with Mr. al-Ma­liki fo­cused on the se­cu­rity crack­down in Bagh­dad, which is seen as be­lated ef­fort to pre­vent a civil war be­tween ma­jor­ity Shi’ites and once-dom­i­nant Sunni Arabs.

Mr. Cheney wore a bul­let­proof vest from the air­port but was up­beat about progress on the se­cu­rity front. The U.S. Em­bassy in the once-se­cure Green Zone two weeks ago or­dered all em­ploy­ees to wear flak vests and hel­mets while in un­pro­tected build­ings or out­side.

Re­porters cov­er­ing the Cheney visit were hus­tled into a se­cure area when a large ex­plo­sion rat­tled win­dows in the U.S. Em­bassy late in the af­ter­noon. Cheney spokes­woman Lea Anne McBride said the vice pres­i­dent’s meet­ing “was not dis­turbed and he was not moved.”

As­so­ci­ated Press

Army Gen. David Pe­traeus, U.S. com­man­der in Iraq, greeted Vice Pres­i­dent Dick Cheney as he ar­rived in Bagh­dad.

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