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Security Politics

The New York Times reports that the White House has dropped its insistence that the Geneva Conventions be redefined.  "The developments suggested that the White House had blinked first in its standoff with" McCain and colleagues Lindsey Graham and John Warner.  "But few details were available, and it was not clear whether a compromise was imminent or whether the White House had shifted its stance significantly." 

Gen. John Abizaid, the top American commander for the Middle East, said yesterday that the US military "is unlikely to reduce forces in Iraq before next spring because the current contingent of more than 140,000 troops is battling sectarian violence that could prove 'fatal' to the country if not arrested." 

The New York Times front-pages that senior US and Iraqi officials "are beginning to question whether Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has the political muscle and decisiveness to hold Iraq together as it hovers on the edge of a full civil war." 

Presidential candidate and Sen. Joe Biden (D) walks the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington through his already announced proposal for a way forward in Iraq.  A Biden aide says he'll seek to clear up some mischaracterizations of Biden's proposal as a "partitioning" of Iraq.  Biden blasted Bush yesterday, after Bush's UN speech, for having "no strategy for success" in Iraq.

The Los Angeles Times says of Bush's UN speech, "The president's address was one of his broadest foreign policy speeches since his second inauguration last year.  But unlike that address, when he spoke of spreading democracy, Bush's words and tone Tuesday reflected the trouble he had faced enacting his agenda." 

The Boston Globe finds Bush's remarks "notable because some of his most pointed comments have focused on Iran's misdeeds, including a 2002 speech that called Iran part of an 'axis of evil.'  Bush's speech yesterday did not mention sanctions."

Bush's decision to meet with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is intended to be a leading example to Israel and other nations to begin peaceful negotiations with Palestinians, per the AP

As Bush prepares to call for a lasting Middle East peace, former President Clinton tells the Financial Times that the situation there "has become so bad that a fresh peace initiative is a strong likelihood within the next two months."  He also "said that the objections of three prominent Republican senators" to Bush's proposals on detainee trials "had 'confused' the Republican strategy" for the midterm elections.  "'Their strategy has been complicated by the fact that [these senators] believe in the rule of law, you know, it's kind of confusing, it's made life a bit tough,' he said laughing."   

Channeling First Read, the Washington Post says Laura Bush is having quite a high-profile week "for a first lady praised... for her seeming preference for eschewing controversy and for embracing a more traditional role."  Mrs. Bush's "sustained presence at the center of the world stage is unprecedented, which White House aides are promoting in the belief that her emerging profile can only help bolster President Bush's sagging popularity." 

Addressing representatives of the nation's auto dealers in Washington yesterday, Vice President Cheney said again that declining public approval won't cause the Administration to end its commitment to the war in Iraq, NBC's Salim Ishaq reports.  Cheney also: repeated that Bush would base his decisions on troop levels on military necessity, not on timelines or on political pressure; described the United States as a nation that keeps commitments; said Osama bin Laden believes Americans have "no stomach" for fighting and that he'll be proved wrong and the United States will win the war on terror; called the Administration's detainee trial and treatment policy and the NSA warrantless surveillance policy essential to winning that war; and cited recent indicators of a strong US economy.  One thing Cheney didn't really talk about: the auto industry.