The BBC reports that President Bush's Iraq speech is likely to come mid-week next week. Add to the challenge already facing Bush in selling Americans on his way forward in Iraq, where US troop fatalities have now passed 3,000, the new challenge of overcoming the international PR debacle that Saddam Hussein's execution has become. NBC's Richard Engel reported last night that although "US officials were pushing to delay the execution until after a Muslim holiday this week, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, rushed it through, in part to assert his authority." Now the Iraqi government has launched an inquiry "into how guards filmed and taunted Saddam Hussein on the gallows, turning his execution into a televised spectacle that has inflamed sectarian anger," per the Financial Times.
And the Wall Street Journal says that for Bush, "deploying tens of thousands of additional troops to Iraq may not be as tough a call as deciding when to bring them home." The debate "stems from tension between the political and military aspects of the emerging proposal. Mr. Bush has staked his presidency on Iraq, and several White House aides say they believe he would be inclined to leave the extra troops there until improvement is evident. Senior commanders, by contrast, have expressed concerned that leaving extra troops too long risks lasting damage to the U.S. armed forces."
In a front-page article, the New York Times traces how the Administration's plans in Iraq have transformed in the past year -- from turning over responsibility to the Iraqis and beginning a gradual withdrawal, to likely sending in a "surge" of US forces.
But Iraq also poses challenges for Democrats, who will now see increased "exposure to what has mostly been a politically damaging issue for Republicans," says the AP. "In the weeks ahead, the new Democratic Congress will be confronted with President Bush's new plan for Iraq and a White House request that lawmakers authorize an estimated additional $100 billion to pay for the war... Democrats also may be asked to support a plan lifting restrictions on reserve deployments to ease the strain on active-duty troops."