President Bush Makes Surprise Visit to Baghdad

President Bush, who was reportedly holed up at Camp David with advisors planning our future strategy for Iraq, has instead made a surprise visit to Baghdad.

Bush Maliki Handshake Photo President Bush arrived Tuesday in Baghdad on an unannounced visit to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. It marks Bush’s first visit since al-Maliki took office recently.

The trip comes as at least 70,000 forces — most of them Iraqi — prepare to deploy Wednesday on the streets of Baghdad in an effort to bring security to the Iraqi capital, according to the Iraqi Interior Ministry. The crackdown will include Iraqi police, police commandos, soldiers and emergency police as well as U.S.-led coalition forces, the ministry said. They will enforce checkpoints on Baghdad’s roads as well as a 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew. There also will be a ban on carrying weapons. Coalition forces will offer air support if needed. The forces will wear new uniforms to distinguish them from insurgents who often wear fake outfits to carry out attacks. Raids will be stepped up against suspected insurgent hideouts. Officials said they expect clashes, especially in Sunni-dominated neighborhoods.

[…]

Meanwhile, al Qaeda in Iraq has named a successor to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the terrorist leader killed in a U.S. airstrike last week north of Baghdad, Islamist Web sites said Monday. The sites identified the militant group’s new leader as Sheikh Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, which means “the immigrant,” indicating that he — like the Jordanian-born al-Zarqawi — is not Iraqi. CNN has not been able to confirm the claim’s authenticity.

President Bush said the new leader will be targeted. “I think the successor to [al-]Zarqawi is going to be on our list to bring to justice,” said Bush, who began a two-day strategy session on Iraq on Monday at Maryland’s Camp David.

This is smart symbolism. It makes sense to try to keep the momentum from the Zarqawi raid and completion of the Iraqi cabinet going. That this was timed with an announcement of a new push on the security front is all the better.

UPDATE (Greg Tinti): Breitbart/AP adds,

President Bush made a surprise visit to Iraq on Tuesday to meet newly named Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and discuss the next steps in the troubled, three-year-old war. It was a dramatic move by Bush, traveling to violence-rattled Baghdad less than a week after the death of terror chief Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in a bombing attack. The president was expected to be in Baghdad a little more than five hours. The trip was known only to a handful of aides and a small number of reporters sworn to secrecy because of obvious security threats for Bush and members of his entourage.

Landing at Baghdad airport, Bush transferred to a helicopter for a six-minute ride into the heavily fortified Green Zone. White House officials said the helicopter ride posed the greatest risk for the president.

[…]

It was Bush’s second trip to Baghdad in less than three years. He visited American troops at Thanksgiving, 2003, in a visit confined to the airport and limited to several hours. That trip also was kept secret.

Bush flew here secretly from talks at Camp David, Md., with senior national security advisers who gathered Monday to review how to bolster Iraq’s fledgling government and its capacity to handle the country’s defense.

In Baghdad, Bush was to meet with al-Maliki and senior members of his Cabinet. White House officials said the president wanted to meet face- to-face with the prime minister to size him up and assure him of U.S. support. He said the message that he wants to send to the Iraqi government is “we stand with you. What you’re doing is important.”

This is an incredibly smart move by the President which will help continue the momentum of positive news coming out of Iraq. It’s largely a symbolic gesture but nonetheless will be very important in conveying the commitment of the United States to the new Iraqi government. And if nothing else, this trip will send an important message to the Iraqi people: so long as George Bush is President, the United States will not abandon you.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Anderson says:

    This is an incredibly smart move by the President

    Defining incredible smartness down?

  2. John Burgess says:

    And the moonbats are off in search of a new “plastic turkey”.

  3. ICallMasICM says:

    ‘this trip will send an important message to the Iraqi people: so long as George Bush is President, the United States will not abandon you. ‘

    That happens as soon as the Kosmonuts take over.

  4. Len says:

    The president of our country must sneak into a country which we have occupied for over three years like a thief in the night, spend a few hours in a “heavily fortified” Green Zone, and then sneak out again… and this makes you happy? You think this is sending a good message to the people of Iraq?

    A good message would be if he were to spend a few days visiting open-air markets in downtown Baghdad.

  5. DaveD says:

    Well, Len, some folks on both the left and the right don’t think it’s occupied enough – insufficient troop strength. Others mostly on the left think Iraq is too occupied. The President wins some and loses some with me, but, today, he did good. If some of his detractors want to call it symbolism, well, symbolism has its merits too sometimes. But I think this is more than that.

  6. slickdpdx says:

    Kinda puts the Colbert “Balls of Steel” thing in perspective, doesn’t it?

  7. TallDave says:

    This is more about Maliki, Iraq and Iraqis than about Bush, America, and Americans.

    This is intended to send a message bolstering the new gov’t. Tomorrow, 75,000 troops will occupy Baghdad in an effort to secure the capital.

  8. The only real downside I see is the potential for a ‘lapdog’ moniker to be put on Maliki. He apparently wasn’t told about the trip until the president’s helicopter was about to land at his office. Good security measure. But he was then expected to drop everything and be available for consultations with Bush. Now I think the trip was scheduled to correspond to a video conference from camp david, so this was on the agenda, but probably not for the full 5 hours.

    And to the moonbats, yes it would be great if security was far enough along that Bush could stroll in open air markets or that there weren’t the need for continued security measures. Sorry, the world is not perfect and no amount of whining will make it perfect. But surely you can see that at worse the issue is in doubt (not a hopeless quagmire with no chance of success) and possibly the trend suggests that victory is more likely to occur than defeat. So if there is at least a chance of winning, running away doesn’t make sense.

  9. RA says:

    I have figured out why so many Democrats are calling for a cut and run policy in Iraq. They are scared to death we will win in Iraq and the American people will not trust them with foreign policy for the next 25 years! LOL

  10. ken says:

    Whatever happens in Iraq is probably among the least important things that will affect our nations future.

    Once we get out no one will even remember why we were there, except for the fact that Bush lied to us about it all.

    Really, who cares about Iraq? No one I know cares who ‘wins’ because they know that to ‘win’ in Iraq has no defined meaning.

    It can mean anything you want or it can mean nothing at all. So no one cares.

    Conseravtives have no plans to win, mostly because they have no idea what it means, and liberals, like most Americans, don’t see the point of worrying about it. We all just want to get out. The sooner the better. We’ll even let the conservatives call that a ‘win’, if it will make them feel better.

  11. Bhoe says:

    so long as George Bush is President, the United States will not abandon you.

    Maybe if we’re lucky Bush will stay there until he fixes the mess he’s created.

  12. Ken,

    Just a hint. Establishing a democratic alternative in Iraq is one of the 17 goals laid out in the AUMF to invade Iraq. If we score the goal, then we have started the cultural counter revolution that will eventually place the Islamic terrorist in the same historical place as piracy and slavery. Not that they will be totally gone, but reduced to a livable amount for the civilized world (and still hunted and eliminated as we can).

  13. anjin-san says:

    Ken,

    You are forgetting that by creating more instability in the middle east, Bush has placed the oil supply which our economy depends on in greater jeopardy then it was prior to the war.

    Iraq is not Vietnam, which had little strategic significance. We can’t just walk away without consequence. For better or for worse, Bush has tied America into the future of Iraq. I just wish that given the fact we are there, we had a competent administration to deal with the consequences…

  14. anjin-san says:

    Justanother,

    Heres a hint for you. Remember that actions such as ours in Iraq tend to have unintended consequences. Helping people like Bin Laden fight the Soviets in Afghanistan seemed like a pretty good idea at the time…

  15. ken says:

    Regarding the Iraqi oil. We did without it for over 10 years. It doesn’t matter who controls it as whoever has it can do nothing with it except sell it. Or not. If they don’t sell it they can choke on it. In the end, they will sell it.

    It is just a total waste of our nations resources to continue in Iraq for any longer than it takes us to get out.

    Really, talk to anyone. Do they really care? Are they willing to do whatever it takes, pay any price, make any sacrifice, just so Bush can claim success? Of course not. Americans are not dumb. We were fooled once by Bush lies into supporting his war and we will not be fooled again.

  16. Ajin-san,
    I agree with the issue of unintended consequences. I have no doubt that there were people at GM and Ford who were wondering where the wrong turn with Japan occurred. A lot of Americans are trying to make the connection on why we liberated France given their current actions. But those problems are smaller than the problems they replaced, which is about as much as you can hope for.

    Or to put it another way, we tried the approach of just ignoring Al Qaeda and hoping to handle it as a police matter. That sure had some unintended consequences also.

    p.s. Ken, did you happen to notice an election that occurred in 2004? It would seem to just slightly undercut your position.

  17. McGehee says:

    I think I’ve finally figured out what the tinfoil Left has been trying to tell us. All of the scheming and deceiving and making things appear to support the lies, is all just Bush’s incredibly massive, convoluted and Machiavellian plan to cover up for the lack of a simple, styraightforward, and relatively easy to implement (if we believe the tinfoil Left) plan for Iraq.

    Yup. Makes perfect sense to me. It’s all about making it … harder for Bush’s oil-industry friends to … get oil.

    Perfect sense.

  18. McGehee,

    That’s just what the left wants you to think. Their actually plan is much more complicated. I can tell you it involves a dolphin and two jelly doughnuts. But lets not spoil the plan.