Mideast Anxiety Deflates Bush Jaunt
Separate trips by President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the Middle East were meant to demonstrate the administration’s diplomatic prowess but backfired when the Americans met with Arab leaders who were panicked, distraught and vocal.
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Los Angeles Times:
… Instead of flaunting stronger ties and steadfast American influence, the president’s journey found friends both old and new near a state of panic. Mideast leaders expressed soaring concern over upheavals across the region that the United States helped ignite through its invasion of Iraq and push for democracy — and fear that the Bush administration may make things worse.
President Bush’s summit in Jordan with the Iraqi prime minister proved an awkward encounter that deepened doubts about the relationship. Vice President Cheney’s stop in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, yielded a blunt warning from the kingdom’s leaders. And Secretary of State Rice’s swing through the West Bank and Israel, intended to build Arab support by showing a new U.S. push for peace, found little to work with.
In all, visits designed to show the American team in charge ended instead in diplomatic embarrassment and disappointment, with U.S. leaders rebuked and lectured by Arab counterparts. The trips demonstrated that U.S. allies in the region were struggling to understand what to make of the difficult relationship, and to figure whether, with a new Democratic majority taking over Congress, Bush even had control over his nation’s Mideast policy.
Arabs are “trying to figure out what the Americans are going to do, and trying develop their own plans,” said Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), one of his party’s point men on Iraq. “They’re trying to figure out their Plan B.”
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