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Bush's Iraq Journey Preludes to Policy Change?
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US President George W. Bush did a six-hour visit to Anbar Province, Iraq on Monday, the president's third trip to the war-torn country since the March 2003 invasion.

This is a unique foreign tour by Bush in terms of both occasion that has been chosen and thoughtful travel arrangement. For safety reasons, Bush's trip to Iraq was again kept secret before Bush arrived at the destination.

"Bush slipped out a side door at the White House and ducked into a waiting car. No motorcade or helicopter this time -- that would attract unwanted attention..." That was a vivid description by the Associated Press before Bush, who has been proud to have overthrown the Saddam regime, flew to Iraq.

Apparently, neither did the White House try to cover the fact. Bush's latest trip to Iraq was shrouded in secrecy even at the White House, where some aides did not know the travel plan until their president landed Al-Asad Air Base Iraq, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, who was in Bush's company, said afterwards.

Nobody outside Bush's circle can fully understand reason for doing so. But comparing with the formality of the visit, it seem more valuable to probe into what is behind such high confidentiality.

It has been noticed that Bush's trip to Iraq occurred at a time when the president was facing unprecedented pressure from the Democratic-led Congress and some prominent Republicans.

The worsening sectarian strife and increasing death toll of US troops in Iraq, which has come up to more than 3,730 since Iraq war broke out in March 2003, have been great troubles for the Bush administration to continue its current Iraq policy.

Local mass media said that White House officials, who began making the trip plan for Bush five or six weeks ago, has been deliberating strategy to deal with Democrats and internal and external anti-war activists trying to force Bush to begin troops withdrawal.

Bush and his top aides have insisted that they will not make any new decision about Iraq until General David Petraeus, the top US commander in Iraq, and US ambassador to Baghdad Ryan Crocker provide their latest report about Iraq.

Petraeus and Crocker are due to testify before Congress next week. It is generally believed that their assessment of Iraq's situation, along with the progress report the White House must give lawmakers by Sept. 15, will spur the adjustment of Iraq policy, including the level of US troops in the country.

On Monday, Bush said in Iraq that the United States could withdraw some troops if security across Iraq continues to improve as it has in Anbar Province, one of hotbeds of Sunni insurgency.

"General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker tell me if the kind of success we're now seeing continues, it will be possible to maintain the same level of security with fewer American forces," Bush told reporters at Al-Asad Air Base after hearing from the general and ambassador.

Currently, the United States has deployed 162,000 troops in Iraq, including 30,000 that arrived since February as part of Bush's new effort to curb sectarian conflicts and maintain security in the country.

Although Bush has offered conditions to reduce US troop numbers in Iraq, political observers remain believing that the president, who took the lead to start Iraq war, intends to stick with his current approach before his term ends in January 2009.

Some analysts said that Bush might make use of what he saw and heard in Iraq as "first-hand investigation" to beat forthcoming criticism from Democratic-led Congress and all war critics.

If this estimation is proved to be true, it will be fairly to say that Bush's so-called secret journey to Iraq is an open challenge to all war opponents rather than for the sake of secrecy, they said.

(Xinhua News Agency September 5, 2007)

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