White House Spied On Iraq Leaders, says Bob Woodward Book

Published on
by
The Guardian/UK

White House Spied On Iraq Leaders, says Bob Woodward Book

Author's interviews with George Bush reveal president's doubts about Iraq troop surge and military leadership

by
Haroon Siddique

The Bush administration has spied on the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, and other senior figures in his government, the Washington Post reported today.

The
claim is one of many in a new book by the paper's associate editor Bob
Woodward, who with Carl Bernstein uncovered the Watergate scandal that
led to Richard Nixon's resignation.

The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006-2008 is based on more than 150 interviews with key figures in the Iraq war
as well two interviews with the president himself. The books paints a
picture of Bush often at loggerheads with his military advisers and
other officials.

Woodward says groundbreaking surveillance
techniques - and not the much-trumpeted surge by 30,000 additional
troops - were the main reason for the reduction in violence in Iraq
over the past 16 months.

In 2006, Bush maintained publicly that
US forces were winning, while privately believing the strategy of
training Iraq security forces and transferring responsibility to the
new government was failing, according to the Post.

Woodward says
the president lost confidence in General George Casey, then the
commander of coalition forces in Iraq, and General John Abizaid, who
was the head of US central command.

In October 2006 Bush asked
his national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, to carry out a review of
the Iraq war. But the report ignored the military and was kept secret
for fear of jeopardising the Republican party's popularity in the
mid-term congressional elections, the book says.

The Pentagon
reluctantly agreed to a troop surge of two brigades, but the White
House decided on five. Asked how this decision was reached, Bush told
Woodward: "Okay, I don't know this. I'm not in these meetings, you'll
be happy to hear, because I got other things to do."

Woodward
says Casey described the 2007 surge as a "troop sump". Abizaid and the
then defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, also opposed the scale of the
operation, and the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, had
reservations.

Casey told a colleague that Bush reflected the
"radical wing of the Republican party that kept saying, 'Kill the
bastards! Kill the bastards! And you'll succeed'", writes Woodward.

The
book says joint chiefs of staff were in near revolt in late 2006, with
Admiral Michael Mullen, then serving as chief of naval operations,
fearing the military would "take the fall" for failure in Iraq.

Woodward
does credit the influx of troops with contributing to the fall in
violence. But he cites as important factors the Shia cleric Moqtada
al-Sadr's reining-in of his powerful Mahdi army, the so-called Anbar
Awakening - in which Sunni fighters allied with US forces to fight
against al-Qaida - and covert operations targeting key individuals in
extremist groups.

While Bush developed a close relationship with
Maliki, US officials feared the impact the surveillance of the prime
minister would have, according to Woodward. "We know everything he
says," a source told Woodward.

The book is Woodward's fourth on the Bush administration and its actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

 

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