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The Delusional Duo

"But the effort's success could hinge in part on whether President Bush heeds growing calls in the region and at home to reactivate long-dormant American mediation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

Not Gonna Talk

Paul Richter writes in the Los Angeles Times: "As pressure mounts for the United States to seek direct talks on Iraq with Iran and Syria, President Bush appeared Tuesday to rule out any change in his administration's policy toward those Iraqi neighbors.

"By reaffirming a long-standing administration policy setting strict conditions on talks with either country, Bush indicated that he may be unwilling to accept an expected recommendation by a bipartisan commission assessing policy options on Iraq."

Baker v. Bush

Mike Allen writes for Time that White House aides are delighted that the U.S. television networks are sending their news anchors to Amman, "ensuring massive coverage of an event that the White House has said is unlikely to produce any major announcement or development."

Why? Because the White House is simply happy to have Bush in the spotlight -- rather than James Baker, whose bipartisan Iraq Study Group has been garnering so much attention in Washington these past weeks.

Writes Allen: "Bush's aides have begun to chafe at the idea that Baker is needed as some sort of savior for Iraq. Hadley made it clear that the President hopes his Jordan foray will erase any such notion. 'It's important, I think,' Hadley said, 'for the President to send the message to Prime Minister Maliki that while he is listening to all of these voices for ideas, is open to ideas, that in the end of the day to reassure Prime Minister Maliki that it is the President who will be crafting the way forward on Iraq and to reassure Prime Minister Maliki it will be done in a way that is cooperative with Iraq, rather than imposed on Iraq.' In other words: Baker is a consultant, not calling the shots."

In Jordan, Allen writes, Bush's team hopes "he'll once again show himself to be in command."

Location Location

Scott MacLeod writes for Time: "The fact that Bush is holding talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki not in Baghdad, but in the comparatively tranquil Jordanian capital of Amman, has not gone unnoticed.' One hundred and fifty thousand U.S. soldiers cannot secure protection for their president,' mocked a Jordanian columnist, who called the choice of venue 'an open admission of gross failure for Washington and its allies' project in Iraq.'"

Who Lost Iraq?

Thomas E. Ricks and Robin Wright write in The Washington Post that American political leaders "increasingly blame the continuing violence and destruction in Iraq on the people most affected by it: the Iraqis. . . .

"This marks a shift in tone from earlier debate about the responsibility of the United States to restore order after the 2003 invasion, and it seemed to gain currency in October, when sectarian violence surged. Some see the talk of blame as the beginning of the end of U.S. involvement. . . .

"Iraqi Ambassador Samir Sumaidaie said he worries about the growing chorus of official voices blaming Iraq, and suggested that a little introspection on the U.S. side could help."

About That Civil War

Peter Baker writes in The Washington Post: "The carnage in Iraq is 'sectarian violence,' President Bush says. It's a 'struggle for freedom,' the 'central front in the war on terror.' It is not, no matter how much it may look like it, a civil war.

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