President Bush Addresses Foreign Policy Challenges

Julie Stahl | Jerusalem Bureau Chief | Monday, November 27, 2006

President Bush Addresses Foreign Policy Challenges

Jerusalem ( - Amid warnings of three impending civil wars from one Middle Eastern leader, President Bush is heading to that troubled region this week.

But before meeting with Iraq's prime minister in Amman, Jordan, President Bush will stop at a NATO summit in Latvia, where the main topic of discussion is expected to be the war in Afghanistan.

Bush's two-day stop in Jordan is viewed as the main event, however, given the rising violence in Iraq.

These will be Bush's first face-to-face talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki since the two last met in July. The violence in Iraq has only escalated since their last meeting, fueling calls by Democrats and some Republicans for a quick U.S. exit from Iraq.

Al-Maliki, a Shi'ite Muslim, has had the support of Shiite militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr in the past. But al-Sadr warned that he and his supporters would quit the cabinet and parliament if al-Maliki meets with Bush.

Jordan's King Abdullah II warned on Sunday that Iraq is one of three places where civil war could break out in the region. The others, he said, are Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.

"When it comes to things exploding out of control...Palestine in probably a close tie with Lebanon," Abdullah said in an interview with ABC news on Sunday. He said the crux of all the violence is the Palestinian issue.

"Iraq, funny enough -- although as concerned as I am with Iraq and the major problems that that might bring to us -- is in third position. Obviously, this is all relative," the king said.

In the Gaza Strip, the Hamas-led P.A. government has tangles with P.A. Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction.

In the power struggle between Hamas and Fatah, sporadic street battles have erupted in recent months, leaving the Gaza Strip in a state of anarchy.

Abbas told Israel this weekend that all terrorist groups had agreed to stop firing rockets at Israel and smuggling weapons into the Gaza Strip, prompting the declaration of a ceasefire. However, all Israeli-Palestinian ceasefires are considered tenuous.

In Lebanon, the assassination of Lebanese government minister Pierre Gemayal last week added to growing unrest and threatened to spark a new round of civil war in the country.

The U.S.-backed government of Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora is struggling to hold onto power after the Iranian-backed Hizballah party and other pro-Syrian ministers quit the government last week.