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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rice Asks Mideast Leaders for Support

JERUSALEM -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asked Arab allies to help support the fragile government in Iraq, on whose success much of U.S. President George W. Bush's new plan to turn the war around will depend.

Rice was meeting diplomats and leaders in Egypt and Saudi Arabia on Monday, one day after a similar session in Jordan. The scheduled meetings with Sunni Arab leaders fell on the same day that Saddam Hussein's half brother and the former head of Iraq's Revolutionary Court were hanged in Iraq.

The Sunni former Iraqi dictator's chaotic execution two weeks ago incited Sunni anger and drew worldwide criticism.

The top U.S. diplomat is also meeting Tuesday with counterparts from eight Arab countries in Kuwait. Moderate Arab governments plan to tell Rice they will help Washington stabilize Iraq if the U.S. takes more active steps to revive a broad peace initiative between Israel and its neighbors, Arab officials and media said Sunday.

Jordanian King Abdullah II warned Rice that Iraqi political reconciliation would fail if Sunni Iraqis were not engaged in their country's decision making.

"Any political process that doesn't ensure the participation of all segments of Iraqi society will fail and will lead to more violence," Abdullah told Rice, according to a statement by his press office.

"As a key component of the Iraqi social fabric, the Iraqi Sunni community must be included as partners in building Iraq's future," said the king, a leading U.S. ally in the Middle East.

Along with other U.S. allies like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Jordan is concerned about the growing Shiite Muslim influence, stretching from Iran through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The fear is that the hard-line Tehran government will dominate the Middle East and give rise to more extremism, jeopardizing a settlement and threatening those nations.

Bush's new strategy to send thousands more troops to Iraq met with strong skepticism across the Middle East, where many predicted that even with more soldiers, the United States would fail to break the cycle of violence.

Many saw the surge in troops as a desperate move that would only increase the United States' failures in Iraq -- and could deepen the sectarian divides in the war-fractured country, leading to more bloodshed.

There were deep doubts that U.S. troops or the Shiite-led Iraqi government would tackle what many in the Sunni-dominated Arab world see as the chief threat to Iraq: Shiite militias, blamed for fueling the cycle of sectarian slayings.

Mustafa al-Ani, a military analyst with the Gulf Research Center in Dubai, said the U.S. military must take down the Shiite militias -- particularly the most feared of them, the Mahdi Army, loyal to cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, an ally of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Otherwise, the United States will lose any support among Iraq's Sunnis, he said.

"We want to see from day one that the Americans search Sadr City," Sadr's stronghold in Baghdad, as diligently as they search Sunni insurgent troublespots, Ani said.

"Otherwise, I don't see any chances for success."