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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 August, 2003, 23:56 GMT 00:56 UK
Double crisis for Bush

By David Bamford
BBC correspondent in Washington

US President George Bush called a crisis meeting with his advisers at his Texas ranch after the double shocks of the Baghdad and Jerusalem bomb attacks.

Mr Bush's critics use the word "quagmire" to describe American involvement in Iraq.

American prestige has become pinned to the dubious prospects of the Israeli-Palestinian road map, which risks being bombed into collapse.

US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and US Secretary of State Colin Powell have both been on the phone to the Palestinians and the Israelis, trying to keep the roadmap on track, the White House has said.

When work resumes in Washington shortly, it is expected Mr Bush and his advisers will be discussing their strategy as the country gears up for the 2004 presidential election campaign.

Domestic agenda

Analyst Anthony Cordesman said that for the domestic audience in the US, it is seen as essential to relate the events in the Middle East to the global war against terrorism.

US soldiers inspect the bombed Canal Hotel housing the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, 20  August 2003
Bush needs to relate Iraq to the war on terror for his domestic audience
"The administration basically has as its national strategy tying terror to all of these conflicts. That is an issue with good popular support," he said.

When George Bush came to power, his Republican administration seemed to be of an inward-looking, Americans-first variety.

And in a sense, since the 11 September attacks two years ago, that is exactly what it remains.

Frank Gaffney, a Pentagon adviser, said it was better - for Americans at least - that the global war against terrorism be fought on the battlefields of the Middle East and Afghanistan, rather than in the financial district of Manhattan.

"This is the price of an investment we're making in trying to have the lot of the Iraqi people improved not as an act of charity, but out of a sense of self-interest," he said.

"Our national security will be improved if Iraq becomes a responsible member of the community of nations, not the playpen or funding source for some new aggressive force."

The American public may take a different view if the cost of fighting those battles abroad - both financially and in terms of American lives - rises much further.

Next month, President Bush and his potential rivals - Democrats and, if any emerge, Republicans - will be gearing up for the presidential election campaign.

The Democratic aspirants have shown little indication they have any better suggestions than Mr Bush does.

But that will not necessarily stop them from benefiting, if by early next year, the Bush gamble in Iraq and the war on terrorism are deemed to have failed.

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