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Outgoing US Commander Says No Guarantee of Success in Iraq

The outgoing commander of U.S. forces in Iraq says it will probably take months to see results from a new security plan for Iraq. And, as VOA's Jim Randle reports from Baghdad, the general says there are no guarantees that it will work.

The U.S. commander in Iraq, General George Casey told reporters he did not expect significant results from the new Iraqi-American security drive for three to six months.

"There are no guarantees of success, and it is not going to happen overnight, but with sustained political support and the concentrated efforts on all sides, I believe that this plan can work," the general said.

The plan outlined by President Bush calls for moving more than 20,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq, mostly to Baghdad.

Critics of the president's plan say it depends on strong cooperation from Iraq's Shi'ite dominated government, which has been reluctant to crack down on Shi'ite militias blamed for a share of Iraq's sectarian violence. News reports say Washington has been pressing Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to take a tougher line on the sectarian militias.

But U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad says Iraq's government is making its own decisions, and will take action on this issue because it is in Iraq's interest.

"There is no American imposed deadline on the government or the prime minister that [says] you must perform or else, or you must do "X" or else," the ambassador said. "No, we respect the fact that this is a sovereign nation and there is an elected prime minister."

Both Casey and Khalilzad said Iraqi officials have assured them that no part of Baghdad would be allowed to serve as sanctuaries for gunmen.

That concerns grows out of past interference by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to protect the Mahdi Army militia of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, one of the Iraqi leader's key political backers.

The general said this plan has a greater chance of success than previous efforts to curb sectarian violence because Iraq's government has voiced stronger support for the effort.

Meanwhile, Iraq's government has executed two close aides of former president Saddam Hussein. Saddam's half brother, Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, and the former head of Iraq's Revolutionary Court, Awad Hamed al-Bandar were hanged early Monday for their roles in the deaths of 148 Iraqi Shi'ites in the village of Dujail in 1982.

An Iraqi government spokesman confirmed Barzan's head was ripped off his body during the hanging. He said the decapitation was unintentional, and that such incidents sometimes occur in hangings.

Saddam was hanged December 30 for the Dujail killings in a chaotic scene that has drawn international criticism.