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Archive for January 25th, 2007

DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan 25 (Reuters) – The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 was an “idiot decision” and Iraqi troops now need to secure Baghdad to ensure the country’s future, Vice-President Adel Abdul Mahdi said on Thursday.

“Iraq was put under occupation, which was an idiot decision,” Mahdi said at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Mahdi said the Iraqi government planned to bring troops in to Baghdad from surrounding areas and said it was “a technical question” for the United States to decide whether to deploy more soldiers.

President George W. Bush plans to send another 21,500 troops to Iraq, a move widely criticised in the United States. On Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted against the decision, which is due to go before the Senate next week.

“If we can win this war in Baghdad then I think we can change the course of events,” Mahdi told a panel on the state of affairs in Iraq.

“As Iraqis, we think we need more (Iraqi) troops in Baghdad, and we are calling for some regiments to come from other parts of the country,” he said.

Mahdi’s party, the powerful Shi’ite Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, was one of the exiled opposition parties consulted by Washington as it planned the invasion.

Its leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim is a key figure behind the U.S.-backed national unity government.

MORE CHAOS?

Some commentators are concerned that without the support of U.S. troops in Iraq, the already boiling sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shi’ites could break out into ever greater killing sprees.

Adnan Pachachi, a member of Iraq’s parliament and a former acting speaker, said that if the United States could not stay in Iraq, other troops should be drafted in. “If because of domestic pressure in the United States, the U.S. feels it is not possible to continue undertaking this burden, then I think we should consider going to the United Nations and having an international force,” said Pachachi.

“This is a last resort really, otherwise there would be total chaos in the country.”
Bush, who this week pleaded for the United States to give his new Iraq plan a chance, does not have to abide by a Senate resolution if legislators vote against sending more troops.

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Dems seek GOP support on Iraq resolution

WASHINGTON – Emboldened by a successful first vote against President Bush’s Iraq war policy, Senate Democrats said Thursday they were wary of the
administration’s anticipated $1.2 billion request for reconstruction there.

Sen. Joseph Biden (news, bio, voting record), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he wants assurances from the administration that the money would not fuel corruption or the insurgency in Iraq.

A key piece of Bush’s new strategy is increasing reconstruction efforts, with the U.S. pledging another $1.2 billion and the Iraqi government designating $10 billion. As part of the plan, Bush is dispatching 21,500 additional troops to Iraq to bolster security so reconstruction efforts are not stalled.

“I hope we will hear today some concrete details on why these funds will achieve better results than we’ve been able to achieve before,” Biden said.

The U.S. has spent nearly $15 billion in reconstruction already and “as you know better than I do, the results aren’t pretty,” the Delaware Democrat added.

Biden’s committee on Wednesday passed 12-9 a resolution that dismissed Bush’s plans to increase troops in Iraq as “not in the national interest.” The vote on the nonbinding measure was largely along party lines, with Sen. Chuck Hagel (news, bio, voting record) of Nebraska being the sole Republican on the committee offering his support.

The full Senate is expected to vote on the measure next week.

“The president has made his decision,” Vice President Dick Cheney fired back in a CNN interview, a response that made it clear the administration would go ahead anyway. “We need to get the job done.”

Republicans have been meeting behind closed doors to shore up support for the Iraq war plan. The Senate is tied 49-49 between the two parties, with two independents caucusing with the Democrats. That means either party needs help from the other in order to achieve the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster and advance legislation.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (news, bio, voting record), R-Ky., has said that he doesn’t want the issue rammed through.

“We’re not going to try to stop the votes. What we want to do is make sure we have a number of different alternatives,” he told MSNBC. “Members of my party who differ with the president one way or another are all working on different alternatives. I think what we’ll end up with … is sort of a smorgasbord of options that will attract different members, all of which are likely, as virtually everything in the Senate is likely, to be subject to a 60-vote threshold.”

Senate Democratic leaders say they are willing to negotiate the language to pull in more GOP support. Sen. John Warner (news, bio, voting record), R-Va., who sponsored a rival proposal, has already met with Sen. Carl Levin (news, bio, voting record), D-Mich., and others to discuss his position.

“The goal is to try to salvage this situation and not send the additional troops with a message of disapproval,” Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record), R-Ariz., said.

Sen. Charles Schumer (news, bio, voting record), D-N.Y., said Thursday that the resolution the committee approved is not the last that will be heard from Congress.

“A resolution that that says we’re against this escalation, that’s easy. The next step will be how do you put further pressure on the administration against the escalation, but still supporting the troops who are there,” he said on NBC’s “Today” program.

“That’s what we’re figuring out right now,” Schumer added. “But this will not be the end. There will be other resolutions with more teeth in it afterwards and my bet — they’ll get a majority of support and significant Republican support.”

As the two sides try to find consensus, the State Department’s senior Iraq adviser, David Satterfield, planned to testify Thursday on reconstruction efforts before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

While most Republicans refused Wednesday to back the Iraq resolution, some of them suggested their position may change.

Sen. George Voinovich (news, bio, voting record), R-Ohio, said he believed the resolution could be viewed as a political attack on Bush and misinterpreted “by our enemies as abandoning Iraq.” But, he added, he remained skeptical that additional troops in Baghdad would be successful.

“I have been waiting for the administration to extend an olive branch in an attempt to forge a compromise” that would make clear “we stand united as a nation,” he said. “I obviously have been disappointed since that has not happened.”

Voinovich and like-minded GOP senators say they might be willing to sign on to a measure backed by Sens. Warner, Susan Collins (news, bio, voting record), R-Maine, Norm Coleman (news, bio, voting record), R-Minn., and Ben Nelson (news, bio, voting record), D-Neb.

Warner, a prominent Republican and former chairman of the Armed Services Committee, cast his measure as a milder alternative. It leaves open the possibility of Bush sending in a much smaller number of troops, particularly to the western Anbar province, and uses language that some say may be seen as less partisan.

“I think this is just the beginning,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (news, bio, voting record), R-Alaska, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. Murkowski voted against the resolution but not before voicing her opposition to sending more troops to Iraq.

“I feel that I have to tell (Bush), and the administration, where I’m coming from, what I have learned, what I’m hearing from my constituents, from those who have been over there,” she said.

While Warner said he is willing to discuss his resolution with Democrats, the two sides have substantial differences. Warner’s resolution, for example, explicitly states that the president commands the U.S. forces and the resolution is not intended to “question or contravene such authority.”

Democrats said such a provision raises flags because it suggests the Congress cannot implement stronger measures, such as cutting off funding.

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