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More GOP Senators Break Ranks With Bush Administration

Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., is the sixth Republican stalwart to have urged the president to start winding up the Iraqi campaign in the last 10 days. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Vladimir Simonov
Moscow (RIA Novosti) July 10, 2007
In his stubborn bid for a utopian victory in Iraq, U.S. President George W. Bush has failed to notice that what had been slight misgivings about his Iraqi strategy within his own Republican Party have developed into an outright riot. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., his once loyal supporter, suddenly came to the forefront of this riot over the past weekend. He made three points that were very unpleasant for the president.

To start with, Domenici criticized the strategy of sending a "surge" of 30,000 extra troops to Iraq, which the president started to implement in January.

He also said that the general situation had gone awry and that the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was not capable of enhancing security or pursuing reconciliation between the country's religious and ethnic communities. Domenici did not support an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, which the Senate's Democratic majority keeps insisting on, but called for "a new strategy that will move our troops out of combat operations and on the path to coming home."

Domenici is the sixth Republican stalwart to have urged the president to start winding up the Iraqi campaign in the last 10 days. Other heretics include such prominent policymakers as Sens. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., an influential member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Warner, R-Va., whose opinion carries much weight with the Armed Services Committee, and Judd Gregg, R-N.H. The latter's defection from the president's camp is particularly shocking, since he is considered a close friend of the Bush family.

All of the prominent Republicans who have recently abandoned Bush on Iraq intend to run for re-election to the Senate next year, which opens them up to malicious attacks from colleagues who accuse them of pandering to public opinion rather than giving their unbiased assessment of the military situation in Iraq. For these Republican turncoats, the Iraqi front passes not through Baghdad or Basra but through the American electorate, which they would like to bring over to their side by casting doubt on U.S. progress in Iraq.

But it would be hard to cast more doubt on that progress than the facts on the ground already have. The U.S. troop buildup has not managed to pacify the country the way the Bush administration had hoped. On the contrary, the figures for May that have just been published by the U.S. Defense Department paint a grim picture -- a total of 6,039 car and mosque bombings and attacks on American troops. This is the highest level of violence since November 2004.

The defectors from the Bush camp are right in saying that Maliki has proven unable to rule the country. At one time, the U.S. president and Congress compiled a list of benchmarks for measuring the Iraqi government's progress. Now the U.S. government is ready to admit that this list has lost all meaning. The main economic goal was to reach an agreement between Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds on the division of oil profits, which hopefully would facilitate their political rapprochement. This has not been achieved. Moreover, relations between the religious communities have become so bad that a bloc of Sunni politicians is going to request a vote of no confidence in Parliament on July 15.

The Iraqi government is on the edge of an abyss, acknowledged Mowaffak al-Rubaie, the prime minister's national security adviser, in an interview with CNN. His forecast is gloomy: "After Maliki, there's going to be a hurricane in Iraq."

President Bush should feel betrayed by his supporters at what is the most critical point in the Iraqi campaign. Moreover, the defectors have gone beyond launching an open attack on the White House. They have signed a bipartisan bill that embraces the findings of the independent Iraq Study Group headed by former Secretary of State James Baker. The gist of its 79 recommendations is that the United States should turn over the burden of stabilization in Iraq to that country's own government. This will prepare the ground for the redeployment of American troops to several bases located far away from Iraqi cities, enable them to concentrate on the battle against al-Qaida, protecting Iraq's borders and training the Iraqi army, and eventually leave Iraq for good.

In American political circles, this is known as Plan B. Obviously, Bush was taken aback when The Wall Street Journal reported the other day that Defense Secretary Robert Gates also supported this plan. He believes the Iraqi government has no incentive to assume responsibility for national security as long as the U.S.-led coalition is doing it for them. Therefore, coalition forces should be reduced.

Gates has a good reason to believe this plan will work. But what if this reduction spurs into action not only the Iraqi government, but the terrorists as well?

(Vladimir Simonov is a political commentator with the Russian news agency RIA Novosti. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.)

Source: RIA Novosti

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Partitioning Iraq Softly
Washington (UPI) July 09, 2007
If the U.S. troop surge in Iraq fails to pay dividends, the only thing left to do is to break the country up into three autonomous regions, some experts now say. The only way out of what is considered to be a full-fledged civil war is a "soft partition" that would split Iraq up into Kurdistan, "Shi'astan" and "Sunnistan" and to share oil-revenues, Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and Edward Joseph, an Iraq veteran and scholar at the School of Advanced International Studies, said during a panel discussion in Washington Thursday.

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