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Pressure Mounts To Dump Iraq Back On UN

"We've made no progress. The Iraqis have made no progress," Sen. Chuck Hagel said. "Measured by electricity, measured by potable water, measured by sanitation, measured by any standard of living, any quality of life, things are far worse today than they were before we got there." Photo courtesy AFP.
by Leander Schaerlaeckens
UPI Correspondent
Washington (UPI) July 20, 2007
The solution to the conflict in Iraq is not the American military but reconciliation through the United Nations, Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., said this week. "There will be no military solution in Iraq; there cannot be a military solution. There must be a political reconciliation," the maverick Republican senator and Vietnam War veteran said in a speech in Washington Wednesday at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank.

"By any measure we continue to perpetuate a failing policy in Iraq," he said. "We will never break the cycle of violence until the U.N. gets more involved and sits down and speaks to the Sunnis, the Shiites and the Kurds on a day-to-day basis."

For this to be successful, the United States would have to halt all direct involvement in the conflict and "get the American face off of the political system in Iraq," Hagel said.

Hagel said the Bush administration has been using its troop surge strategy, which started in early February, to buy more time in Iraq. But he said it has now become apparent that the surge, like all other adjustments in strategy preceding it, has proven ineffective.

"As you measure the results so far, they have not been good. And you can take any measurement of that you want: casualties; incidence of violence; civilian death; humanitarian disaster; displaced Iraqis; refugees," the senator said.

There are now close to 5 million Iraqi refugees. About 4 million have fled the country, he said.

"We've made no progress. The Iraqis have made no progress," Hagel said. "Measured by electricity, measured by potable water, measured by sanitation, measured by any standard of living, any quality of life, things are far worse today than they were before we got there."

But the core of the problem is that you can't help a country that simply doesn't believe in you. "The Iraqis don't trust us. Seventy percent of Iraqis see us as occupiers," Hagel said. "That means we've undermined our own ability to influence the outcome. The King of Saudi Arabia, who has been a strong ally, two months ago referred to our presence there as an illegitimate occupation."

"We cannot bring peace to Iraq by ourselves. We can't impose peace; we can't dictate peace. We cannot do it alone," Hagel said.

Instead, the United Nations, which refused to sanction the war in Iraq because of a lack of evidence of weapons of mass destruction, which the United States used as a premise to go to war, should mediate the conflict, influenced indirectly by America's membership, he said.

"This is a failing policy," Hagel said of the war in Iraq. It is also distracting from the real war on terror, which is playing out in Afghanistan, "and that isn't going well either," he said.

"There were no terrorists in Iraq before we got there. There isn't much al-Qaida in Iraq. The best we know is that the al-Qaida leadership is along the Pakistani-Afghani border."

However, Hagel also warned against measures proposed by the Democratic Party. "What we don't want to do, because that is the most dangerous scenario, is cut off funding from our troops. That would be devastating to our image in the world," he said.

American diplomacy standards have deteriorated steadily during the reign of President George W. Bush. "We are good at bludgeoning people in news conferences and threatening people and warning, but that doesn't fix the problem," Hagel said.

It is imprudent to use war as a threat in each dispute, especially in the case of emerging threat Iran and waning threat North Korea, the senator said.

"Maybe our two wars aren't enough, we're doing so well in both of them. Maybe we should attack North Korea and Iran too," Hagel said sarcastically. "I believe there are some in this administration who have that idea."

The importance of communicating with adversaries is paramount in protecting American interests in the region. "There cannot be security (and) stability in the Middle East without Iran. We need to engage Iran," Hagel said. "Diplomacy is not about talking to your friends. Diplomacy is about engaging your adversaries. It is about engaging the differences and trying to find some common denominator foundation to work from. Understanding that Iran's interests are different from our interests."

The lack of a diplomatic relationship with Iran also results in a dearth of reliable information from the Shiite state.

"We're not sure what's going on in Iran, because we don't talk to Iran. We're trying to guess how Iranians are going to respond," Hagel said. "So the information we get from Iran comes from the Swiss and other third parties."

Hagel has frequently been called "unpatriotic" by his peers in the GOP for his criticism of the administration. But he has refuted that and said, "We're doing tremendous damage to our military and Marines. It's not unpatriotic to question your government. It's unpatriotic not to question the policy of your government. I wish that when I was in (the Vietnam War) that a politician somewhere would have asked questions."

earlier related report
Benchmarks: Iraq's failing grade
by Martin Sieff
Washington DC (UPI) July 20 - By its own admission, the Bush administration has given itself a failing grade so far on the Iraq war. The interim report that President George W. Bush issued last week listed significant progress on eight out of 18 so-called key benchmark areas in Iraq. It listed two areas where for various reasons progress could not be assessed as yet, and another eight areas in which conditions had stalled or deteriorated.

In percentage terms, eight out of 18 gives a grade of 44 percent. On any school paper or college course, that would be a poor or failing grade by any estimate.

Since the start of the war in Iraq in March 2003, the Bush administration has tried to avoid being pinned down to provide regular benchmark assessments on Iraq. Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld repeatedly went out of his way to pooh-pooh the idea. This was particularly ironic since in his earlier term as defense secretary under President Gerald Ford in the mid-1970s and in his business career as a senior executive, Rumsfeld was famous for repeatedly preaching the importance of focusing on a few key benchmarks or "fundamentals," calibrating them statistically and carefully measuring consequent developments.

But Rumsfeld is gone from the Pentagon after his long and controversial six-year stint, and his successor, Robert Gates, has proved a literally new broom, replacing both the civilian and military leadership of the U.S. Army at the national level and the top commanders running the Iraq war.

Also, the same takeover of both houses of the U.S. Congress by the Democrats following their victories in the November 2006 midterm elections resulted this year in the passing of the Supplemental Appropriations Act, which includes requiring the president to issue interim reports at last on progress made by the government of Iraq towards meeting specified benchmarks.

Not only did the report this month list progress in less than half the specified areas, but the areas where it did not list progress -- or acknowledged deterioration -- were among the strategically most important of all. The "big three" were:

First, the failure of the Iraqi political parties and government to make significant moves towards reconciliation between the different communities in Iraq, especially the dominant 60 percent Shiites hitherto favored by the Bush administration and the 20 percent minority Sunnis among whom the fierce insurgency has flourished.

Second, the sharing of oil revenues, especially with the Sunnis in central Iraq, whose area lacks major oil reserves in contrast to the Shiite regions in the south and the Kurds in the north.

And third, the continued consistent and worrying failure of the new Iraqi police and army to prove capable of operating effectively without the stiffening presence of U.S. military forces.

These failures did not go unnoticed in the U.S. Congress.

"A realistic reading of the report showed that even on most of those benchmarks where it was claimed that the Iraqis were making satisfactory progress, the progress was at best incremental and could not provide a reliable indication that the underlying benchmarks would actually be achieved either by the time of the September report or in the foreseeable future," Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement.

Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., the outspoken Vietnam veteran who has defied his party and his president repeatedly on Iraq issues, was even more scathing.

"We've made no progress. The Iraqis have made no progress," Hagel said. "Measured by electricity, measured by potable water, measured by sanitation, measured by any standard of living, any quality of life, things are far worse today than they were before we got there."

And even one of the strongest Bush loyalists in Congress acknowledged the lack of progress documented in the interim report.

It "provides Americans with a snapshot of the progress, setbacks and ongoing challenges we face in Iraq," said Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, the House minority leader. "We need to see more progress from the Iraqi people and their government on key political benchmarks where the progress has not been satisfactory."

House Republicans have through almost all of the conflict in Iraq been strongly united in supporting President Bush's policies on it. But Boehner's comments indicated that unease is growing even among the president's most loyal supporters in the House about the inability of the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to establish effective control over much of the country.

Other "benchmark" figures reported over the past two weeks confirm this continuing bleak assessment. Overall violence in Iraq hit its highest level since the start of the war in June, averaging 178 attacks a day, a U.S. military intelligence assessment said.

ABC News has reported the average daily number of attacks last month was a significant escalation from the 94 attacks per day in March 2006. More than 70 percent of the daily attacks in Iraq in June were against U.S. forces.

"Despite our successes in taking out leaders and infrastructure, al-Qaida's operational capability appears undiminished," a senior U.S. military official told the network.

Suicide bombings and attacks were near an all-time high in May and June, the latest military intelligence assessment found.

Attacks increased sharply in Baghdad and Salahaddin, Diyala and Basra provinces at the same time that widely reported U.S. military operations in Anbar province brought a significant decline in violence there.

And UPI reported on July 11 that in June Iraq's oil production fell to 1.98 million barrels per day from 2.02 million bpd in May.

These developments confirm the validity of benchmark assessments of developments in the war, and, unfortunately, they also confirm that many of the key trends remain negative.

Source: United Press International

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The Logistics Of Pulling Out Of Iraq A Political Minefield
Moscow (RIA Novosti) Jul 23, 2007
The Democrats were unable to push a bill through the Senate calling for a withdrawal of the better part of U.S. troops from Iraq by next spring. The United States will go to the polls next year. The nation wants to bring its GIs home, so the House has no choice. It will put the pull-out proposal to a vote again and again, but it will keep losing because President Bush has warned that he will veto all such bills.

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