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No good military options in Iraq: leading US senators

by Staff Writers
Washington, Aug 6, 2006
There are no good military options for the United States in Iraq, two top US senators said Sunday, describing the country as in the midst of a civil war and suggested that Washington convene a high-level diplomatic conference involving regional powers.

However Republican Chuck Hagel and Democrat Christpher Dodd, both senior members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, gave few further details on the proposal.

"A cold hard assessment that Iraq is not going to turn out the way we were promised it was and, that's a fact," said Hagel, interviewed on the CBS show "Face the Nation."

"This is a civil war," said Dodd. "I don't believe that US military people can play referee in that kind of situation."

Both Hagel and Dodd referred to testimony in Congress Thursday by General John Abizaid, the top US commander in the Middle East, who said that Iraq could slide into civil war if Iraqis do not take decisive action to stop it.

"I think the generals, the other day, were cautious in their language," said Dodd. "But I think they were telling us something loud and clear to anyone who wanted to listen."

Hagel proposed getting former president George Bush -- the current president's father -- as well as former president Bill Clinton to "try to enpanel a regional diplomatic conference. The UN can be part of that. Unless you come at it that way, we will leave Iraq and it will not be the way we intended to leave Iraq because that is the direction this is going.

"There are no good options here," he added. "Are we going to put our troops in the middle of a civil war? Who are they going to fight? This will be slaughter of immense proportions."

Dodd also favored calling on the former presidents to "start talking about the regional solution here of which Iraq plays a pivotal role ... not kicking the ball down the road to let some future administration grapple with this."

Hagel insisted that long deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan are "decimating" the US army.

"We can't continue with the tempo we are on now. So let's not pretend that things are a certain way," he said.

In a Time magazine interview, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice rejected talk of a civil war.

"I don't think Iraq is going to slide into a civil war," she said. "I don't think that you are looking at the breakdown of institutions -- that people's desire to have institutions of unity -- that usually constitutes a civil war. People haven't opted out of a unified Iraq."

The US civil war began "quite dramatically when the south opted out of the United States of America. Well, the Kurds haven't opted out of Iraq. The Shia haven't opted out of Iraq."

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