Reid: Bush Leaving US Without Plan for Success in Iraq

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Washington, D.C.- Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following statement today in response to President Bush’s speech on Iraq:

“In today’s speech President Bush once again failed to give the American people a clear indication that we are any closer to an overall plan for success in Iraq than we were in any of the previous five years of this war.”

“The President asserts that real progress has been made in Iraq, but if that were truly the case, then our troops would be coming home soon.”

“In fact it appears there will be as many if not more U.S. troops in Iraq at the end of the year than there were before the surge began in 2007; and in that time the President’s policies have not resulted in the political reconciliation needed for a long-term solution to the conflict in Iraq.”

“Rather than criticizing Congress, President Bush should be working with us to hold the Iraqi government accountable. The President’s failure on this front is keeping our troops mired in an endless civil war.”

“Our troops have done their job; it is time for the Iraqi politicians and this Administration to do theirs.”

What the President Failed to Mention in His Speech on Iraq

President’s Speech Failed to Mention that There Will Be Far More Than 100,000 U.S. Troops Still in Iraq When He Leaves Office

Plan Submitted to President Bush Would Keep 140,000 Troops in Iraq After the Surge – Troop Levels Will Likely Be Far Above 100,000 By the Time President Bush Leaves Office.“US troop levels in Iraq are likely to remain steady for the rest of President George W. Bush’s presidency, under war plans presented by his top Iraq commander. Bush did not announce any decision on future troop levels after a closed-door meeting via video link Monday with General David Petraeus, who oversees US forces in Iraq, and the US ambassador to Baghdad Ryan Crocker… The military is currently withdrawing five combat brigades sent into Iraq early last year — the so-called “surge” force — to be completed by July. That will bring troop levels down from about 158,000 to 140,000. If Bush accepts the ‘pause,’ that means two or three more brigades at most could be withdrawn in 2008, leaving troop levels far above 100,000, the Times pointed out. It takes about 45 days to withdraw a combat brigade, it said.” [Agence France-Presse, 3/25/08]

President’s Speech Failed to Mention That Iraqis Have Not Made Sufficient Political Progress

General Petraeus Said Iraqi Leaders Have Not Made Sufficient Progress Toward National Reconciliation.“Iraqi leaders have failed to take advantage of a reduction in violence to make adequate progress toward resolving their political differences, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said Thursday. Petraeus, who is preparing to testify to Congress next month on the Iraq war, said in an interview that ‘no one’ in the U.S. and Iraqi governments ‘feels that there has been sufficient progress by any means in the area of national reconciliation,’ or in the provision of basic public services.” [WashingtonPost, 3/14/08]

Iraqi Government Has Still Met Just 3 of 18 Benchmarks.“One year ago, the president pledged that ‘America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced.’ Despite the fact that the Iraqi government has only met three of the 18 benchmarks laid out last year, an end to U.S. military and financial commitment is nowhere in sight.” [Center for American Progress, “Iraq Benchmark Report Card,” 1/24/08]

New DeBaathification Law Could Set Off a New Purge of Ex-Baathists.“But now, under new legislation promoted as way to return former Baathists to public life, the 56-year-old and thousands like him could be forced out of jobs they have been allowed to hold, according to Iraqi lawmakers and the government agency that oversees ex-Baathists. ‘This new law is very confusing,’ Awadi said. ‘I don’t really know what it means for me.’ He is not alone. More than a dozen Iraqi lawmakers, U.S. officials and former Baathists here and in exile expressed concern in interviews that the law could set off a new purge of ex-Baathists, the opposite of U.S. hopes for the legislation. [WashingtonPost, 1/23/08]

O’Hanlon Said de-Baathification Law Could Do More Harm Than Good. “Yet myriad problems still exist. For example, the de-Baathification law, if badly implemented, could do more harm than good by purging Sunnis from the very security forces that we have worked so hard to include them within.” [USA Todayeditorial by Michael O’Hanlon, 3/13/08]

Awakening Councils Have Been Left Out of the Political Bargain. “And, still left out of the political bargain are the newly formed Awakening Councils, which are predominantly Sunni and in many cases represent powerful tribes. They have taken the lead in fighting extremist Sunni groups, and now their leaders are clamoring for a place at the table. They are outraged that the Iraqi Islamic Party, which is Sunni but has limited grass-roots support, dominates the provincial council in Anbar Province.” [New YorkTimes, 2/14/08]

Iraq‘s Justice System Remains A Disaster. “The increase in American troops in Iraq over the past year has been accompanied by waves of new Iraqi detainees, inundating the country’s already overburdened prisons and courts, American officials said Wednesday. American advisers say Iraq’s nascent justice system does not have enough prison beds, investigative judges or lawyers to absorb the thousands of suspects that have been detained since last summer by the augmented American and Iraqi security forces. More than half of the 26,000 prisoners are still awaiting trial, and some have languished for years, American officials said.” [New YorkTimes, 2/14/08]

President’s Speech Failed to Mention Signs that the Security Situation May Be Deteriorating

This Week’s Spike in Violence Raises the Prospect That Factors that Have Reduced Violence Could Be Evaporating Simultaneously. “This week’s spike in violence in Baghdad and the southern Iraqi city of Basra raises the prospect that the factors that suppressed Iraq’s bloodshed in recent months could be evaporating simultaneously… But the surge troops have begun leaving Iraq and will be back in the U.S. by July. Many of the Sunni fighters — known as “concerned local citizens, or CLCs, in military parlance — are threatening to resume attacking Iraqi targets if they aren’t given government jobs (please see related article on page A10). And Mr. Sadr’s militants have been battling Iraqi forces in recent days and talking darkly about escalating the violence if no armistice is reached.” [Wall Street Journal, 3/27/08]

Fighting Is Most Serious Sign Yet that Mahdi Army’s Cease-Fire May Be Unraveling.“The fighting, which Iraqi officials said killed at least 35 people and injured 100, was the most serious sign yet that a cease-fire credited with helping improve security nationwide may be unraveling as groups within the Shiite Muslim majority jockey for position ahead of provincial elections in October. Explosions and machine-gun fire rocked Basra, where rival political factions, their allied militias and criminal gangs are vying for control of oil exports that generate most of Iraq’s government revenue. Representatives of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr announced nationwide protests against what they said was the targeting of his followers. The unrest quickly spread to Baghdad, where U.S. and Iraqi officials said armed Shiite militiamen descended on the streets in some neighborhoods and fired a barrage of rockets or mortar rounds at the heavily fortified Green Zone. [LA Times, 3/26/08]

Failure to Tamper Violence in Basra Could Lead to Destabilization of Whole Country. “if the Mahdi Army breaks completely with the cease-fire that has helped to tamp down attacks in Iraq during the past year, there is a risk of replaying 2004, when the militia fought intense battles with American forces that destabilized the entire country and ushered in years of escalating violence. Renewed attacks, in turn, would make it more difficult to begin sending home large numbers of American troops.” [New YorkTimes, 3/27/08]

Only A Third of Sunnis To Be Integrated, Remainder Likely to Join Insurgency. “After months of U.S. entreaties, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shiite-led government agreed in December to hire a portion of the mostly Sunni Arab fighters into the official security forces. But the process of approving the hires is painfully slow — some say deliberately so — and less than a third are expected to qualify…But these are long-term strategies, and the fighters need jobs now. If not, many say they will have no choice but to work for the insurgency, which has tried to recruit them back with offers of more money.” [MinneapolisStar-Tribune, 3/21/08]

  • Awakening Councils Will Revert to Violence Unless All Are Integrated. “Only months ago, members of the Awakening were planting IEDs and ambushing U.S. soldiers. They were snipers and assassins, singing songs in honor of Fallujah and fighting what they viewed as a war of national liberation against the foreign occupiers. These are men the Americans described as terrorists, Saddam loyalists, dead-enders, evildoers, Baathists, insurgents. There is little doubt what will happen when the massive influx of American money stops: Unless the new Iraqi state continues to operate as a vast bribing machine, the insurgent Sunnis who have joined the new militias will likely revert to fighting the ruling Shiites, who still refuse to share power.” [Rolling Stone, 3/6/08]

Sectarian Tension and Mistrust Hamper Iraqi Security Efforts. “Analysts warn that Friday’s bombings show that Al Qaeda-linked militants appear to be exploiting the mish-mash of security arrangements in the capital that has US-funded Sunni guards, Shiite militias, and government forces all operating in a climate of mistrust in the absence of any meaningful political solutions. It also highlights the long-term limitations of the US surge strategy, credited for stemming sectarian bloodshed and dramatically reducing violence over the past year.” [Christian Science Monitor, 2/4/08]

GAO Division Director Testified That Reduction in Violence in Iraq Is Largely Due to the Ethnic Cleansing That Has Already Occurred Throughout the Country.In testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, the Director of International and Trade Division, Joe Christoff, testified, “I’m not going to answer that one, but I can talk a little bit about ethnic cleansing, because I think that’s an important consideration in even assessing the overall security situation in Iraq. You know, we look at the attack data going down, but it’s not taking into consideration the fact that there might be fewer attacks because you have ethnically cleansed neighborhoods, particularly in the Baghdad area.” [Hearing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operation and Related Programs, 10/30/07]

President’s Speech Failed to Mention That His Own Intelligence Advisors Believe Greater Threat to U.S. Is From Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan/Pakistan

NIE: Al-Qaeda Is Main Threat to U.S., Has Regenerated Key Elements of its Homeland Attack Capability. “Al-Qa’ida is and will remain the most serious terrorist threat to the Homeland, as its central leadership continues to plan high-impact plots, while pushing others in extremist Sunni communities to mimic its efforts and to supplement its capabilities. We assess the group has protected or regenerated key elements of its Homeland attack capability, including: a safehaven in the Pakistan Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), operational lieutenants, and its top leadership… As a result, we judge that the United States currently is in a heightened threat environment.” [National Intelligence Estimate, 7/17/07]

  • McConnell Testified Al Qaida in Afghanistan/Pakistan Border Region Remains Greatest Threat. “Nonetheless, Al Qaida remains the preeminent terrorist threat to the United States, at home and abroad. Despite our successes, the group has retained or regenerated key elements of its capability, including top leadership, operational middle level lieutenants, and de facto safe haven in Pakistan’s border area with Afghanistan, known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or the FATA.” [Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell’s Testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, 2/27/08]

President’s Speech Failed to Mention Iraqi Government’s Failure to Spend Billions in Oil Revenues on Reconstruction

GAO Told Congress Iraq Is Not Spending Much of its Own Money on Reconstruction, Despite Collecting Huge Oil Revenues. “Iraq isn’t spending much of its own money, despite soaring oil revenues that are pushing the country toward a massive budget surplus, auditors told Congress on Tuesday. The expected surplus comes as the U.S. continues to invest billions of dollars in rebuilding Iraq and faces a financial squeeze domestically because of record oil prices. ‘The Iraqis have a budget surplus,’ said U.S. Comptroller General David Walker. ‘We have a huge budget deficit. . . . One of the questions is who should be paying.’ ” [Associated Press, 3/11/08]

  • Iraq Is Collecting Huge Windfalls from in Oil Revenue Due to Increase Production and Soaring PricesIn recent months, Iraq experienced its highest oil production and export levels since the war began five years ago, said Stuart Bowen, special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction. “That spike in revenue combined with the highest oil prices in history, ‘coalesce into an enormous revenue windfall for the Iraqi government,’ Bowen told the Senate Appropriations Committee. Whereas Iraqi officials estimated $35 billion in oil revenues last fall, Bowen said the final number is likely to be closer to $60 billion. ‘That certainly gives them resources to carry forward with an extensive reconstruction plan,’ Bowen said.” [Associated Press, 3/11/08]

President’s Speech Failed to Mention the Influence of Iran in Iraq

Iraqis Rolled Out Red Carpet for Ahmadinejad. “In contrast to the Iraq visits of American officials, including President Bush, which are never announced for security reasons, Ahmadinejad landed here to much pomp. At the Baghdad airport, he descended the stairs of his presidential jet smiling and waving. He was greeted with hugs and kisses by top Iraqi officials, including Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd. Hundreds of Kurdish peshmerga, considered the most capable of Iraq’s forces, were in charge of security as the convoy carrying Ahmadinejad made its way from the airport to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani’s residence.” [Christian Science Monitor, 3/3/08]

  • Ahmadinejad’s Visit, Was Announced Weeks Beforehand and Required Little Security in Contrast to Bush’s ‘Stealth Visits.’ “Unlike Bush’s trips to Iraq, Ahmadinejad announced his journey in advance, drove in a motorcade down Baghdad’s airport road — once known as ‘The Highway of Death’ — spent the night and even traveled to a Shiite holy shrine in northern Baghdad, albeit under the cover of night. ‘The visits should be declared and open. And all those who come on stealth visits, we should ask them why they visit this country in a stealth manner?’ Ahmadinejad said.” [Associated Press, 3/3/08]
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