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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Influential Republican Senator Calls for Drawdown of US Troops in Iraq

26 June 2007

The top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in unusually blunt language, says President Bush's Iraq policy is not working. Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana is calling for a downsizing of U.S. forces in Iraq and more emphasis on regional diplomacy. VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.

Senator Lugar took aim at President Bush's so-called troop surge strategy, saying the costs and risks of continuing down the current path outweigh the potential benefits that might be achieved to protect U.S. vital interests over the long term.

"Its prospects for success are too dependent on the actions of others who do not share our agenda," he said. "It relies on military power to achieve goals that it cannot achieve. It distances allies that we will need for any regional diplomatic effort. Its failure, without a careful transition to a back-up policy would intensify our loss of credibility. It uses tremendous amounts of resources that cannot be employed in other ways to secure our objectives. And it lacks domestic support that is necessary to sustain a policy of this type."

In making his comments, in a speech on the Senate floor, Lugar broke with most other congressional Republicans, who have said they would wait to make assessments about Iraq until September, when the top U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, delivers a report to Congress.

Lugar said he sees little evidence that Iraqis will make the compromises necessary to solidify a functioning government and society.

"We have the worst of both worlds in Iraq, factional leaders who don't believe in our pluralist vision for their country, and smaller sub-factions who are pursuing violence on their own regardless of any accommodations by more moderate fellow sectarians," he added.

Lugar expressed support for provisions of the report prepared by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, which recommended downsizing and redeploying the U.S. military presence in Iraq and putting more emphasis on regional diplomacy.

"We need to be preparing for how we will array U.S. forces in the region to target terrorist enclaves, deter adventurism by Iran, provide a buffer against regional sectarian conflict, and generally reassure friendly governments that the United States is committed to Middle East security," he noted. "Simultaneously, we must be aggressive and creative in pursuing a regional dialogue that is not limited to our friends. We cannot allow fatigue and frustration with our Iraq policy to lead to the abandonment of the tools and relationships we need to defend our vital interests in the Middle East."

At the White House, spokesman Tony Snow said Lugar's comments are nothing new, and noted that the senator has had reservations about the surge for some time.

But the Senate's top Democrat, Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, says Lugar's comments could provide political cover for more Republicans who want to challenge President Bush's Iraq policy.

"When this war comes to an end, and it will come to an end, when the history books are written, and they will be written, I believe that Senator Lugar's words could be remembered as the turning point in this intractable civil war in Iraq," said Senator Reid.

Next month Reid plans to hold votes on several anti-war related amendments to a defense policy bill, including proposals to cut off money for combat operations, withdraw troops, and revoke the 2002 congressional authorization for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

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