US Lawmakers Assess Iraq Violence
By Paula Wolfson
23 March 2008
On a day of new insurgent attacks in Iraq, with at least 40 people killed, members of the U.S. Senate spoke out on the war on American television. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports they offered differing assessments of the situation on the ground.
News of more bloodshed in northern Iraq and Baghdad reached the United States as key Senators appeared on the television interview programs that fill the American airwaves on Sunday morning.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, just back from a congressional fact-finding mission, said he saw signs of progress in Iraq.
Graham told the CBS broadcast Face the Nation that the war in Iraq "has turned a corner."
"Sectarian violence is down by 90 percent," he said. "Our casualties are way down. We have a long way to go, but I believe the surge has worked on all fronts."
Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was part of a delegation that included Senator John McCain of Arizona, the likely Republican Party presidential nominee.
Another member of the Armed Services panel - Senator Jack Reed, a Democrat from Rhode Island - returned from a recent tour of Iraq with a different assessment.
Reed also appeared on Face the Nation.
"Well, the problem with Iraq is that every time you turn the corner, there is another corner," he said.
He said political progress has been slow, arguing that the central government is not functioning effectively. Reed said the Iraqis are not feeling enough pressure to make the tough political decisions that are desperately needed.
"And one of the reasons is I think they feel they have as much time as they need because our forces are there," Reed said.
Reed said the United States needs a thorough, thoughtful and deliberate path out of Iraq.
A short time later, Iraq's national security advisor warned against a rush to pull out troops. Nawaffak al-Rubaie told CNN's Late Edition that withdrawals must be based on conditions on the ground.
"It depends on the development and the growth and the equipment and capabilities of the Iraqi security forces, and the preparedness of the Iraqi security forces," he said.
In a few weeks, the two top Americans in Iraq will travel to Washington to deliver their recommendations on troop levels. General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker will report directly to Congress in public session, and will confer with President Bush in private.
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