Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Lawmakers and military experts ask ‘what's next for Iraq?’

U.S. lawmakers met today on Capitol Hill for a joint committee hearing, “Beyond the September Report: What’s next for Iraq?” Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, led the hearing together Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

Lantos opened the hearing by saying that he is very interested to hear next week’s testimony by General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker. “It would be refreshing if these two capable and dedicated men would outline a new plan that would redeploy our troops and bring them home from Iraq,” Lantos said.

In addition, Lantos said that the highly-anticipated report is not written by military leaders or diplomats, but by political operatives within the administration and he argued that it will be essentially a regurgitation of the same failed Iraq strategy. “I expect this report will be replete with the same litany of requests – more troops, more money, more patience – and all in the unlikely belief that our intervention in a bloody, religiously-based civil war will bear fruit.”

All of the witnesses present at today’s hearing agreed that success cannot be achieved in Iraq through the military alone. Dr. William Perry, a Stanford University professor, said that without a stable government there will never be a safe Iraq. While Retired Generals John Batiste and John M. Keane addressed the failure to reach the eighteen U.S.-established benchmarks.

“They have only met a few of them but we should not look at that as a failure. There has been some great progress. For the first time al-Qaeda are on the defense and the Sunnis are isolating them and helping the U.S. troops that they were fighting before,” Keane said. “The streets of Baghdad have improved tremendously. The number of attacks is down, as are the car bombs. Schools are open. Market places are open; the same with restaurants and pool halls.

He added: “We are planning and hoping to start to bring back troops in 2008, but the question is: ‘Have we established what we were supposed to do?’”

There are obviously still many concerns though, as Lantos made clear in his opening remarks. “There will be no peace and stability as long as key elements in Iraqi society want to continue to fight – Shia to solidify their newfound power and Sunnis to regain it. There will be no peace and stability as long as Iraq’s neighbors – particularly Iran and Syria – actively promote militant groups as a means to counter American troops in Iraq. And I, for one, doubt seriously that we will see any movement in the direction of a political settlement until such time as Prime Minister Maliki is informed that our troop transports have landed in Baghdad, ready to begin bringing home our men and women in uniform,” Lantos said.


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