October 20, 2017

Two Senators Call for New Leader in Iraq

New York Times
Thom Shanker & Mark Mazzetti
Posted: 08/21/2007

WASHINGTON, Aug. 20 — The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, after completing a two-day tour of Iraq, said Monday that the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki should be voted from office because it has proved incapable of reaching the political compromises required to end violence there.

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The Democratic chairman, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, and the committee’s ranking Republican, Senator John W. Warner of Virginia, who traveled to Iraq together, issued a joint statement that was only slightly more temperate than Mr. Levin’s remarks. They warned that in the view of politicians in Washington, and of the American people, “time has run out” on attempts to forge a political consensus in Baghdad.

Mr. Levin said that in his view, the political stalemate in Iraq could be attributed to Mr. Maliki and other senior Iraqi officials who were unable to operate independently of religious and sectarian leaders.

“I’ve concluded that this is a government which cannot, is unable to, achieve a political settlement,” Mr. Levin said. “It is too bound to its own sectarian roots, and it is too tied to forces in Iraq which do not yield themselves to compromise.”

In a conference call with reporters from Tel Aviv, Mr. Levin called on the Iraqi Parliament to vote the Maliki government from power because it had “totally and utterly failed” to reach a political settlement, and to replace it with a team better able to forge national unity.

Mr. Levin and Mr. Warner are among their respective parties’ most esteemed legislators on national security issues. Their committee will be among those hearing directly from Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker when the two men deliver their report measuring military and political progress in Iraq next month. A White House spokesman said Monday that the Capitol Hill testimony could be expected on Sept. 11 or 12.

Mr. Warner did not explicitly call for the removal of the Maliki government. But he joined Mr. Levin in a joint statement that, while noting some success under the current troop increase in improving the security situation in Iraq, was tempered by a grim assessment of political progress.

“While we believe that the ‘surge’ is having measurable results, and has provided a degree of ‘breathing space’ for Iraqi politicians to make the political compromises which are essential for a political solution in Iraq, we are not optimistic about the prospects for those compromises,” the joint statement said.

The statement warned that recent meetings among Iraqi political leaders “could be the last chance for this government to solve the Iraqi political crisis.” Should that effort fail, the senators wrote, “we believe the Iraqi Council of Representatives and the Iraqi people need to judge the government of Iraq’s record and determine what actions should be taken — consistent with the Iraqi Constitution — to form a true unity government to meet those responsibilities.”

American intelligence agencies on Monday delivered to Congress their own assessment of the sectarian violence in Iraq and the prospects for political reconciliation there.

The new National Intelligence Estimate is an update to an earlier assessment completed in February, which painted a bleak picture of the ability of Iraqi politicians to tamp down sectarian violence.

The new N.I.E. should play a significant role in the upcoming Congressional debate about the course of the Iraq war, as it is likely to be used by both sides as a more independent assessment of the security situation than the Petraeus-Crocker report.

The assessment completed in February also said that Iraq’s fractured military would be “hard-pressed” over the next 12 to 18 months to “execute significantly increased security responsibilities, and particularly to operate independently against Shia militias with any success.”

Gordon D. Johndroe, the National Security Council spokesman, said President Bush was briefed about the new N.I.E. on Monday morning.

Jim Rutenberg contributed reporting from Ottawa.

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