Senate Democrats

Reid: Six Months Into Surge, Iraqis No Closer To Political Solution

Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the six-month anniversary of President Bush’s escalation in Iraq: 

“While our brave men and women continue to fight Iraq’s civil war, Iraqis remain far from a political solution and have not demonstrated any readiness to stand up and take responsibility for their own country.  And as President Bush continues to cling stubbornly to his flawed strategy, Al Qaeda only grows stronger.

“This week’s political summit is a step in the right direction, but much more needs to be done as it is clearer than ever that we urgently need a new strategy.  Over the past six months, despite President Bush’s unfounded claims of success, 565 Americans have been killed in Iraq while taxpayers have spent $60 billion.  After the Administration’s September 15 report, we hope the President and Congressional Republicans will finally work with us to provide a real, overdue change of course in Iraq.”        

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SINCE PRESIDENT BUSH’S ESCALATION BEGAN, IRAQ’S GOVERNMENT HAS BEGUN TO FRACTURE

 Iraqi Unity Government Has No Sunni Members and 17 Ministers Have Either Quit or Suspended Membership This Year. According to reports, the five Cabinet ministers loyal to Iraq’s first post-Saddam leader, Ayad Allawi, began boycotting government meetings, further deepening the political crisis that threatens the administration of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The boycotting ministers, members of the Iraqiya List, left the government, at least temporarily, with no Sunni participants. The boycott raises to 17 the number of government ministers who have either suspended membership or quit this year. Prime Minister Maliki decided to hold a meeting this week as an effort to bring the Sunni officials back to their respective roles. Sunni officials however claimed they could not trust Mr. Maliki’s government to implement any promises made at the meeting because past promises to deliver government services in Sunni areas of Baghdad still remain largely unfulfilled. In addition, in a written statement addressed to the Arab world, Adnan al-Dulaimi, the Sunni coalition leader, claimed that Shiite death squads and Iranian agents were conducting “genocide” against Sunnis with the tacit approval of government institutions. [Associated Press, 8/6/07; New York Times, 8/13/07]

Secretary Gates, Discouraged By the Sunni Boycott, Said The Administration May Have Misjudged the Difficulty of Achieving Political Reconciliation in Iraq. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he was discouraged by the departure of the major Sunni Arab bloc from Iraq’s coalition government, and noted that the Bush administration may have misjudged the difficulty of achieving reconciliation among Iraq’s sectarian factions. Gates said: “I think the developments on political side are somewhat discouraging at the national level. And clearly the withdrawal of the Sunnis from the government is discouraging. My hope is that it can all be patched back together.” [New York Times, 8/2/07]

Iraq’s Parliament Adjourned Without Passing Key Legislation. Iraq’s parliament shrugged off U.S. criticism and adjourned for their month-long August recess, as key lawmakers declared there was no point waiting any longer for the Prime Minister to deliver benchmark legislation for their vote, as requested by Washington. Critics have questioned how Iraqi legislators could take a summer break while U.S. forces are fighting and dying to create conditions under which important laws could be passed in the service of ending sectarian political divisions. Many lawmakers blamed Maliki. ‘Even if we sit next month, there’s no guarantee that important business will be done,’ said Mahmoud Othman, a prominent Kurdish legislator. [Washington Post, 7/31/07]

Iraqi Government Has Refused to Take Over Completed Reconstruction Projects, Allowing Them to Fall Into Disrepair. According to a report released by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, of the 2,797 completed projects costing $5.8 billion, Iraq’s national government had accepted only 435 projects valued at $501 million. The administration often promotes the number of rebuilding projects, like power plants and hospitals, that have been completed in Iraq, as signs of progress. However, a closer examination by the inspector general’s office found that a number of individual projects are crumbling, abandoned or otherwise inoperative only months after the United States declared that they had been successfully completed. [New York Times¸7/28/07]

July Was Second-Deadliest Month of the Year for Iraqis With 2,024 Violently Killed. According to published reports, Iraqi deaths rose, with at least 2,024 civilians, government officials and security forces killed in July 2007, about 23% more than the 1,640 who died violently the month prior. That made July the second-deadliest month for Iraqis so far this year; at least 2,155 Iraqis were killed in May. The figures are considered only a minimum based on AP reporting. The actual number is likely higher, as many killings go unreported or uncounted. [Associated Press, 8/1/07]

JOINT CHIEFS NOMINEE CLAIMED IRAQ WAR HAS HINDERED THE MILITARY’S ABILITY TO RESPOND TO EMERGING THREATS

Admiral Mullen Said Our Troops Are Strained and Pace of Operations Has Limited Military’s Ability to Respond to Other Threats. Admiral Mullen warned, “My second challenge will be resetting, reconstituting and revitalizing our armed forces, particularly the ground forces. There is strain. We are stretched.  Though recruiting and retention figures in general remain good and morale is still high, I do not take for granted the service of our people or their families, and I worry about the toll this pace of operations is taking on them, our equipment and on our ability to respond to other crises and contingencies.” [Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing, 7/31/07] 

Admiral MullenSaid U.S. Military’s Force Reset Cannot Wait Until War in Iraq Is Over. At a Senate hearing, Admiral Mullen said, “The U.S. military remains the strongest in all the world, but it is not unbreakable. Force reset, in all its forms, cannot wait until the war in Iraq is over.” [Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing, 7/31/07]

THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION HAS IGNORED THE EMERGING THREAT OF AL-QAEDA IN OTHER PARTS OF THE REGION

President Karzai Said We Were No Closer to Catching Bin Laden Than We Were a Few Years Ago. Asked if Afghanistan and its allies, including the U.S., were any closer to finding Osama Bin Laden, President Karzai answered, “The information that we have in Afghan system, we are not closer, we are not further away from it. We are where we were a few years ago.” Karzai also said that he believed Bin laden was hiding “in this part of the world” but definitely not in Afghanistan. [CNN’s Late Edition, 8/5/07]

Taliban and Al-Qaeda Are Gaining Strength in Afghanistan. According to reports, NATO countries are not giving the international force securing Afghanistan enough support and there are worrying signs that the Taliban are growing stronger, a detailed study by Britain’s parliament has found…But the chief preoccupation was a lack of support from other NATO countries to provide more troops to the 36,000-strong ISAF mission and evidence that violence, including Iraq-style suicide bombings, was growing as Taliban and al Qaeda-linked insurgents expand their sphere of influence outwards from the south.” [Reuters, 7/18/07]

According to a Recent National Intelligence Estimate, Al-Qaeda Has Gained Strength In Pakistan. According to the National Intelligence Estimate released in July, the United States has lost ground on a number of fronts in the fight against Al-Qaeda. According to the report, Al-Qaeda has strengthened over the past two years, specifically in the tribal area of North Waziristan. One of the main reasons for their resurgence, according to intelligence officials, was the hands-off approach toward the tribal areas by Pakistan’s president, General Pervez Musharraf, who brokered a cease-fire with tribal leaders last year in an attempt to drain support for Islamic extremism in the region. [International Herald Tribune, 7/19/07; Associated Press, 8/6/07]

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