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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Big Names Offer Bush More Iraq Advice

Several experts, including a Clinton White House chief of staff and a Reagan-era Pentagon official, have prepared a memo offering President Bush advice as he plans to announce an anticipated change in his policy for U.S. involvement in Iraq.

The group, based at the left-leaning Center for American Progress (CAP), offers Bush three recommendations: Promote a Diplomatic Surge and Oppose Military Escalation; Ignore the Advice from Those Responsible for the Iraq Quagmire; and Exercise the Proper Constitutional Role of Congress in Guiding Iraq Policy.

The recommendations were developed by John Podesta, staff chief to Bill Clinton; Lawrence Korb, assistant secretary of defense during Ronald Reagan's term; and Brian Katulis and Iraq expert who has lived and worked in the Middle East and served on staff at the National Security Council.

The U.S. military invaded Iraq nearly four years ago. President Bush first justified the strike saying then-Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). No WMDs were found and Bush turned the war into a move specifically against Saddam Hussein because of Saddam's brutality.

U.S. forces captured Saddam Hussein in hiding. Saddam Hussein was subsequently tried in Iraq and found guilty of crimes against humanity. Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death and was hanged late last week.

Since the U.S. invasion and ouster of Saddam Hussein, Iraq has been plunged into sectarian violence, costing the lives of thousands of American military personnel. Americans have for months told pollsters that they disapprove of Bush's handling of the war. One sign of Bush's lost confidence among the American people were November elections that handed Democrats control of both houses of Congress for the first time since 1994.

The bipartisan Iraq Study Group delivered a report to Bush with options for policy alternatives but it is unclear if Bush plans to take any of them.

"The United States cannot solve Iraq’s problems militarily," the CAP experts say. "No matter how long the United States stays or how many troops are sent, Iraq will never become a stable, peaceful state unless the Iraqis themselves make the painful political compromises necessary to create a new Iraq. These compromises are hard because they involve balancing the power of the provincial and central governments, sharing oil revenues, and protecting minority rights. Only when the reconciliation process is complete will the Iraqis be willing to disband their militias and cease their support for the insurgency.

"More than a year after its most recent national election, during which time the United States has lost the equivalent of 12 battalions killed or wounded soldiers and Marines, Iraq’s leaders remain internally divided over key questions of political and economic sharing," they add. "The national unity government has not achieved sufficient progress on addressing the key questions that drive Iraq’s violence. A fundamental challenge in today’s Iraq is that too many Iraqi political leaders are hedging their bets: they halfheartedly support the national government while simultaneously maintain their independent power bases through ties to militias and other groups based on sect or ethnicity."

Since Iraq’s current government is neither taking control of the chaos swirling around it nor settling disputes over key issues that might bring an end to the sectarian bloodbath, more and more Iraqis are turning to violence, the experts say.

"Resolving Iraq’s civil war requires a new political strategy, such as a peace conference supported by the international community and Iraq’s neighbors. Shifting U.S. military tactics toward greater military escalation runs a high risk of only inflaming Iraq’s violence and increasing American casualties and Iraqi dependence on the United States," they say.

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