The hearing will come to order.
I've asked our--we welcome all of our guests, and we're
truly happy you're here. But let me say to you, this is a bit
of an unusual hearing, in that we are using a telephone
connection from Baghdad. Our Ambassador, Ambassador Crocker,
who we know well and I have great respect for--I have--matter
of fact, I spent some time with him in an underground bunker in
Afghanistan once we opened up the--he opened up the Afghan
Embassy, right after the Taliban fell. But I'm going to ask the
audience if they'd help us out a lot. We don't know exactly how
good this connection's going to be, and we know there's going
to be a delay. So, you're going to hear a slight delay, and I'm
not sure how the--how good the audio is going to be. So, if you
would all just help us out and be very quiet, it would be
useful. It may be of no consequence. It may be as crystal clear
and as wide open as if he were sitting in front of us.
And--but we're going to wait another moment, because--well,
I guess we'll start.
Ambassador Satterfield is going to be here, from State.
Well, actually, I guess--is he coming now? He's just arriving.
Welcome, Mr. Ambassador. Thank you very much for being
What we're going to do now--and I can see Ryan--I can see
our Ambassador in Baghdad--I'm going to make a brief opening
statement, and turn it over to my friend Chairman Lugar, and
then we'll hear from Ambassador Crocker.
Ryan, thank you very much for accommodating our schedule.
It's very important to us and to the Senate that we hear from
you, and we thank you very much for accommodating us. You
probably have a longer delay than 1 second in hearing me.
But, with that, let me begin my opening statement.
Mr. Ambassador, again, thank you for joining us. And I'd
also like to, as I said, welcome Ambassador Satterfield, who is
here in the committee room.
In case we have a breakdown, we may turn to you, Ambassador
Satterfield, but you're welcome to chime in, any way you think
is appropriate. And I'd like to express my appreciation to you
and the Embassy staff.
Mr. Ambassador, we recognize the hardships you face, and we
are truly grateful--truly grateful--for your service. Most of
us--I think all of us here today have been to Baghdad. We have
been, in my case, and in many others, seven or more times; I'm
sure others, as well. And it is not an exaggeration to say you
are truly, truly risking your good life for our country, and we
The purpose of this hearing is straightforward. Mr.
Ambassador, we hope to hear from you in a candid and
unvarnished assessment of the situation on the ground in Iraq,
especially the political situation.
The primary goal of the President's military escalation, or
buildup, or whatever--I don't want to be pejorative--whatever
you want to call it--was to buy time--was to buy time for the
Malaki government to make compromises and political
Last week, the administration delivered an interim--an
interim assessment of the Iraqi Government's performance on 18
The government made the least amount of progress, in my
view, where it matters the most, on the key political
benchmarks: Oil laws, provincial elections, constitutional
revisions, and de-Baathification. I am of the view that, absent
real political movement, there is no ultimate solution. So,
maybe you will talk to us about whether or not these political
benchmarks--oil, provincial elections, constitutional
revisions, de-Baathification--are as important as--
Sir, would you get out of the way of the screen, there? I'm
going to ask you to move. Thank you. Because we cannot see the
The final assessment is due in 2 months. And the Iraqi
Parliament is taking one of those months off. Given the lack of
progress since the surge began, 6 months ago, what gives you
the confidence that we will see any progress between now and
September? And, if you'd be willing to tell us--what can you
tell us that will give us any confidence that the final report
has any prospect of being one better than what we just
Mr. Ambassador, you're in a tough spot. I believe that the
President's policy, which you are being asked to execute, is
based on a fundamentally flawed premise--and, I might add, the
position of some Democrats, I think, is based on a similarly
flawed premise--and that is, if we just give the cental
government time, it will secure the support and trust of all
Iraqis, that there'll be a unity government that can actually
deliver security, services, and an effective government.
In my judgment--and I know you know this, it's been my
judgment for well over 2 years now--there is no possibility of
that happening. But that's purely my judgment. It seems to me
that there is no trust within the government now, no trust of
the government by the people. And I don't see any realistic
possibility of a capacity developing, on the part of the
government, to be able to deliver security and basic services.
That is, the central government. And I see no prospect of
building that trust or capacity within the ensuing several
I've been saying this for some time. I know I sound like a
broken record to my colleagues. But I really believe, unless we
decentralize this process, we're in real trouble.
And, by the way, it's not just me. The director of the CIA,
General Mike Hayden, back in November 2006, told the Iraqi
Study Group, ``The inability of the central government to
govern is irreversible.'' That was the assessment of our CIA in
November of last year. Has anything changed?
The trust--the truth is, in my view, Mr. Ambassador, Iraq
cannot be governed from the center, absent a dictator or
indefinite occupation. And neither of these are reasonable
possibilities. Instead, I believe we should promote a political
settlement that allows the warring factions breathing room in
their own regions and control over the fabric of their own
daily lives, their own police forces, their own laws and
education, jobs, marriage, religion. And a limited central
government would be in charge of truly common concerns,
including protecting Iraq's borders and distributing oil
None of this is an American imposition. It's entirely
consistent, as you know, with the Constitution. Probably you
and I and my colleagues are among only the few people who have
ever read that Constitution. I've read the Constitution, and
the Constitution talks about this country being a decentralized
federal system. We continue to seem to want to centralize the
federal system. I would argue the Articles of Confederation are
closer to what they wrote than in the Constitution.
But, having said that, it seems to me we have to also
initiate diplomatic offensive to bring in the United Nations,
the major countries, and Iraq's neighbors to help implement and
oversee a political settlement. It is past time to make Iraq
the world's problem, not just our own.
So, Mr. Ambassador, whether you agree with what I'm
proposing or not, the bottom line is this. Just about everyone
now agrees there is no purely military way to bring stability
to Iraq. We need a political solution. So, I want your best
assessment of the prospects of a political settlement, what it
would look like, and how you think it may be achieved. I look
forward to hearing your testimony. And, again, Ryan, I want to
thank you. I saw you, firsthand, under incredible pressure in
Afghanistan, and I have watched you now. I am very--not that
you need me to be proud of you--but I am very proud we have men
and women like you, of your caliber, in the Foreign Service. I
thank you for your service.
I now yield to Chairman Lugar.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. RICHARD G. LUGAR,
U.S. SENATOR FROM INDIANA
Mr. Chairman, I join you in welcoming
Ambassador Crocker as the Senate continues to debate U.
policy in Iraq.
The future of that policy increasingly appears to depend on
the administration's report, due in September. Regardless of
what the report says, however, we must begin now to prepare for
what comes next.
It is likely that there will be changes in military
missions and force levels as the year proceeds. If U.S.
military leaders, diplomats, and, indeed, the Congress are not
prepared for these contingencies, they may be executed poorly,
especially in an atmosphere in which public demands for troop
withdrawals could compel action on the political timetable. We
need to lay the groundwork for alternatives so that when the
President and Congress move to a new plan, it can be
implemented safety and rapidly.
I am encouraged that the President has announced he is
sending Secretary of State Rice and Defense Secretary Gates to
the region to engage in concentrated diplomacy. I would observe
this diplomacy must be ambitious, sustained, and innovative. It
must go well beyond conferences with allied nations. We have to
consider how diplomacy can change the equation in the region in
ways that enhance our prospects for success in Iraq.
Regional diplomacy is not just an accompaniment to our
efforts in Iraq, it is the precondition for the success of any
policy that follows the surge. We cannot sustain a successful
policy in Iraq over the long term unless we repair alliances,
recruit more international participation in Iraq, anticipate
refugee flows, prevent regional aggression, generate new basing
options, and otherwise prepare for future developments. If we
have not made substantial diplomatic progress by the time a
post-surge policy is implemented, our options will be severely
constrained, and we'll be guessing at a viable course in a
rapidly evolving environment.
I believe the most promising diplomatic approach would be
to establish a consistent forum related to Iraq that is open to
all parties in the Middle East. The purpose of the forum would
be to improve transparency of national interests so that
neighboring states, including Syria and Iran, would avoid
missteps. It would be in the self-interest of every nation in
the region to attend such meetings, as well as the United
States, the EU representatives, or other interested parties.
The existence of a predictable, regular forum in the region
would be especially important for dealing with refugee
problems, regulating borders, exploring development
initiatives, and preventing conflict between the Kurds and the
A consistent forum in the Middle East is particularly
salient, because that region suffers from conspiracy theories,
corruption, and the opaque policies of nondemocratic
governments. We should be meeting with states on a constant
basis and encouraging them to meet each other as a means of
achieving transparency. We should not underestimate the degree
to which the lack of transparency in the Middle East
intensifies risks of conflict and impedes solutions to regional
problems. A constant, predictable, diplomatic forum would allow
countries and groups to keep an eye on one another. And such a
forum would make armed incursions more risky for an aggressor.
It would provide a means of applying regional peer pressure
against bad behavior. It would also complicate the plans of
those who would advance destructive sectarian agendas. If
nations or groups decline to attend or place conditions on
their participation, their intransigence would be obvious to
the other players in the region.
We know the task of initiating even a partial military
redeployment from Iraq will be an extremely complicated and
dangerous undertaking. I am hopeful that you, Ambassador
Crocker, will shed light today not just on prevailing
conditions in Iraq, but also on what is being done to prepare
for a post-surge strategy.
I appreciate very much your making time to hear us. Thank
Again, Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much.
And the floor is yours. If you--I'm sorry. Thank you very much,
and the floor is yours, Mr. Ambassador.
STATEMENT OF HON. RYAN C. CROCKER, AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ,
DEPARTMENT OF STATE, WASHINGTON, DC (VIA VIDEO CONFERENCE FROM
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Senator Lugar.
Thank you for this somewhat unique opportunity to appear before
I was last before you about 5 months ago for my
confirmation hearing. I believe you received the statement that
was prepared in advance. I will not take up the time of the
committee reading through that. I will make a few observations.
Yes, we have.
I said we have received your statement, and
it will be placed in the record, as if presented.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I will make a few opening observations that deal with a few
of the issues that you and Senator Lugar raised, and then look
forward to questions.
I've been in Iraq just a little less than 4 months. As you
know, sir, I served here previously, in 2003, when I had the
privilege of meeting you out here that summer. I was here
earlier for a 2-year tour in the late 1970s, when Saddam ruled
this country. Coming back, at the end of March, I was struck by
a number of things.
First, I was struck by the damage that a year and more of
violence, mainly sectarian violence, had done to the city and
this country, both physically, psychologically, and
politically. I was conscious that this damage, as great as it
was, did not take place simply in its own terms of reference.
It followed 35 years of Saddam's rule, during which all forms
of social and political organizations were effectively
eliminated by terror from Iraq, throwing people back on the
most basic of identities and loyalties, and inculcating a
tremendous sense of fear, suspicion, and mistrust. That is the
legacy from Saddam Hussein, that Iraq, its people, and its
government have to deal with today--intensified and deepened by
the sectarian violence of 2006.
So, the challenges are immense. I, in no way, minimize the
difficulty that Iraq faces, and that we face in support of the
As a result of the surge, which, as you know, just hit its
full stride in the middle of June, about a month ago, levels of
violence, sectarian violence, particularly in Baghdad, have
come down to a fairly notable degree. High-profile attacks,
however, continue. Vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices
are the best known and obviously the most devastating. Three
days ago, there was one in Kirkuk that killed over 80 people. I
was up in Kirkuk yesterday, meeting with local officials and
some of our own personnel in the Provincial Reconstruction Team
there, to get an assessment of the kind of damage these attacks
do. And they work on fault lines--political, sectarian,
psychological fault lines. And they continue.
So, this is the context, Mr. Chairman, in which the Iraqi
Government and Iraqi people must deal with their present and
their future. And it is not at all easy.
I certainly will not try to present the Iraqi Government to
you as a model of smoothly functioning efficiency, because it's
not. It faces considerable difficulties. The stresses, the
strains, and the tensions throughout society are reflected in
the government. And if there is one word that I would use to
sum up the atmosphere in Iraq--on the streets, in the
countryside, in the neighborhoods, and at the national level--
that word would be ``fear.'' This is the fear with which Saddam
Hussein so effectively inculcated the country, it's a fear
that's been intensified by the sectarian strains. For Iraq to
move forward at any level, that fear is going to have to be
replaced with some level of trust and confidence. And that is
what the effort at the national level is about. That is what
the benchmark process is about--national reconciliation--which
is another way of talking about some basic level of national
confidence. You've all seen the report. You know that Iraq has
a considerable way to go.
At this stage in the process, many of my efforts are
focused on not only the push to help the Iraqis achieve
benchmarks, but to develop the processes by which the work of
the government might be carried forward, and in which
confidence of those in government, and the people around them,
might be further developed.
I will give you just one example, very briefly. That is,
the evolution of what the Iraqis are calling the Executive
Council. This is the Presidency Council. The Kurdish President
and the two Vice Presidents, one Shia and one Sunni, are
meeting now on a regular basis with Iraq's Prime Minister,
Nouri al-Maliki. Meetings are now scheduled every Sunday
morning. There is a secretariat to help staff the four
officials. There is an agenda. There are prepared minutes of
the meeting. This brings, in particular, the leader of Iraq's
Sunni community together with the Prime Minister in a venue
where they can deal with the crises of the moment, but also, we
hope, over time, chart a way forward on achieving both the
legislative benchmarks and also the spirit of reconciliation
that has to underlie them.
Mr. Chairman, both you and Senator Lugar spoke of the
region, and I would just make a few remarks in that context,
and then, if you'll permit me, come back very briefly to
address other comments you made about levels of government
below the central authority.
As you know, Iraq exists in a tough region. It was
precisely to engage the neighbors in a constructive manner that
we supported the establishment of the neighbors forum, which,
as you know, has now met at the ministerial level, one time in
Sharm el-Sheikh, at the beginning of May, and we look forward
to further such meetings. This process also established a set
of working groups, one of which has already met, the energy
working group in Istanbul, at the end of last month, and two
others are now scheduled, one on refugees, in Amman next week,
and another on border security, in Syria at the beginning of
August. We think this process is important. We think it should
be intensified, precisely as a way of, again, bringing Iraq's
neighbors into some constructive, rather than destructive,
engagement on Iraq's present and its future.
We would welcome, Mr. Chairman, as I think both you and
Senator Lugar proposed, a more active role by the United
Nations. They have done important work here in the past. We
have been in contact here with the Special Representative of
the Secretary General, in contact with the United Nations in
New York and in Washington, to urge them to devote the
personnel and the resources to Iraq that Iraq needs and
deserves. There is a lot of good work they have done, and can
do, on issues such as refugees and elections. And I, for one,
would like to see them staffed more robustly to carry that
Finally, on the international level, there is another U.N.
and Iraqi sponsored process, with which, of course, you are
very familiar: The international compact with Iraq. That, too,
had a successful ministerial at Sharm el-Sheikh in May. It also
has developed followup mechanisms that bring the broad
international community into engagement, primarily on Iraq's
economic agenda. I think we need to continue to support and
encourage this effort, as well, because it does benefit the
whole process in Iraq.
My final comment, sir, would be on government at different
levels. As you have commented previously, we have seen some
encouraging developments in Iraq over the last few months,
primarily among Sunni communities, starting in the western
province of Al Anbar, where tribal figures that had been, if
not supportive of al-Qaeda, at least tolerant toward al-Qaeda,
shift over so that they are now supporting coalition forces,
and, by extension, the Iraqi Government. This phenomenon has
spread to Abu Ghraib, just west of the city, in parts of
Baghdad itself, and to other provinces, such as Diyala and
Ninawa. I was in Ninawa yesterday, in Mosul, learning there of
overtures from Sunni tribes who had once ferociously resisted
the Iraqi Security Forces, now seeking to have its young men
join both police and the Iraqi Army. So, I think, incorporating
this shift, and working to further intensify it at the
grassroots level, is important to the overall prospects for
success in Iraq.
In my view, Mr. Chairman, Iraq needs efforts at both these
levels. Central authority, itself, is not sufficient, but a
total decentralization, in the Iraqi context, I think, would
also be both difficult and potentially dangerous as a prelude
to nongovernance and potential chaos.
Iraq is on a course, as you suggested, that is somewhere in
the middle. The Iraqi Council of Representatives passed
legislation earlier this year that provides for the
establishment of regions. And, as you know, there is a Kurdish
region, the Kurdish regional government already in existence.
This legislation provides the framework for that. It also
permits provinces in other areas to similarly constitute
themselves as regions. That is part of federalism, in the Iraqi
context, provided for in the constitution model legislated by
the Council of Representatives. And I think this provides an
effective way of dealing both with the need for a central
authority in certain key areas, but also taking into account
regional aspirations and regional capabilities.
And, with that, Mr. Chairman, I would be happy to take your
[The prepared statement of Ambassador Crocker follows:]
Prepared Statement of Hon. Ryan Crocker, Ambassador to Iraq, Department
of State, Washington, DC
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It is with pleasure that I appear before
the committee for the first time since my confirmation hearing in
February. Last week, the President submitted to Congress an interim
assessment of the Government of Iraq's progress toward achieving a
number of political, economic, and security benchmarks.
I believe it is a fair assessment which demonstrates that while the
Government of Iraq is making some progress, there is still much to do
and much room for improvement. As we approach September, I and other
senior-level Embassy officials are--on a daily basis--personally
engaging with the highest levels of the Government of Iraq to make
clear that progress on the benchmarks is imperative, to suggest ways
forward, and to serve as honest brokers to promote compromise. At the
working level, we also maintain daily contact with members of the Iraqi
Council of Representatives, from committee heads to rank-and-file
members, to monitor progress and serve as advocates for agreement on,
and passage of, key legislation.
We do much of our work discreetly. Those who would like to see our
efforts fail in the hopes of stalling forward momentum past September
15 are quick to recast our efforts as U.S. coercion and infringements
upon Iraqi sovereignty. Recently, there were public demonstrations in
Iraq's No. 1 ``oil city,'' Basra, condemning American pressure toward
passage of a hydrocarbons law. But discreet should not be confused with
ineffective, and we continue to make progress.
I would like to add a general note of caution, however, about
benchmarks. The benchmarks can be a useful metric; but the longer I am
here, the more I am persuaded that progress in Iraq cannot be analyzed
solely in terms of these discrete, precisely defined benchmarks
because, in many cases, these benchmarks do not serve as reliable
measures of everything that is important--Iraqi attitudes toward each
other and their willingness to work toward political reconciliation.
For example, I think if the committee examines the legislative
benchmarks, it is quite possible that Iraq could achieve few of them
over the coming months and yet actually be moving in the right
direction. Conversely, I think it is possible that all the legislative
benchmarks could be achieved without making any real progress toward
reconciliation. Merely passing legislation without a broad consensus of
all major Iraqi communities will not meet the goals of real or lasting
reconciliation. Moreover, passing laws without the requisite consensus
will undermine the political will for implementation on the ground
following enactment. The benchmarks are useful tools if we remain
focused on the broader context--the fundamental reconciliation issues
facing Iraq that the benchmark legislation represents.
Furthermore, I would note that the framework of these benchmarks
focuses on the central government's capabilities and does not capture
achievements made at the provincial level. The progress in the
provinces, if properly nurtured, could be the basis for more
substantial reconciliation efforts: A grassroots effort that produces
security and prosperity for the citizens of Iraq.
Our Provincial Reconstruction Teams report that local governments
are taking the initiative--meeting the basic security needs of their
citizens, planning and budgeting for reconstruction projects, and
taking control of their futures by resisting
al-Qaeda. It is this kind of activity that provides a level of
encouragement that potential shortcomings at the national level may be
offset by the affirming activities of state and local governments.
Moreover, Iraqis at the local level are seeing the results of an
improved political and economic process which is critical for a broader
Realizing that local government, small business, services and
employment must play a vital part in the stabilization and
sustainability of a self-governing Iraq, we have sharply increased the
number of our PRTs, and we are strengthening their staffs. We have
deployed 10 new PRTs this year and 4 more will be coming in early
September. I have to be honest and say we have not yet deployed enough
people in those teams, and we are in the process of expediting staffing
I know the committee is interested in our New Embassy Compound--a
project which has benefited from your support. Overseas Buildings
Operations Director Williams has assured us, as well as the Congress,
that the NEC is on schedule and on budget for completion in September.
We seek to move personnel into the safer NEC quarters as quickly as
possible following installation of the necessary communications,
logistical and other support services.
I look forward to your questions and thoughts.
Thank you very much.
We will start this with 10-minute rounds. And if we run--
begin to run out of time, we will alter it, but we should be
able to do the 2 hours, here.
Let me begin by asking you, Mr. Ambassador--the Iraqi
Constitution--I can't remember now, I think it's section 115 or
116--talks about the establishment of regions, and it's what
I've been talking about for some time. Is it not true that,
under the Iraqi Constitution, any region that decides--of 18
governorates--any one or more that choose to be a single--one
governate can become a region, or they can combine with two,
three, five, like they have in the Kurdish area--to become a
region. Once you are--declare that, by a majority vote, is it
not true that that region writes its own constitution?
That is correct, Mr. Chairman. That is
my understanding. That is what the Kurdish region has done.
And what is available to the other
governorates, as well, correct?
Yes, sir. The region's law, passed by
the Council of Representatives, implements that.
Yes. Now, second, one of the things that, if
you conclude that you are going to be a region--and I read
article 115, ``The federal system in the Republic of Iraq is
made up of a decentralized capital, region, and governates, and
local administration.'' And section 116 goes and lays out and
talks about the Kurdish region, and then 117 talks about this
Council of Representatives can enact a way--a timeframe in
which people become a region. And then it goes on to point out,
in article 119 and 120, that if you choose to be a region, you
can have control over your, quote, own security--your own
security--like they do in the Kurdish area. There is no Iraqi
Army, absent the Kurdish permission to move into there; they
have their own local security. Is that not correct?
That is largely correct; yes, Mr.
Now, next question I have is that you point
out--which I and the--Chairman Lugar have been talking about
from slightly different perspectives for 5 years now, or 4
years now--this is a tribal society. There is no trust. As
you've pointed out from the outset of your comments, that as a
consequence of Saddam's tyrannical rule, that, in order to--you
have gone back--they've gone back to basics, from the family
unit to the tribal unit, to generate enough security and trust
among themselves. That's what this tyranny imposed upon Iraq.
And now we're in a situation where, as I see it--this is
the question--is it not true that, even in the Sunni areas,
there is no Sunni--or in the Shia areas, no Shia--overall
unity? They are broken down into tribal and competing units
within the Shia area, as we speak. Is that not true?
Iraq, Mr. Chairman, presents a very
complex picture. Iraq does have a strong tribal element in its
society, but, in my experience here, both now and previously, I
would not characterize all of Iraqi society as tribal. There is
also a very rich urban society of long standing, certainly in
Baghdad, but also in other regional centers, such as Mosul,
Kirkuk, and Al Basrah.
And, indeed, at a political level, while there are
political movements that may be largely tribally based, there
are also others that are very much crosscutting. The Iraqi
Islamic Party, for example, the largest Sunni party in the
coalition, is, to a large degree, an urban phenomenon, a
middle-class urban phenomenon, of long standing. So, yes,
tribal society is very important in understanding and dealing
with Iraqi politics, but it's much more than that.
You are absolutely right, sir----
Go ahead, I'm sorry.
You're absolutely right, sir, in my
view, to emphasize the element of fear, because that has
permeated all echelons of the society in this country, whether
it's rural or urban, tribal or cosmopolitan. And that has to be
overcome, in my view, Mr. Chairman. Whatever models the Iraqis
choose, I would be concerned that none of them are going to
work in the interest of Iraq's long-term security and
stability, unless and until Iraqis, at various levels--local,
provincial, regional, and national--are able to work through
the fear that has been imposed on them into, and toward, a
level of trust that at least permits basic compromises to take
place and a new society to begin to build.
In the interest of time, if I could interrupt
you to get to a couple more questions, if I may--and I don't
disagree what you've said--with what you've said. But the
bottom line here is that almost 4 million Iraqis, many of them
in that middle class from those urban areas, have either fled
internally within Iraq or left the country. As I understand it,
it's close to 1.9 million displaced in the country, 2 million
have left the country. I think we're kidding ourselves if we
think you can, from the center--from the center--build a system
that eliminates the fear in the provinces, in the--outside the
urban areas. And I have been very disturbed that this
administration's failure to push for the ability of this
constitution to take form has, in my view, led to this
continued over-reliance on the idea that Maliki, or anyone
else, no matter how well intended, representing elements of
Sunni, Shia, and Kurd, would be able to, from the center,
eliminate this fear.
Now, let me get to my next point. I believe there is no
possibility we will have 160,000 troops in Iraq, a year from
now. It's just not going to be the case. So, time is running
out in a big way. And so, unless we do something, in my humble
opinion, like we did in the Balkans, which you're very familiar
with, which is set up a loosely federated system--we've had
20,000, on average, troops there--Western troops there--for 10
years. Not one has been killed, thank God. It's not a answer to
everything. But the genocide is stopped, and they're becoming
part of Europe. To think that we can accomplish reconciliation
from the center, I find to be well beyond any reasonable
And let me get to my last question. You say that the
benchmarks--in your statement--are not a reliable measure.
Then, what is the measure of whether or not political process
and reconciliation is taking place? And I would add, the very
progress you show in Anbar province is the very thing having
Shia leaders call me here in Washington, saying we're picking
sides, that we are aiding and abetting the Sunnis in a civil
war. I'm not suggesting that's right or wrong. I'm relaying the
fear, the idea that we are making progress in the provinces,
relative to al-Qaeda, I would respectfully suggest, is making
it harder for you to deal with the Shia, generally, in
accommodating a real political reconciliation.
But what are the benchmarks--not benchmarks--what are the
objective criteria we should be looking at to determine whether
or not Iraqi attitudes toward each other, and the willingness
to work together at reconciliation, is happening?
Mr. Chairman, if I might start with
your last point, what's going on in Al Anbar----
[Video call disconnected.]
I don't know what all this means, folks, but
hang on. Stay tuned. The one thing we don't want to be looking
at is a picture of me, the one thing I don't want to be looking
Bertie, what's the story, do you know? I know--they're
checking it out. I'm sorry. We're going to have a--thank you.
We'd--our staff is on the phone with the technology experts
trying to fix this. We may--we may be getting back up quickly
here. We'll see.
Do we still--do we still have--Ambassador Crocker, can you
hear me? Because even if we don't have visual, we--if we have
audio--I'm told we may still have audio. Is that--no, we don't
have audio. Hang on a second, here.
If we'll come to order, we're going to try
this with just the audio. I don't know whether or not, and, Mr.
Ambassador, you can hear us. Can you?
Hello. Go ahead.
Mr. Ambassador, we've lost the video, but
if--Mr. Ambassador, can you hear us?
Hello, can you hear us on the other
Who is that speaking? Which end is up, here?
Are we being asked if we can hear?
We can hear you. So, Mr. Ambassador, just proceed with your
comments. We went blank, and we lost you after I finished my
questions. Would you proceed from there? The floor is yours,
Mr. Ambassador, if you can hear me.
Well, my microphone is off. I'm going to
yield 10 minutes to the Senator, and then, I hate to say this
to the rest of you, but we're going to cut back the time from
10 minutes to 5 minutes, to make sure everybody gets in. It's--
If we have time--I'm told the Ambassador had, from
beginning to end, a little over 2 hours--so, if we have time
after that, we'll come back to--not to the chairman and I, but
we'll come back to all of you who have gotten cut out, here--
your time cut out. But, in order to get everybody in, I think
it's going to--realistically, I'm told, we'll have to go closer
to 5 minutes, assuming we get this connection at all.
Baghdad, can you hear the U.S. Senate?
That's the problem. [Laughter.]
Let me say it another way--Ambassador
Crocker, can you hear Joe Biden? No; they obviously can't hear.
We're going to recess for somewhere between 3
and 5 minutes to see if we can set this up, and we'll come back
and figure out where we go.
The hearing will come to order. We're going
to the old tried-and-true method of a speakerphone. So, I'm
going to put my microphone down here. And, Ambassador Crocker,
if you can pick up where we left off, the floor is yours, Mr.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Your question is a good one, because I think it brings into
play several of the issues we've been discussing. You mentioned
the concerns that had been expressed to you by Shia
acquaintances over the impact of the Sunni outreach effort on
their interests. And I think this illustrates why there needs
to be a linkage between what happens in the provinces and the
What we have done here, in close coordination with the
Iraqi Government, was to establish, first, between General
Petraeus and myself, a special section in the Multinational
Force and the Embassy--it's cochaired by a Foreign Service
officer and a British major general--to deal with engagement
Now, they work very closely with an Engagement Committee
that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has established through his
office, and it is through this process that we deal, on the
federal level--the central level, with the steps we're taking
at the local level. And this has worked, in the case of Al
Anbar, quite well, where the tribes that had a desire to get
into the fight against al-Qaeda have been formed into
provisional police units that have been vetted through the
Iraqi Central Government, and who are paid by the Iraqi Central
So, I think this is the direction in which we wish to work.
If we were to do this at a completely local level, without
centralized connection, I think the phenomenon that you allude
to there would very quickly overtake the process, fears and
concerns that whatever was going on in one area was somehow
deeply inimical to the interests of another. So, this way to
connect what happens regionally and provincially to the center,
I think, is very important as we move forward.
Ambassador, thank you very much.
When are regional elections going to take place? When are
the governorates able to vote, if they wish to, to become a
region? What date does that begin to occur? When does the law
that was passed 8 months ago or so take effect?
My recollection, sir, is that the
effective date for the establishment of the regions is April
2008. That would be--that would be the time after which new
regions could be established, according to the law.
Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Ambassador.
I'm now turning it over to Senator Lugar. We've also got a
Mr. Ambassador, are you aware of--or are you
a part of any planning being done with respect to a transition
in mission or redeployment of United States combat forces,
something that might called plan B? Now, I ask this, because I
understand, from widely reported press coverage, that back
before the invasion in 2003, such integrated interagency
planning, was being retarded by high-level political pressures
and, therefore, had been abandoned. And I would simply want to
know is any planning--and then, more importantly, are you or
the State Department involved in interagency planning with
regard to a so-called plan B?
In terms of the future planning,
Senator Lugar--I am fully engaged, as is General Petraeus, in
trying to implement the President's strategy that was announced
in January. And from this vantage point, I can't speak to the
interagency process. If there are advantages to being in
Baghdad, it's having to deal with things in the Iraqi context
and letting the interagency take care of itself. But the short
answer is, I'm not aware of these efforts, and my whole focus
is involved with the implementation of plan A.
Well, apparently you're not involved, at
least you've testified that you're simply dealing with affairs
as they are there. So, let me ask you, then, directly: What is
the most significant concern that you have about a potential
redeployment of United States Forces in Iraq?
Senator Lugar, there are several
aspects of that that are of concern to me. Broadly speaking,
they involve the potential impact on the people of Iraq and the
potential opportunity for the adversaries of the United States
and of what we are attempting to help the Iraqis do.
On the first point, I've had the opportunity, since I've
been here, to get out into the neighborhoods of Baghdad,
including those that have been severely affected by sectarian
violence. And I've had the chance to talk to the people in
those neighborhoods. And I hear the same things fairly
consistently. One is that, by and large, the Iraqi people have
some confidence in the Iraqi Army forces--not full confidence,
concerns over their strength and their abilities still untested
in the views of many Iraqis--but basically a positive attitude
toward them. But that is accompanied by, again, a fairly
consistent message: ``You just got here. There is some return
to normal life because U.S. forces are here. Stay long enough
to keep these areas secure so they don't spiral immediately
back down into the violence they've just been pulled out of
over the last couple of months because of this surge.''
And I would be concerned, particularly in the very
demographically complex area that is Baghdad, still--in spite
of all the separation that has occurred--still a mixed city, in
communal terms, that nonconditions-based withdrawals could lead
to a sharp spike in the--precisely the sectarian violence among
the population that the surge was intended to diminish, and
which it has diminished.
The other area, sir, where I would be quite concerned is
the space that this could give to our adversaries. And I would
mention just two in this connection. One, obviously, is al-
Qaeda, where, as you know from statements from the Department
of Defense and the Multi-National Force, we have had some
significant successes against al-Qaeda elements. And, clearly,
the current campaign south of Baghdad and Diyala is affecting
al-Qaeda in a fairly major way. They continue to direct
attacks. I believe that the Kirkuk bombing of 3 days ago was--
has all the hallmarks of an al-Qaeda terrorist attack. Clearly,
if a nonconditions-based set of withdrawals produces more
violence among Iraqis, it also creates a climate in which al-
Qaeda will find a comfortable operating environment. And that
clearly is not in our interest.
It could also establish conditions in which Iran would find
further room to operate. We've already seen, as you're aware,
sir, the indications of Iranian involvement through the Quds
Force and through proxies, such as Lebanon's Hezbollah, as well
as elements of the Jaysh al-Mahdi. In a scenario in which,
again, central authority was unable to hold and violence
increases throughout the country, that would provide more
running room for Iran and its supporters, as something else
that was not in our strategic national interest.
So, those two points are the most important to me.
Ambassador, you have mentioned al-Qaeda
activities in Kirkuk; likewise, Iranian activities which are
sometimes alleged all over the country. General Petraeus has
about 28,500 forces involved in the surge. His own work, out at
Fort Leavenworth, would indicate a formula that maybe 250,000
would be required to cover the country of Iraq. My question, I
suppose, simply, is: How can the surge be successful with
28,500? And, specifically, what does happen in all the rest of
Iraq that is not Baghdad, Diyala, Anbar, or one of those areas
where we have not increased the forces dedicated to population
security or combating opposition elements?
Sir, if--it's a complex question. In
some areas, we've seen some significant improvements. One of
them, obviously, is Al Anbar. Another is the northern province
of Ninawa. I was there, yesterday, talking to both our
Provincial Reconstruction Team members and members of the
Multi-National Forces. Because of an improvement of
conditions--in Mosul, in particular, and Ninawa, generally--
General Petraeus has been able to redeploy forces from that
So, I think this is a process and a situation that's going
to require a lot of hard analysis and agility on our part, in
coordination with the Iraqi Government, at both national and
provincial levels, to determine where their forces are gaining
the confidence, the experience, and the trust of communities to
be able to hold, without us present in large force, and where
conditions have simply moved in a direction that supports these
kinds of shifts.
But, clearly, as we look at Iraq now, we're not looking at
a situation where, even under current circumstances, we need to
be everywhere at once. We don't. We just have to be smart
enough to be in the places where it counts.
Thank you very much.
Senator Kerry. We're going to 5-minute
rounds, and--in light of the delay. That's what we're doing.
It's the prerogative of--I gave the Senator 10, but we're--all
started off at 10, John, but we've run out of time. We're going
to have votes at 12 o'clock.
Mr. Ambassador, thank you. It's good to see
you for the second time today. I was your next questioner, over
at the Pentagon a little while ago, and we got interrupted
there, so I'm glad to be able to pick up here. And I will
separate, certainly, what was appropriate to that briefing to
When I chaired your--nominated--your confirmation hearing,
you said, at that time, that you believed, as the President and
the Vice President and the Secretary of State and all of our
generals said, that there is no military solution, there is
only a political solution. Do you still believe that?
Absolutely, sir, no question.
And so, what we've achieved, militarily in
the last days, would have to be described as tactical
successes. Is that not correct?
I think that is a very accurate
And one of those tactical successes in Al
Anbar, which has been much referred to, publicly and otherwise,
is that the tribal chiefs have joined with us in an effort to
try to deal with al-Qaeda; correct?
But they are, essentially, in Al Anbar,
almost exclusively Sunni who are acting to protect their own
interests, because al-Qaeda was killing their villagers and
their sons and daughters, raping them, correct? So, the Al
Anbar success has to be separated from the fundamental conflict
of Shia and Sunni, the fundamental civil strife that our troops
are caught in the middle of in other parts of the country,
particularly Baghdad and its surrounding area. Is that correct?
There, I'd make a slight distinction,
which is to say that each part of this country has to be
understood and dealt with in its own terms. Al Anbar, as you
correctly point out, is almost entirely Sunni and almost
entirely tribal. A province like Diyala has a mixed population,
both Sunni and Shia.
And that has to be taken into account.
But in Diyala we have seen a similar phenomenon, where
significant elements of a population that has been hostile to
us are now prepared to work with us. It's more complex, because
we've got to be very careful that this is managed in a way that
does create or renew sectarian tensions. But the same desire to
say, ``We don't want to have these guys anywhere near us,'' is
at play in Diyala and other provinces.
Well, let me follow up on that, because the
stated purpose, by the President, of the escalation of our
forces--on a temporary basis, I emphasize, and he did--was to
provide the breathing space for the leadership of Iraq to make
fundamental political decisions; i.e., compromise. The Al
Anbar--separating Al Anbar there, because of its, sort of,
uniqueness, there's been almost zero political compromise
whatsoever on any of the major benchmarks and fundamentals. And
your testimony earlier today was that, essentially, you think
the benchmarks aren't as important as the process itself. So,
in a way, the goal posts are now moving a little bit.
And my question to you is: If there is no military
solution, and the process is important, but the fundamental
conflict and killing is taking place because the stakeholders
are battling between each other for the future of Iraq,
essentially, and for their status in it. If there is no
political settlement, how can the process become more
important? In the absence of that political settlement, our
troops are going to remain in the same trap they're in today,
with, as Senator Lugar said, inadequate people to do the job,
and the ability of al-Qaeda and others to use our presence to
continue to be the magnet for terrorism and for jihadists and
for naysayers and opponents and so forth. So, where do we go,
in looking for that political compromise, if you're moving the
goal posts, at this point in time? And what are--what is--what
do Americans have to look forward to, in terms of a real
resolution, since there can only be a political settlement of
Senator Kerry, I'll repeat to you here
what I believe I said when you chaired my confirmation hearing,
which is: As long as it's my privilege to serve as the American
Ambassador to Iraq, I will give you and the American people my
best assessment as to what ground truth and ground reality
looks like. So, I'm certainly not moving any goal posts. What
is the case is I've been here now for about 4 months, I've had
time to get in on the ground, to spend as much time as I can
outside the Green Zone, to try to understand the complexity of
what is going on here. And what that tells me is there are a
lot of processes at work--some of them positive, some of them
negative. A positive process is the one that we have seen in Al
Anbar. We didn't create that. The central government didn't
create it. It started among Anbaris. I think we have done the
right thing, in coordination with the central government, to
try to develop and strengthen that process and ensure that it
is linked to the central government to avoid the kinds of
suspicions that Chairman Biden mentioned a little bit ago.
Now, that is a phenomenon that, when I appeared before you
in February, we could not have begun to foresee or predict. But
it has developed, and it's developed in a fairly positive way.
These are the kinds of things I think we've got to have the
agility and the imagination and the people on the ground, both
military and civilian, in the form of our Provincial
Reconstruction Teams in Al Anbar, to identify and then take
Right, but I'm not talking about Al Anbar,
I'm trying to direct your attention to the rest of
the fundamental conflict that is different from an Al Anbar. I
mean, Al Anbar is not the model for the resolution of the
Muqtada al-Sadr problem, who is modeling, now, his
organizational effort on Hamas and Hezbollah. It's not the
model for the resolution of the militia conflict between Shia
and Sunni, et cetera, nor even the jockeying of political
players between the rejectionists in the Sunni population and
the Shia, who have different interests. So, I'm really trying
to focus you on that.
I agree, Sir; Al Anbar is Al Anbar.
But, you know, there are similar phenomena repeated around the
country. At the national level, the process I referred to was
the effort that the four senior officials in this country are
exerting to come together in an established, regularized forum
to deal with differences among them--the Sunnis, Shia, and
Kurds. That has, in the--at the national level, those who need
to come to terms on a national basis. So, that's one process.
What's going on in Diyala is another process. What's happening
in the south--and the south, too, is not a monolith. You know,
very different conditions, as you rightly suggest. What does
Muqtada al-Sadr intend? And how are parties of a different
persuasion, and the government itself, dealing with that
particular challenge? And how can we help? In the south, Jaysh
al-Mahdi has received several significant setbacks in places
like An Nasiriyah and Ad Diwaniyah--in part, through coalition
intervention, but also through Iraqi Security Forces standing
up and dealing with that particular challenge.
So, again, I am not trying to gild any lilies here, and I'm
certainly not trying to oversimplify a highly complex process,
but there are opportunities in that complexity. We just have to
be, I think, aware enough and quick enough to see them and turn
them to the advantage of the Iraqi Government and people.
Mr. Ambassador, thank you. My time is up,
and I need to go vote in Finance. But we're grateful to you--
and I didn't have a chance to extent that to General Petraeus--
but we're grateful to you, and all of the people serving over
there, for what you're doing for your country. And we want you
to be safe.
Thank you, Senator.
Ambassador Crocker, I would--like all my
colleagues here in the Congress, add my thanks to you and your
colleagues who are serving in Iraq. We are grateful for that
service. We may have differences of opinion on policy, but we
acknowledge your service, and all of your colleagues' service,
and we are grateful for that service.
I have, as all my colleagues do, limited time, and I wanted
to begin with acknowledging what the State Department noted
this week, in that our Government would be engaging Iran once
again. And if we have time to get to that, I would like a brief
comment on that, as to--When will that occur? And where will
that occur? What do we hope to accomplish?
But let's stay focused, for the present time, on the
questioning here this morning.
One of the points that you made, Ambassador, when you
opened this conference, a statement--and I'm paraphrasing, but
I believe it's pretty accurate--you said, after a year away
from Iraq, you were struck by the damage that had been done in
Iraq mainly by sectarian violence. Now, that is, in some
conflict with a number of senior administration officials--in
fact, including the President, who has said, over and over,
that Iraq is the forefront, the battleground, against al-Qaeda,
that al-Qaeda is the central element of violence and
destabilization in Iraq. Now, of course, our National
Intelligence Estimates of our 16 intelligence agencies have
said that that's not true, either. But I lay that out as a
preface to a couple of questions that I have coming your way.
Senator Lugar made an interesting observation, and he's
correct in this, as Senator Lugar normally is correct on these
things, and that is that the counterinsurgency manual, that
General Petraeus actually wrote, lays out a formula for force
structure, essentially matching the force structure with the
mission. And, unfortunately, we have put our troops in a
situation where they are woefully overmatched with a mission,
because they do not have even near the numbers of troops that
General Petraeus actually, himself, wrote in his
counterinsurgency manual, in order to do the job. So, we're
putting our troops in a terrible position, overburdening them
with an almost impossible task.
And I noted--and I would like you to respond to this
question and a second question--that the Prime Minister of Iraq
said, this week, that--I'm paraphrasing again--that Iraq was
capable and ready to take over the security responsibilities of
Iraq at any time, I believe he said. In light of what you have
just told us, the last hour, that it seems to me, at least your
interpretation, is in some conflict with what the Prime
Minister's analysis of his own forces are--and that's one
question, Ambassador, I'd like you--to have you respond to.
The second is, we hear an awful lot about--and you have
said it--we have to buy time. We have to buy time. We need more
time. We understand that. But here are the set of questions. We
buy time for what? For a political reconciliation process that
is not occurring, that is not working. There's not even a
political accommodation as the prelude to political
reconciliation that we're making progress on. We talked about
some of the successes in Iraq, and we have had some. I was
there, as you know--appreciated your time--6 weeks ago. You
just mentioned the south. I had two very informed individuals,
who you met with, who were over there for a few days last week,
tell me that those four southern provinces are gone, that the
Shia militia are in charge. Now, I don't know that's an
overstatement or not, but you might want to comment on that.
So, I'm a bit puzzled, because if, in fact, we're buying
time, I think the question needs to be addressed, We're buying
time for what? How long is enough time? We're in our fifth
year, and we still see no political reconciliation occurring.
Actually, I think we're going backward. So, if you could focus
on those two questions that I've noted--one, buying time, for
how long, and for what; and, second, your comment on the Prime
Minister's statement this week that the Iraqi forces are ready
and prepared to take responsibility for security in Iraq at any
And, thank you.
Thank you, Senator Hagel.
Buying time for what, and how much time do we have to buy,
is a critical question. And, again, not to key up--not to steal
your time, but the answer is complex, because this is a complex
You mentioned the south. Al Basrah, Iraq's second-largest
city, and the provincial center for most of Iraq's oil
resources, has been very, very unstable, with a high level of
militia activity. What the Iraqi Government has done over the
last few weeks is to take a couple of tested commanders--one
army, one police--and send them down to Al Basrah with the
instruction to get the city under control. It is a tall order,
but these are officers who, by all accounts, have the
background and capability to do this sort of thing.
Now, I've talked to them both, and they're looking for
resources. They both need more forces than they've got--forces
that would normally be assigned down to Al Basrah are up--Iraqi
forces--are up as part of the Baghdad security plan. So,
they're working out their own plan for Al Basrah. They've got
to resource it, and then they've got to implement it.
It's going to be hard. It'll take time. I can't predict to
you what the outcome will be. But here we have a case of a
government recognizing it's got a militia problem in its
second-largest city, and taking some steps to deal with it, and
I find that encouraging, as far as it goes.
Elsewhere, again, the situation is intensely complicated in
some of Baghdad's neighborhoods, where the introduction of our
forces has made a huge difference. And I've seen it for myself,
in places like West Rashid, which, just at the time you were
here, sir, was a place where neither one of us would have
wanted to set foot in--well, you can do that now. I did it on
Saturday. And you can do it, because our forces are there. They
can't stay there forever. I mean, that much is clear. But I
certainly hope that they can stay there long enough for Iraqi
Security Forces to be available in the numbers and with the
training and the equipment and the reliability to do that job
of protecting the Iraqi people themselves. So, that would be
another instance of buying time.
The third point, sir, is, I think, the national point. How
much time is necessary for an Iraqi Central Government to
effectively function as one? As you know--you were just out
here--they are having, you know, significant difficulties. I--
as I said, I've been encouraged that they are able at least to
come together and thrash out these difficulties, face to face.
They are going to need more time, because, again, in the
climate that has been created, Saddam plus the sectarian
violence, it's pretty hard to make sweeping compromises, even
if you, as a leader, are so inclined, because you have got a
constituency out there that is very badly scarred and very
badly afraid of what the consequences of those kinds of
compromises can be.
So, there's got to be time to build, again, that minimum
level of trust that will let this country move forward.
Thank you very much.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
First, I just want to raise a note of caution about this
discussion about Anbar province. The first, of course, is the
one that Senator Kerry so effectively raised, is the
applicability of the lessons, Ambassador, of Anbar to other
parts of Iraq. That's a very serious question which we have to
address. The second is, I'm not so sure about Anbar itself. We
have been subjected to so much hype in the course of this war
that I would just urge you and the administration and my
colleagues to not be so sure that everything will continue to
be rosy in that region. The fact is that when I was in
Fallujah--Camp Fallujah in 2005, there was a very rosy scenario
presented after the battle of Fallujah. A year later, when I
was in the same place, it didn't sound so good. Now, in 2007,
it sounds better.
But for people to start suggesting that this is somehow a
result the surge or somehow, simply because they're now on our
side, they're our buddies now, I think we've heard enough
things in this war, I would caution my colleagues.
I hope it is true. I hope those are the long-term
consequences for that region. But I think once al-Qaeda is, in
some way, minimized, our presence there may become the greatest
focus of the Sunnis, who do not like it that we are there. So,
I would urge everyone to not be so sure that Al Anbar is taken
care of, any more than Basrah was taken care of when everybody
thought that was done, or Hillah province, where I was taken,
because that's a safe place. The fact is, these places come and
go. And if we are so naive as to think that, sort of, we're
done with a place, we haven't learned the lessons that caused
us to make the mistake in the first place, of invading a
civilization that, frankly, is extremely complex. That applies
to Anbar, as well.
On a different matter, Ambassador, the interim assessment
report, released last week, states, ``Left on their own, many
ISF units still tend to gravitate to old habits of sectarianism
when applying the law.'' Indeed, there have been reports in a
number of media outlets, of ISF complicity in attacks on U.S.
forces. Can you discuss with us the extent to which members of
the ISF are participating in sectarian violence?
As the report notes, there are problems
of sectarianism within the Iraqi Security Forces, primarily in
the Iraqi police, and especially the Iraqi national police,
less so, as far as I can determine, in the Iraqi Army, although
it does exist there, too.
This is a major problem, Senator. And, again, one sees it
in different parts of Baghdad. I have discussed, before, the
sense I get from people out there, that they're really counting
on U.S. forces. They're the ones who secure a particular
neighborhood. They feel that their army is--has got the right
orientation and intention, they're less sure of the
When one asks about the police, a lot of people I've talked
to, and our colleagues have talked to, have very serious
concerns, because they have been involved in sectarian violence
themselves. This is something that the Iraqi Government is
aware of. It has taken some actions. Clearly, it's going to
have to take more actions if there is to be an Iraqi police
that truly is involved in the protection of its--of the Iraqi
people, and is perceived as such by those people.
Well, what sort of action----
Sir, I'd just make one comment on Al
Go ahead. Well, I was just going to ask,
what actions have been taken----
I wanted to make one----
There have been arrests of police
officers--some senior, some junior. Whole units have gone back
in for retraining. There are efforts now to monitor the
performance and the orientation, the actions, of police units.
But, again, I would not want to suggest that this is a problem
that, by any means, has been fixed. It is a problem, and it's
going to need a lot more applied attention.
And, please, your comment on Anbar.
Yes, sir. I certainly wouldn't want
you, or any of the other members, to think that I was going
beyond the current situation in Al Anbar to predict a rosy
future for Al Anbar or anywhere else. I, too, have seen these
evolutions. Al Anbar is in a pretty good place right now. And I
think the challenge that the Iraqi Government has, and we, by
extension, have in support of the Iraqi Government, is to try
to solidify that. And I think the best way that can be done is
to try to establish linkages between the Anbaris who have
signed up for duty and the central government, so they feel
that they are a part of the system, they're getting a regular
wage, they've got a better future for themselves, and prospects
of a better future for their kids.
Does that mean it's all going to come right from Al Anbar?
Sir, I have no idea. But I think what we have to do is try to
work a pretty positive development now, which, as you point
out, we didn't create--that happened. We need to try to develop
it in a way that is sustainable.
Thank you, Mr. Ambassador.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Ambassador, thank you. Thank you for your service. And
I appreciate your reflections of the complexity of what we're
dealing with in Iraq in various regions.
I just have to make one note of--about Anbar, because I
would hope that the public would understand that, you know,
this is not about hype, and this is not something coming from
the administration sending a message. I think you're right
about the complexity, about trying to establish linkages so
that there's long-term success. But, when I was in Anbar, in
late April of this year, we had troops there from Minnesota
National Guard. They're--two of the 136th Combined Arms
Battalion. And they told me the story of a bombing in
Habiniyah, in which 80 Iraqis were either killed or wounded,
and it was our troops that were then giving blood. There were
no American casualties. And they told me the story of, the next
day, the local sheikh and the mayor coming in and identifying
al-Qaeda operatives and saying, ``We want to work with you,''
and--you know, so they were telling me that, for them, it was a
turnaround. It had been the Wild West 6 months ago. And I think
the challenge is long term. And I think it's fair commentary of
my colleague from Wisconsin. But, clearly, the success is real.
And if that can become a model to beyond Anbar, I think we'd
all be well served. But I appreciate your understanding that we
have to have linkages, long term.
And, if I can, just one other comment for my colleague from
Nebraska. And I'm sure he wasn't intending this, but I almost
got a sense from his--the preface to his question, that somehow
discounting the al-Qaeda threat and that sectarian violence is
the key to, you know, all the fear and everything we're dealing
with in Iraq. And I'm sure that's not the case. If anything,
from what I heard from you this morning and today, what al-
Qaeda does is, as you said, operates on the fault line, and
that their attacks are intended to--is it correct that their
attacks are intended to exacerbate the sectarian violence? Is
that part of their plan? Is that part of what you're seeing?
Yes, sir; that is certainly my
assessment. In the 4 months I've been here, I have seen attacks
from al-Qaeda that have been aimed at virtually every community
in Iraq. They have targeted Sunnis, they have targeted Shia,
they have targeted Arabs, Turkmen, Kurds, and they have
targeted coalition forces, as well as the symbols of the Muslim
faith. Al-Qaeda was the entity that attacked the Baghdad
bridges, bringing one main bridge down, and damaging others.
And it was an al-Qaeda operative who got into the Council of
Representatives and detonated his suicide vest there as a
symbolic strike at an institution of the new state.
So, they are working, I think, every avenue of attack they
possibly can, in a very bloody fashion. And, again, I certainly
don't intend to paint a rosy picture out of something that
brutal. I think it is worth noting that, thus far, they have
had fairly limited success, as far as I can see, in actually
reigniting that sectarian violence.
Let me talk about, if I can--again, in the
time that I have, Ambassador--just about shutting down Anbar
and moving to the diplomatic side.
One thing that frustrates me is that, for the neighbors in
the region, for--you know, for Mubarak, in Egypt, al-Qaeda is a
threat to him; Iran and the extremists that they support are a
threat to him; the same thing with Abdullah, in Jordan; the
same thing with the House of Saud. The threats to their
existence are al-Qaeda and the forces they support, as well as
the extremists that the Iranians support.
What is it that--and you've--we also know, and as you
indicated earlier, a lot of the flow of foreign fighters come
from these countries, and they come through Syria into Iraq.
So, it's a two-part question, because I know Secretary Gates
and Secretary Rice will be going into the region--what is it
that our allies, our friends, who are equally endangered by the
strength of an al-Qaeda and the strengths of Iran--what is it
that they're not doing that they can do? What is it that we
have to do to get them to be more involved? And then, the third
part of that is, can they be helpful in shutting off the flow
of al-Qaeda and these, you know, terrorists, coming in through
Syria? Is there something that they can be doing, they're not
doing? And what is it that we have to get their--how do we make
Senator, sitting, as I am, in Baghdad,
my perspective on that broad regional question is a little bit
limited, but it is clearly something that is very important to
us here. I may not have full visibility on everything that's
being done, but I would point to a couple of things.
One is the neighbors conference mechanism that I mentioned.
This is an opportunity to get all of Iraq's neighbors engaged
on issues like border security. And a working group on border
security will be convening at the beginning of August in
Damascus, which is a pretty good place to do it, given the
involvement of Syria in the flow-through of foreign fighters.
It's an opportunity to impress again, just the points you
made, that the enemy we're fighting in Iraq--al-Qaeda--aims at
the overthrow of each one of those regimes, and they have all
suffered losses among their citizens from al-Qaeda attacks. So,
they have got common cause here, and they need to move forward
in that way.
I know we've had discussions in regional capitals about the
importance of these governments, given this is a common enemy,
of taking every step they can to ensure that their young men
don't make this particular trip up to Damascus and then across
into Iraq. I think we're just going to have to keep at them,
both collectively, in a regional context, through regional
diplomacy, and bilaterally.
Thank you, Mr. Ambassador.
Thank you very much.
Thanks so much, Mr. Chairman. And thanks for
your leadership on continuing to push for a political solution,
which I think makes eminent sense.
And, before Senator Hagel leaves, I really have a
rhetorical question I'm going to ask, which doesn't require an
answer. It's really a way of expressing my own frustration.
As Senator Hagel has pointed out--and, I think, very
straightforwardly--here you have an Iraqi leader who says to
the Americans, ``You can go home now. We're fine. Don't stay
here on our account.'' So, I guess the question--the rhetorical
question I have is: How many Americans have to die while we're
buying time for an Iraqi Government whose leader says we don't
need to be there?
And so, to answer my own question--it's not a single one
should have to die for that.
And, no--and I hope the people in the audience will not
respond to this, one way or the other. The point is, there's a
deep feeling of frustration and outrage in this country as we
keep on pouring dollar after dollar, and life after life, into
a place where the people say they don't really want us there.
Now, al-Qaeda is a serious problem, sir. And, by the way,
thank you so much for your sacrifice and what you're doing for
your country. I can't thank you enough for it. But the bottom
line is, 53 Senators, a majority of the Senate, voted to change
this mission, because we know al-Qaeda's there. They're 15
percent of the problem, according to the Bush administration.
And we're saying, ``Get our troops out of the middle of a civil
war, where 85 percent of the problem is coming from. And, yes,
redeploy them out, so they can be a force to act quickly to go
And I just have another question, a real question for you,
that deals with one of the comments that you made, and that is
that you, kind of, put aside the benchmarks, really, basically
didn't think they were important. As a matter of fact, this
past Saturday, sir, you said, ``I think electricity is more
important to the average Iraqi than all 18 benchmarks rolled
So, I decided to look at what's happening on the
electricity front. May 16, for the week of May 9-15--and this
is State Department report--national electricity supply was 2
percent below the period in 2006. May 23, national electricity
supply was 11 percent below the same period in 2006. May 30,
national electricity supply was 7 percent below the same period
in 2006. June 6, below the same period in 2006 by 3 percent.
June 13, 8 percent below the same period in 2006. June 20, it
was unchanged from the same period. June 27, 7 percent below.
June--July 4, 6 percent below. July 11, 4 percent below.
So, I don't understand, if you're trying to tell us how
much progress is being made here, and you dismiss the
benchmarks, and then you tell us electricity--aren't we failing
there, as well?
Senator, I made that comment after
talking to a number of Iraqis in a store in West Rashid,
Baghdad, that didn't have any electricity. And I certainly, in
that comment, was not painting a rosy picture about the
availability of electricity in West Rashid or anywhere else in
Baghdad. The point I was making is that, for those Iraqis,
getting a reliable source of power was a whole lot more
important than passage of a revenue-sharing bill by the Council
The hard fact is that the availability of electricity to
the average citizen in Baghdad is still at a very low level, an
hour or two a day. It's better in much of the rest of the
country, but that is small comfort if you're sitting in Baghdad
in the middle of summer.
There are a lot of reasons for it, and the main reasons
have to do with continued attacks by insurgents against
electrical transmission lines and against fuel pipelines that
provide the energy source that you need to generate
electricity. It's one more in a long series of hard problems,
but it's a very real problem for many, many Iraqis.
Sir, I hear you.
And, if I could----
I hear you. My point--you're, sort of,
missing my point, if I might. And my--because I'm running out
of time here--the point that I'm trying to make is, you said--
you kind of pushed aside the benchmarks. Now, a lot of people
have worked on these benchmarks--Republicans, Democrats, the
White House, everybody--you set them aside, and you were making
a good, I think, point that the daily lives of the Iraqis are
not going well. I'm echoing that point. And the fact is, the
estimates that I read to you come from all over the country--
all over the country. So, my point is, not meeting the
benchmarks--the Iraqi Government's not meeting the benchmarks.
The electricity that you say is so important is worse, not
better. The Iraqi leader says, ``We can handle this.'' And, in
my last trip to Iraq, I have to say, General Petraeus, at that
time, was in charge of training the troops, he said he thought
the troops were very well trained, he was very optimistic about
them. What happened to, ``If we stand up--if they stand up, we
stand down,'' all this changes, there's a moving target--the
bottom line here, sir, is, I know you have a very difficult
assignment. I want to be helpful to you.
I guess, in closing, Mr. Chairman, I'd like to express the
deepest sense of frustration from my State that people feel we
have given blood, we have given dollars, we have given
patience, we have given everything, and people are at the end
of their patience.
And, sir, I hope you will continue your work. I hope you
will tell us the reality on the ground, and not paint rosy
scenarios in September and say, ``Well, none of the benchmarks
are met, we can't deliver electricity, but we're making
progress,'' because that's only going to prolong the killing.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
First of all, I'd like to submit, for the record, the
letter that I sent to the President, along with ``The Way
Forward,'' that outlines a program to urge him to develop a
comprehensive plan for our country's gradual military
disengagement from Iraq in a way that will protect our national
security interests and prevent chaos in the region.
Without objection, it will be placed in the
It may seem contradictory to some, Mr.
Chairman, but I believe we can accomplish more in Iraq by
gradually and responsibly reducing our forces and focusing on a
robust strategy of international cooperation and coordinated
And I agree with our Ambassador, and I thank him very much
for his service to our country, that we cannot abandon Iraq in
chaos, but we must start to face reality and begin a
transition, where the Iraq Government and its neighbors play a
larger role in stabilizing the country. And I think that you've
got to make sure that they know it's inevitable that the United
States is going to disengage and that our commitment is not
open-ended. And what he does now, and in the next several
months, is going to have a great deal to do with the kind of a
reaction that we're going to have to the recommendations that
you and General Petraeus are going to be making to the
Congress. It doesn't seem that he understands the urgency of
the situation, that he's not taking advantage of our presence,
and he should be. He ought to get on with the constitution, he
ought to get on with the oil. And I read, in The Economist,
where the they met at Sharm el-Sheikh. You made reference to
it. The country's talking about oil and security and the
refugee problem. And what I understand is, he wasn't
enthusiastic about it. And he ought to understand, again, that
he ought to be reaching out to these people in his executive
committee to get them to help him deal with the situation that
he has in his country.
In addition to that, we met earlier this week, several of
us, with Secretary Moon, Secretary General Moon, of the United
Nations, and I urged him, ``It's urgent for them to get
involved. Is there a sense of urgency? What are you doing to
let them know that this time is running out? Time is running
out. What are you doing?''
Senator, that is a point we have made
to the Prime Minister, to the rest of the Iraqi leadership,
that we are buying time. We're buying time, at the cost of the
lives of our soldiers and of Iraqi soldiers, and they need to
honor that sacrifice by moving the country forward.
I don't think the Prime Minister fails to understand the
challenge he has. This is hard work. We've put a lot of time
here, me and all of my colleagues, in working with him to
achieve these benchmarks. It is frustrating to us when the
progress is as slow as it has been in many areas. It's
frustrating to them. They've got to keep at it, and we've got
to keep pushing. And we will do that.
And with respect to the United Nations, Senator, I think
their engagement is very important. And I applaud your
encouragement of further efforts on their part to make a
difference out here.
Well, I want to thank you. I've been
informed that if I don't----
Well, actually, I was mistaken. They're going
to leave the--they're going to have the 5-minute grace period,
so you still have a minute and a half to go.
Well, there's got to be some real
evidence that action's taking place there. And everything you
can do to convey to Mr. Malaki and his executive committee, to
the other players in the region, that the American people's
patience is running out. And you may assume that some of the
things you talked about are going to continue, but the fact of
the matter is, I don't think that's what the case is going to
be. And if I were, you know, in the position of the President
or Secretary Bond, I'd put them all in a room and say, ``You
know what? We're on our way out of here. Take advantage of the
opportunity that you have. You all have a symbiotic
relationship to work together so this thing doesn't blow. And,
if it does, then you are going to have some very, very serious
problems. So, help us. Help us, so we can stabilize the area,
and we'll be willing to provide humanitarian help, we'll be--
we're going to stay in the region, but we have to disengage.
It's inevitable. Take advantage of this wonderful opportunity
that you have.''
Thank you very much, Senator.
Mr. Ambassador, I want to thank you. I'll make a closing
comment here, in the next minute or so.
No. 1, having the United Nations involved on the ground is
not the same as having the Permanent Five of the Security
Council take ownership of this problem. I met with them--and
you may find it of interest--3 weeks, the permanent members. I
asked what would happen if the President came to them and
said--called an international conference--not Sharm el-Sheikh--
where they had equal ownership with the United States--equal
ownership of the problem. They said they would all participate.
They would call an international conference. If you don't raise
this up, Mr. Ambassador, you're going to be left there adrift.
Second point is, with all due respect to everyone who has
talked about this, you heard from my colleague--we're not
staying, Mr. Ambassador. We're not staying. You don't have much
time. And there's not much you can do about it, I know, if
we're to make--begin to make this the world's problems.
And the last thing I'd like to say to you, Mr. Ambassador--
I have overwhelmingly high regard for you--you said one thing
that demonstrates that we have a fundamental disagreement,
though. You pointed out that you were talking to a group of
Iraqis and saying that--where there is no electricity--saying
electricity is more important than an agreement on revenue-
sharing. I would respectfully suggest, if you got an agreement
on revenue-sharing, that would mean there was genuine political
progress being made, and accommodations being--going forward
among the warring factions, and that would mean there would be
more cooperation in seeing to it that those who are blowing up
the transmissions lines didn't blow them up.
So, I really think you guys have it wrong when you put, on
the back end, the political settlement relating to regionalism,
you put, on the back end, the constitutional changes, you put,
on the back end, the importance of the oil agreement. I don't
know how you get the Sunnis to buy in without them knowing
they, in fact, have a piece of the oil. I don't know how you
get the Shia to buy in, unless they're able to have a regional
government. I don't know how you do that. You may know. I'm
anxious to hear it later.
But, bottom line, Mr. Ambassador, you're a very skilled
diplomat, you're professional, you've been around a long time.
I promise you, old buddy, forget what Joe Biden said, listen to
the Republican. We ain't staying. We're not staying. We're not
staying. Not much time. Political benchmarks better be met, or
we're in real trouble, because we will have traded a dictator
for chaos, notwithstanding all your incredible efforts.
And, with that, Mr. Ambassador, if you'd like to make a
quick closing comment, the floor is yours, and I'm going to
have to go leave and vote, and I'll be in touch with you, by
plain-old telephone, personally, if I can.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thanks for
the opportunity to meet with the committee at this important
time on this important issue.
The benchmarks are important. We put an extraordinary
amount of time and effort--and I do, personally--in pushing,
pulling, prodding, looking for the deals, trying to drive this
forward so that benchmarks are met, because they mean
something, in and of themselves, and they clearly mean
something, in terms of American support.
Mr. Ambassador, I'm sorry, I'm going to have
to go vote. I truly apologize. The time has run out.
I'd respectfully suggest they would be more inclined to
meet the benchmarks if the whole world community were pushing
them. We have so little credibility, I think it's important you
get the rest of the Permanent Five, equally as hard pushing.
That may be the way.
But, at any rate, I'm going to have to end this, Mr.
Ambassador, and I--with your permission, I'd like to give you a
personal call, if I may, to follow up what we're talking about.
Thank you very much. I apologize to everyone for this
And we are now adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 12:25 p.m., the hearing was adjourned.]
Additional Material Submitted for the Record
Prepared Statement of Hon. Lisa Murkowski, U.S. Senator From Alaska
Mr. Ambassador, thank you for taking the time out of your schedule
to make yourself available to the committee for this hearing. The
Senate has spent a great number of hours this week discussing where we
as a nation are in terms of our strategy for Iraq and what kind of
progress is being achieved. I'm not sure that we resolved anything
other than that there remains many divergent views on our continued
military presence in Iraq.
The interim report issued by the President on July 12 underlines
what has become a recurring source of frustration for many of us; our
military is achieving some success on the ground, particularly in Anbar
province, but political achievements on the part of the Iraqi
Government have been much slower, if not nonexistent. Iraq's political
leaders must be able to demonstrate to the Iraqi and American people
their willingness and ability to set aside sectarian differences to
make difficult decisions and reach compromises for Iraq as a whole.
Mr. Ambassador, Senator Sununu and I unfortunately missed you when
we visited Iraq this past March--our visit occurring just before you
took up your current post. One of the things that was impressed on me
during my time there was the need to have a civilian surge to go along
with the military surge. To make sure that the progress that is
achieved on the military side in terms of training Iraqi troops and
policemen, and securing more areas of Baghdad and the rest of Iraq, is
not undercut by a lack of technocrats to perform activities such as the
detention and prosecution of those who break the law, or develop the
financial capability to distribute federal revenues--or even to deliver
paychecks to the Iraqi troops. These are capabilities that need to be
in place if the Iraqi Government does enact key pieces of legislation
such as hydrocarbon revenue distribution, or de-Baathification laws.
The passage of these laws means nothing if there is no ability to
implement them. So I urge this administration to ensure we are doing
our part in those areas that don't get quite as much media attention,
so that these next steps are in place.
I want to compliment the ranking member for his work with Senator
Warner on their amendment to the Department of Defense authorization
bill. The legislation passed by Congress and signed into law by the
President in May says that if it is determined in September that the
benchmarks have not been met, or significant progress has not been made
in attaining them, the President shall include in his report a
description of how the United States strategy for Iraq will be revised.
There are, of course, differing views on how, when, and whether our
policy toward Iraq should change. While the Senate has not come to any
agreement on that, the Lugar-Warner amendment rightly suggests that
consideration for what happens after the September report and testimony
from yourself and General Patreaus must be taking place now. In my view
this is not a prejudgment of the September report, but rather ensures
that the administration is at least putting together a plan B. I whole
Mr. Ambassador, I have committed to waiting for the September
report before making a decision on my continued support for the current
policy. But there are only so many times that the argument, ``give it
more time'' can be taken seriously when our partner has not
demonstrated that they are committed to the process as well. Verbal
commitments are nice; visible action is better.
It is a frustrating position, as no matter how much we in Congress
may want the Iraqi Government to succeed, it is basically out of our
hands. They are the ones that need to make the decisions--to take the
action. You commented in your testimony that the benchmarks may not be
the best way to judge whether progress is being made--particularly at
the provincial level. I agree that if we were to solely look at
provinces like Anbar, the reports would be more positive, but that
would leave out the largest population center in Iraq where the
sectarian strife is most visible. I believe the line goes, as Baghdad
goes, so goes Iraq.
We cannot cast their votes for them. It is not our place to
determine what the best course of action for Iraq is. That is up to the
Iraqi people and their elected government. But they must know, as the
President has said on a number of occasions, America's commitment in
Iraq is not open-ended. The Iraqi Government has between now and
September to demonstrate that they want the United States as their
Prepared Statement of Hon. Barack Obama, U.S. Senator From Illinois
Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing and for giving us
an opportunity to gather more information on the situation in Iraq. I
also appreciate Ambassador Crocker's willingness to provide an update
on the situation from his perspective.
We've heard from the administration and from many of our Senate
colleagues this week that we need to give the President's surge more
time and that we need to wait to hear the report in September before we
make a binding decision to redeploy our troops. However, we learned
last week that the Iraqi political leaders have not met a single
benchmark that they agreed to in January.
We don't need to wait for another report. We have seen the results
of a failed policy in the form of multiple deployments, more sacrifice
from our military families, and a deepening civil war in Iraq that has
caught our troops in the middle.
It is long past time to turn the page in Iraq, where each day we
see the consequences of fighting a war that should never have been
authorized and should never have been waged. The single most important
decision a President or Member of Congress can make is the decision to
send our troops into harm's way. It is that decision that determines
the fate of our men and women in uniform, the course of nations, and
the security of the American people. It is that decision that sets in
motion consequences that cannot be undone.
Since this war began, 3,618 Americans have been killed--532 since
the President ignored the will of the American people and launched his
surge. Tens of thousands more have been wounded, suffering terrible
injuries seen and unseen.
Here is what else we know. We know that the surge is not working,
that our mission in Iraq must be changed, and that this war must be
brought to a responsible conclusion.
We know Iraq's leaders are not resolving their grievances. They are
not stepping up to their security responsibilities. They are not
improving the daily lives of Iraqis.
We know that the war in Iraq costs us $370 million a day and $10
billion each month. These are resources that could be spent to secure
our ports and our borders, to invest in jobs and health care, and to
focus on a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan and the wider war on
We know that because of the war in Iraq, America is no safer than
it was on
9/11. Al-Qaeda has gained the best recruiting tool it could ask for.
Tens of thousands of terrorists have been trained and radicalized in
Iraq. Terrorism is up worldwide. America has fewer friends, and more
enemies, in the world.
We know--because of the release of a declassified NIE earlier this
week--that we continue to face a ``persistent and evolving'' threat
from al-Qaeda. And last week, a threat assessment concluded that al-
Qaeda is as strong today as it was before
As I said nearly 5 years ago, during the runup to this war, we are
fighting on the wrong battlefield. The terrorists who attacked us and
who continue to plot against us are resurgent in the hills between
Afghanistan and Pakistan. They should have been our focus then. They
must be our focus now.
In January, I introduced a plan that would have already started
bringing our troops home and ending this war, with a goal of removing
all combat brigades by March 31, 2008. Seventy-nine days ago, President
Bush vetoed a bipartisan plan that passed both Houses of Congress that
shared my goal of changing course and ending this war.
During those 79 days, 266 Americans have died and the situation in
Iraq has continued to deteriorate.
We in Congress must take action to change the President's failed
policy. I was deeply disappointed that some of our colleagues blocked
an amendment yesterday that would have required a drawdown of our
forces by the end of April 2008--a date that is consistent with the
date in the plan I proposed back in January, and a goal shared by the
bipartisan Iraq Study Group.
I will continue to push for a new course that gets our troops out
of harm's way, that changes our military mission to focus on training
and counterterrorism, that puts real pressure on the Iraqis to resolve
their grievances, and that urges the robust diplomacy that is so badly
Responses of Ambassador Ryan Crocker to Questions Submitted by Senator
Question. I would like you to address the displacement of millions
of Iraqis. I am interested to hear from you about the process in
assisting Iraqis who are working, or have worked with the U.S.
Government and are seeking assistance in resettlement to the United
States. The progress on processing these cases appears to be
painstakingly slow--would you explain why it is taking so long to
process these cases? What mechanisms are you putting in place in order
to process cases more quickly? How are you handling this calamitous
Answer. We have many mechanisms in place to facilitate and expedite
access to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for those Iraqis
who have been targeted due to their association with the USG and are
interested in seeking resettlement to the United States, including the
use of Embassy referrals for Iraqis still in Iraq who have worked
closely with the USG. To date, Embassy Baghdad has referred over 20
Iraqi employees and their family members to the USRAP.
Embassy Baghdad has established a refugee committee to evaluate
cases brought to their attention by USG personnel. Once the Department
concurs in accepting the referral, the Embassy works closely with the
individual to determine where they wish to be processed and passes on
the information to the appropriate Overseas Processing Entity (OPE). In
some cases, the USG facilitates entry into a country of first asylum.
The OPE prioritizes Embassy referrals and works to quickly prepare the
case for presentation to DHS/USCIS. The Embassy and OPE also keep the
applicant informed of the timing of DHS/USCIS circuit rides so that
they can minimize the time spent in the country of first asylum.
Refugee processing generally takes 4 to 6 months from referral to
admission in the United States due to the required security checks, a
face-to-face interview with DHS/USCIS, and medical exams. However, the
State Department acts expeditiously to refer cases of Iraqi locally
engaged staff (LES) to the USRAP, to provide emergency shelter in the
IZ, and facilitate entry to the country of first asylum when needed.
Assisting the LES and his/her family in arriving to a safe location can
be completed in only a few days if needed, so that the vast majority of
the processing time can be spent in a secure location.
In addition to the processing of Embassy referrals, the USRAP is
processing thousands of Iraqi asylum seekers in neighboring countries
referred by UNHCR. Prior to March, the USRAP had two OPE's in the
region located in Cairo and Istanbul. We now have established two
additional OPE offices in Damascus and Amman. Additionally, on a
circuit-ride basis OPE personnel and DHS/USCIS officers travel to
Lebanon periodically to process UNHCR referrals of Iraqi and other
Question. The Washington Post reported that you sent a cable to
Under Secretary Fore making a strong case that we need to do more to
make it possible for Iraqis employed by our government to come to the
United States. The cable stated that Iraqis who work with the United
States ``work under extremely difficult conditions, and are targets for
violence including murder and kidnapping.'' Senators Smith, Biden,
Hagel, Lieberman, Leahy, Levin, and Kennedy have introduced
legislation, which establishes a program to do precisely what you
called for in the cable. What was Under Secretary Fore's reaction to
this cable? Will you work with the Congress to establish such a system
of aiding those who have helped our government?
Answer. In February of this year, the State Department identified
the issue of assisting Iraqis who work for the Embassy as a matter of
urgency. The Department took immediate steps to address the needs of
those at risk in Iraq because of their association with the U.S.
Government. The Department asked Congress to expand access for these
Iraqis to the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program, so that more brave
Iraqis who are making their own contribution to their country are
eligible for inclusion in this program.
Secretary Rice set up the interagency task force on Iraqi Refugees
and Internally Displaced Persons led by Under Secretary Paula
Dobriansky, which continues to meet regularly. The interagency task
force has a specific focus to address the humanitarian situation,
including the needs of those at risk in Iraq because of their
association with the U.S. Government.
The interagency task force drafted and cleared the administration's
legislative proposal to provide a mechanism to lower, in
``extraordinary circumstances,'' the years of service required for SIV
eligibility under the Immigration and Nationality Act. Embassy Baghdad
was consulted often during the drafting process and its
recommendations, which included the number of years of service required
for SIV eligibility, were integrated into the administration's SIV
In April, the Department sent to Capitol Hill the legislative
proposal as an administration position which allows SIVs for Locally-
Engaged (LE) Staff who have served in ``extraordinary conditions'' as
determined by the Secretary and have fewer than the minimum years of
service otherwise required. The Department is now working actively to
gain support in both the Senate and House to secure the introduction,
consideration, and passage of the proposal.
While the Department appreciates the intention of the Refugee
Crisis in Iraq Act introduced by Senators Kennedy and Smith, we believe
the administration's SIV proposal is a more comprehensive and practical
vehicle for addressing the dangers that local employees of the USG
confront in a manner that will ensure continued effective operation of
our diplomatic operations in Iraq and of our worldwide administration
of the SIV program.
The Department and Embassy Baghdad have communicated to LE Staff
the processes by which locally employed interpreters and translators
under Chief of Mission authority can take immediate advantage of the
Special Immigrant Visa opportunities offered by Public Law 110-36.
Embassy Baghdad has also acted to accelerate the access of LE Staff to
the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.
The Department and the administration recognize that a solution
must be secured to assist those LE Staff in extraordinary conditions
who are serving the American people. We very much appreciate your
support and interest in this matter as we seek to partner with the Hill
to implement the legislative changes that are required.
Question. There is currently a special immigrant visa program for
Iraqi and Afghan translators. DHS has approved more than 600 petitions
under this program but less than 40 have been issued. Five hundred
visas are available under this program over the next 2 years. There are
reports that Iraqi translators with approved petitions who have
attempted to travel to Jordan to obtain their visas have been turned
back to Iraq by Jordanian immigration officials. How many special
immigrant visas have been issued for Iraqi and Afghan translators this
year? Why have so few been issued when more than 600 petitions have
500 visas available this year are utilized?
Answer. Under previous legislation, only 50 visas were available
per fiscal year. New legislation was passed in June raising the total
number of visas available in FY07 to 500 and the total number available
in FY08 to 500.
The National Visa Center has received 629 approved Special
Immigrant Visa petitions (1,442 applicants total, including
derivatives) for Iraqi or Afghani translators from DHS/CIS. The
National Visa Center has been able to contact over 500 of these 629 SIV
applicants in order to begin the document collection process.
Through the end of June 2007, the Department issued 37 SIVs (along
with 32 derivative visas issued to dependents) under the previous
legislation that allocated 50 such visas for FY 2006. These cases pose
unique challenges because it is difficult to contact the applicants,
many of whom are deployed with U.S. troops in Iraq. In addition to the
difficulties contacting the applicants, there are challenges in firmly
establishing the true identities of some applicants given the various
naming conventions used in Iraq and the unreliability of civil
Over 80 cases are scheduled for August and cases will continue to
be added as they are ready.
The Department has sent an additional consular officer to Embassy
Amman, where most SIV applicants have their visa interview, to assist
in processing. We have expedited security clearance requests for SIVs
and our interagency partners have been very responsive. We are also
working closely with CBP to facilitate the entry of translators and
their families who do not have an Iraqi ``G'' series passport valid for
been turned back by Jordanian officials? What steps are you
taking to ensure this does not happen again?
Answer. Amman has had two cases of SIV applicants who were turned
around at the Jordanian border, apparently after trying to enter
without evidence of an interview, but who were later rescheduled for
other appointments. At the translators' request, four cases were
transferred to Damascus for appointments. We are working with the
appropriate authorities to facilitate entry for SIV applicants into
Jordan and neighboring countries. The U.S. Embassy in Jordan works
closely with the GOJ officials to ensure translators can enter Jordan
for their SIV interviews. The Ambassador recently briefed the GOJ on
this program and its importance to the USG and access to Jordan for
these applicants appears to be resolved at this time.
Responses of Ambassador Ryan Crocker to Questions Submitted by Senator
Question. What kind of civilian surge is taking place to match the
military surge--particularly in the financial and judicial sectors--in
order to provide a functioning bureaucracy for when the Iraqi
Government passes legislation such as the hydrocarbon revenue sharing
Answer. The civilian surge is a robust, three-phased plan to
increase staff at existing Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs), as
well as create new ones. There will be more than 20 teams in total.
Many of them will be embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams (ePRTs),
which operate side by side with brigade headquarters. They live with
the soldiers and go everywhere the soldiers go. The mission of PRTs is
to work with local leaders--whether they be tribal shaykhs, provincial
governors, mayors, or neighborhood leaders--to build local networks of
moderates. They also facilitate civilian technical assistance efforts
among Iraqi provincial and local government officials and the citizens
they represent to deliver essential services and programs to rebuild
communities. This surge has consisted of approximately 500 personnel
across a dozen specializations. PRTs and ePRTS are typically staffed
with 10-12 experts, led by a senior Department of State Foreign Service
Officer, that gear their assistance to the needs of their individual
communities. Three hundred twenty-five positions are filled, with
another 96 in process. As a result of the civilian surge's success,
military commanders recently requested four new ePRTs, which we have
planned with 84 positions.
One of the primary goals of the PRT initiative is to improve the
capacity of local and regional Iraqi governments. This complements an
ongoing effort to develop the capacity of key Iraqi ministries. The
U.S. Agency for International Development's National Capacity
Development (NCD) Program has full-time public management advisors in
nine key institutions, including the Prime Minister's office and the
Council of Representatives Secretariat. These advisors are helping
these entities improve their capacity to develop and execute their
budgets, design personnel policies, and implement procurement
Oil and electricity are key priority ministries, within which USAID
focuses on capacity development in public management. Each ministry is
well advanced in formulating a capacity development plan addressing the
ministry's needs; a key focus of these plans is improved financial and
project management. Additionally, over 80 staff from the ministries
have enrolled in the program's training sessions, receiving training in
topics such as procurement, budget management, project management,
strategic planning, and communications and leadership. We have recently
expanded our efforts to improve Iraqi ministerial capacity by adding 26
more contractors, 11 of whom are already on the ground and the rest
will be in place by the end of August.
Question. I traveled with Senators Sununu, Klobuchar, and
Whitehouse to Baghdad and Fallujah in mid-March. When we met with now
former Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, he mentioned that when
considering the hydrocarbon revenue distribution law, beyond the
differences of opinion of the Kurds, Sunnis, and Shiites, the Iraqi
National Assembly needed time to convince the average Iraqi on the
street that the plan was truly an Iraqi plan, and not a United States
plan--and that was part of the delay in considering the bill. Is the
pressure being put on the Iraqi Government by Congress and the
administration having a detrimental effect with the Iraqi people on the
believability of any future legislation enacted by the National
Answer. Ever since Iraq nationalized its oil industry in 1960, the
structure and operation of the Iraqi oil sector has generated strong
nationalist feelings among the Iraqi public. As a number of articles,
seminars, and public comments by Iraqi commentators have indicated,
many Iraqis are very concerned about issues such as the role of foreign
companies in the oil sector, corruption, and the power of regions to
direct their own development.
The Government of Iraq (GOI) and the Kurdistan Regional Government
(KRG) have been in intensive discussions since last July, and have
completed drafts of a framework hydrocarbon law and a revenue
management law, both of which are wholly Iraqi products. Over the last
3 months, central government representatives have met with a wide range
of parliamentarians to brief them on the main concepts in the law. The
GOI and KRG also held a seminar in Dubai in April to broaden the
discussion of the main points of these laws.
While these actions are useful initial steps, the Iraqi public
still does not have a good understanding of what the framework
hydrocarbon law does and does not do, including provisions on foreign
investment in the oil and gas sectors. We expect that both the GOI and
KRG will mount a broader public information campaign to address issues
of concern once work on the remaining portions of the oil law package
is complete and approved by the Iraqi Cabinet.
The United States has made clear publicly and privately the high
priority we attach to Iraq's passing this legislation. These
expressions of interest, including encouragement to pass these laws
this summer, have created the impression within some Iraqi circles that
the USG is attempting to exert undue influence on the entire process.
We are sensitive to this perception as we calibrate our efforts to
encourage the GOI and the KRG to proceed with all due dispatch on
crafting a durable set of laws recognized as legitimate by the Iraqi
people to govern the most important sector of Iraq's economy.
Question. Has the Prime Minister undertaken additional good-will
generating activities with local sheiks and other Iraqi political
leaders since his March 13 visit to Anbar province?
Answer. Prime Minister al-Maliki meets regularly with leaders from
across Iraq's political spectrum, as well as with local sheiks and
tribal leaders. For example, during a July visit to Diyala province,
the Prime Minister met with local leaders to discuss joint efforts to
expel al-Qaeda from Baquba. He praised local citizens, victims of
terrorism, and the tribally based Diyala Support Council for their
efforts in working with Iraqi and coalition forces. In June, the Prime
Minister received a delegation of tribal and local government leaders
from Al-Qaim, in Anbar province.
Recently the Prime Minister formed a committee of senior advisers
and technical experts to work directly with coalition and Embassy
representatives on issues relating to Sunni tribal and insurgent group
outreach. The committee has a mandate to integrate anti-al-Qaeda
fighters into the Iraqi Security Forces.
We continue to emphasize the need for outreach by Iraq's leaders,
including the Prime Minister, to all of Iraq's communities as a
critical element in building political stability through broad
participation in a national political process.
Responses of Ambassador Ryan Crocker to Questions Submitted by Senator
Question. The interim report released last week indicates progress
on all of the first order political priorities has been unsatisfactory.
during the month of August, what expectation do you have that
the Parliament will convert the unsatisfactory progress on
these priorities into satisfactory progress by the time you
submit your report in September?
Answer. Political progress is a shared responsibility between the
executive and legislative branches of the Iraqi Government, and is not
solely the responsibility of the Council of Representatives (COR). The
Presidency Council and the Prime Minister are all part of the process
and the weight of progress falls on all of their shoulders. We have
made clear to the Iraqi political leadership that we attach great
importance to the resolution of a number of political issues, including
those laid out as priorities in the July 15 interim report.
Recent action in the COR indicates there may be forward movement in
some areas, for example, in legislation connected with defining
provincial powers, while other legislation remains the subject of
intense discussion. It is probable that the COR will not complete
action on all political priorities by the time we submit the September
report; however, the challenge of enacting legislation involves more
than securing approval from the COR.
While progress has not moved as rapidly as we would like, we must
not diminish the importance of what the COR has accomplished as a
functioning democratic institution. In a little over a year, the COR
has passed more than 60 pieces of significant legislation, despite a
climate of continuing sectarian violence, including an attack on the
COR parliamentary building that left one parliamentarian dead.
Finally, while the COR is currently taking a constitutionally
mandated recess, that does not preclude members of the political blocs
or committees from meeting to negotiate the specifics of pending
legislation in anticipation of the COR returning to session on
Question. Press reports indicate you may be meeting with your
Iranian interlocutors again sometime in the next 10 days.
Answer. On July 24, the Iraqi Government hosted the second round of
U.S.-Iranian-Iraqi discussions focused on security and stability in
Iraq. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki welcomed us and the session was
chaired by Foreign Minister Hoshyar al-Zebari and National Security
Advisor Mowaffak al-Rubaie. As was the case in the May meeting, I
headed the American team and my Iranian counterpart, Ambassador Kazemi
Qomi, headed the Iranian team.
As was also the case in May, the sole subject on the agenda for
this meeting was security in Iraq. There was no broader agenda.
All parties agreed in principal that it is in the best interests of
all parties to see a democratic and stable Iraq, but the challenge
remains applying those principles on the ground.
We expressed concerns, as we have in the past, over the Iranians
arming and training violent militia elements. We made clear in our
talks that in the 2 months since our last meeting we have not seen a
reduction in militia-related activities attributed to Iranian support,
but rather an increase. The presence and lethal activities of Islamic
Revolutionary Guard Corps--Quds Force (IRGC-QF) personnel in Iraq and
their provision of lethal support--in the form of weapons, training,
funding, and guidance--to illegal militias who target and kill
coalition and Iraqi Forces, as well as innocent Iraqi civilians,
contradicts the Iranian Government's stated policy of supporting the
We made clear to the Iranians that their efforts will be measured
by the security conditions on the ground, not by stated principles or
by promises. The goal of these discussions is not to schedule more
discussions but rather to find a solution to the issue of Iraqi
security. To that end we discussed the formation of a security
subcommittee that would address at the expert or technical level issues
relating to security, including support of militias, al-Qaeda, and
border security. We are working on the composition, level of
representation, and function of such a committee.
Question. Recent reports from Basra, Iraq's second largest city,
indicate extremist groups may be taking control of this key city.
strategically important city?
Answer. There is considerable instability in Basra. Intra-Shia
violence in Basra has contributed to a significant increase in attacks
against coalition forces in Basra and greater hostility toward the
coalition presence. The ongoing violence has highlighted the failure of
the Iraqi police to challenge Iranian-backed Shia militants in southern
The security situation in Basra is a concern to us and our
coalition partners, particularly the British, who have responsibility
for Basra province. In June, the Chief of Police in Basra was replaced,
as was the Basra Operations Commander. While the full impact of these
new leaders remains to be seen, both have already improved the
situation on the ground, with the new Chief of Police addressing issues
of concern regarding the Basra police force and the new Operations
Commander focusing on militia activity. There is currently a proposal
to create a new 14th Army Division in the south which will assist the
Iraqi Army 10th Division already stationed in the region. Coalition
Forces are also working with the Iraqi Government to create a new
Presidential Palace Protection force which will ultimately take over
responsibility for the protection of the Basra Palace Complex once it
is handed over to Iraqi control. The ultimate goal is to see Basra
under Provincial Iraqi Control, but implementing this transition will
be a conditions-based decision made jointly by MNF-I and the Iraqi
Government. Until that time, coalition forces will continue to conduct
operations against militia elements in cooperation with Iraqi Security
Submitted by Senator George V. Voinovich: Letter to President George W.
Bush and Senator Voinovich's Proposed Plan ``The Way Forward in Iraq''
June 26, 2007.
President George W. Bush,
The White House,
Dear Mr. President: The United States has been faced with
tremendous challenges during your administration. As the United States
engages in its fifth year in Iraq, I submit to you respectfully that we
must begin to develop a comprehensive plan for our country's gradual
military disengagement from Iraq and a corresponding increase in
responsibility to the Iraqi government and its regional neighbors.
Though it may seem contradictory, I believe we can accomplish more in
Iraq by gradually and responsibly reducing our forces and focusing on a
robust strategy of international cooperation and coordinated foreign
aid. We must not abandon our mission, but we must begin a transition
where the Iraqi government and its neighbors play a larger role in
As you know, I have been concerned about the situation in Iraq for
some time. Nonetheless, I was steadfast in voting against any
legislation that would limit or cut off spending for the war. I have
consistently opposed attempts to limit your powers as our Commander-in-
Chief, and I have openly opposed any form of precipitous withdrawal
that would threaten our men and women in uniform, endanger American
interests, or abandon the commitment we have made to the people of Iraq
who do want our help.
A policy of responsible military disengagement with a corresponding
increase in non-military support is the best way to advance our
nation's interests in Iraq and achieve our primary goals: to help
Iraqis stabilize their country and improve the security of the United
States. However, I am also concerned that we are running out of time.
The commitment of the United States to the principles of democracy
and freedom will not falter. Our military has fought courageously and
admirably, and it is time to pursue a strategy that combines the
resources of our military with the resources of our diplomatic corps
and international partners. I have enclosed a brief position paper that
outlines my thoughts for a way forward in Iraq .
I hope that you will review this paper, and the many other
recommendations that have been proposed, as you fulfill the
responsibilities of being our Commander-in-Chief. My prayers are with
you and our nation.
George V. Voinovich,
United States Senator.
the way forward in iraq
It is in our Nation's security and economic interests to begin to
change our strategy in Iraq and initiate a plan for a responsible
military disengagement. We have lost 3,530 lives to military operations
in Iraq. We have spent over $378 billion plus the funds that were
appropriated in the most recent supplemental bill. Our national debt is
rising and our government is being forced to abandon critical domestic
priorities. Our public image to the world has deteriorated drastically
and continues to suffer. If we proceed on the current path, we will
endanger our Nation's long-term competitiveness and well-being.
Moreover, political realities in Washington will force change. As we
approach the 2008 Presidential election campaign, the people of the
United States may choose to elect a President that promises an
immediate withdrawal. This could be very dangerous for the region and
American national security interests. Therefore, it is time to deal
with the realities--the inevitability of our eventual disengagement--
and begin the planning for a new way forward in Iraq.
Military Disengagement Does Not Equal Abandonment
It is absolutely critical that we avoid being forced into a
precipitous withdrawal, whether it is because of world events or our
own political atmosphere at home. The dangers of a precipitous
withdrawal include the potential destabilization of the region; the
disintegration of United States relations with various allies in the
region; the endangerment of vital energy supplies in the Middle East;
and irreparable damage to the credibility of the United States
throughout the world (especially if we leave and a humanitarian crisis
ensues). If we lose the opportunity to implement a responsible military
disengagement on our own terms, we may find ourselves unable to prevent
the aforementioned dangers. Therefore, we must formulate a strategy for
disengagement that seeks to prevent these outcomes and protect our
long-term, strategic interests in the region.
While our men and women in the field courageously fight day in and
day out, complex power struggles in the region and among Iraq's
religious sects and political factions continue to undermine American
troops. Iraq's elected government has not yet proved capable of forging
a political reconciliation and winning the support of these groups.
Following the second attack on a Shiite shrine in Samarra, Iraq's
Government has grown increasingly nervous as political factions split
even further. Shiites are now fighting with Shiites in neighborhoods
that were previously calm. According to the testimony of numerous
experts and officials who have testified to the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee, Iraq's
problems cannot be solved with a military solution alone. Rather,
Iraq's future rests largely on political solutions within the Iraqi
Government, its perceived leaders and Iraq's neighboring countries
where American influence is limited. Currently, the only leverage we
have to influence these actors and trigger political cooperation is
through the presence and/or removal of our military forces from Iraq.
Unfortunately, the presence of American forces in Iraq is being
exploited by Iraq's political actors, religious sects, and militias, as
well as al-Qaeda, other foreign fighters, and Iraq's neighboring
countries. Their leaders are not moving quickly to make responsible
decisions and change the situation, because the continued presence of
American forces fuel their arguments and make compromise unnecessary.
Therefore, our best chance of stabilizing Iraq is to develop and
implement a strategy for United States military disengagement that is
coupled with a robust diplomatic effort to contain instability and
protect our interests in the region. It is time the Iraqi Government
and its regional neighbors take a greater responsibility in stabilizing
this situation. Military disengagement is the only way to force Iraq's
leaders and neighboring countries to make the difficult decisions
needed to create stability and prevent a catastrophe in the region.
Only by initiating such a strategy can we hope to achieve all of the
Compel Iraq's leaders and neighbors to take actions that will
support stability in Iraq and prevent chaos in the region;
Make al-Qaeda's mission to drive out U.S. forces obsolete, so
Iraqi tolerance for al-Qaeda decreases;
Stop terrorist networks from using Iraq's perceived occupation
as a recruitment tool;
Develop a plan for Iraq that can be endorsed by all of Iraq's
neighbors and key international organizations;
Agree on a timeline for disengagement that is acceptable to the
people of Iraq, blessed by the international community, and
easier to implement because it has their support;
Protect key American alliances in the region by working with
them to develop our exit strategy and working to address their
fears and concerns;
Preserve American credibility by staying involved in Iraq and
focusing more energy on refugee assistance, humanitarian aid,
and reconstruction aid;
Focus our resources on other fronts in the war on terrorism;
Rest and repair our military forces for potential future
Military disengagement cannot be viewed as an abandonment of Iraq
or our long-term strategic interests in the region. If we pursue a
well-developed and comprehensive plan for withdrawing U.S. forces, we
will have a better chance of achieving our goals and sustaining
domestic support for a continued commitment in the future. Drawing out
our current efforts indefinitely will deplete our resources and limit
our options when we eventually decide to draw down our forces. By
forming the strategy now, we have time on our side and can mitigate the
possible negative consequences of our departure.
what is the way forward?
A Clear Announcement and a Clear Commitment
The United States should begin by issuing a clear announcement
about the intention to responsibly withdraw our military forces from
Iraq, while stressing our commitment to remain engaged in Iraq's future
and the future stability of the Middle East. The statement should and
must go hand in hand with a demonstration of our decision, to ensure
that it is taken seriously. The demonstration could be to draw back a
significant number of our forces to major military garrisons or to
redeploy them to forward operating bases in neighboring countries. The
goal would be to reduce our visible presence, while sustaining our
ability to respond immediately to any serious crisis or attack on U.S.
soldiers or installations.
The announcement should also be coupled with an expression of our
commitment to Iraq's future and our determination to stay involved in
the region and prevent its destabilization. We must make clear that our
decision to leave is based on a desire to bring an end to the violence,
to force out foreign fighters, and to allow Iraqis to reclaim their
country from terrorists and militants. We must also emphasize that we
will come to Iraq's assistance if asked, and that we will remain in the
region to assist our other allies as well.
Lastly, we should make clear our pledge to provide Iraq with our
financial and humanitarian assistance for the next several years,
including a special program for assisting refugees who have left Iraq
and refugees who want to return to Iraq when the violence stops. Prior
to the announcement, we should have a plan in place to resettle a
portion of Iraqi refugees in the United Sates, especially those who
helped U.S. forces as linguists, informants, or in other ways.
An International Conference and Shuttle Diplomacy
Military disengagement must go hand in hand with a plan for robust
diplomatic engagement aimed at preventing instability and leveraging
Iraq's neighbors to help us prevent chaos in the region. On the
multilateral front, the United States should organize an international
conference to bring together Iraq's neighbors, the five permanent
members of the U.N. Security Council, and the U.N. Secretary General.
The purpose of the conference would be to discuss how to maintain
stability in the Middle East, manage the refugee crisis, and forge a
new political compact in Iraq that will address key political issues in
Iraq, including resource allocation, de-Baathification, and
reconciliation. The conference should aim to produce an agreement among
its participants and a subsequent U.N. Security Council Resolution. The
agreement should establish agreement on a number of important issues,
including respect for Iraq's sovereignty and its current borders, and
any arrangement to provide an international peacekeeping force if
sectarian conflict leads to a humanitarian crisis.
On the margins of the international conference, the United States
should conduct a series of focused bilateral meetings with Iraq's
leadership, our allies, and Iraq's neighbors. The meetings should
address specific concerns, including cooperation to control Iraq's
borders and cooperation to prevent retaliatory attacks on U.S. soldiers
upon withdrawal. We should make clear that any coordinated attack on
U.S. soldiers would be responded to with speed and severity.
A Substantial Package of Foreign Aid
The way forward and out of Iraq will require a substantial aid
package for Iraq. This is an important step and will send a clear
message that we intend to keep our promise to the Iraqis and help
stabilize their country. We will also need to provide foreign aid to
key partners in the region, such as Jordan and Kuwait, who will be
impacted strategically and economically by military disengagement. This
must include refugee assistance and increased economic and security
assistance to help them deal with the thousands of Iraqi refugees and
manage security at their borders. It is a sign of goodwill that
advances U.S. interests by helping to protect our partnerships and
prevent the spread of instability through the region. Though some may
balk at the expense of foreign aid to Iraq or other partners, it is
only a fraction of the costs of sustaining war operations.
Sustain U.S. Credibility and Bolster Public Diplomacy
As a final and critical component of any plan for military
disengagement, we must find ways to restore our credibility and
standing in the world. The war in Iraq was a major blow to our soft
power and public diplomacy. It cannot be rebuilt overnight, but steps
should be taken to prevent the further deterioration of our image in
the aftermath of a withdrawal. First, we should follow up our
disengagement from Iraq with an announcement of our commitment to
remain involved in the greater fight against terrorism and to engage
more heavily in Afghanistan and the Global War on Terrorism. We should
devote more resources to strangling terrorist financial networks,
promoting international law enforcement cooperation, and ridding
countries of dangerous madrassas that train terrorists. Second, we
should give a visible priority to the Middle East Peace Process and our
relations with all countries in the Middle East. We must show that our
disengagement from Iraq does not represent an abandonment of our
commitment to stabilize the Greater Middle East. Third, we should
pursue a significant foreign aid program that will draw attention to
the United States good works and involvement in the world. This could
begin with our commitment to pay the full amount of our current
outstanding dues to the U.N. for international peacekeeping and other
arrears, which would send a powerful message to the world and bolster
the American image tremendously.
I believe that we can set our Nation on a new course in Iraq that
has bipartisan support in Congress and sustains our commitment to the
people of Iraq. We can share more of the responsibility with Iraqis and
their neighbors, while protecting our vital interests. We must begin
the process now. The United States is a powerful and principled nation,
and we are entering just one more phase of our Nation's history. Our
courage and resolve can carry us through this experience and into a new
phase of global leadership.