Iraqi Leader Asks US for Timetable: Bush Lies as Congress Votes

June 17th, 2006 - by admin

Associated Press & & Washington Post – 2006-06-17 23:06:59

House Rejects Withdrawal Timetable
Associated Press< WASHINGTON (June 18, 2006) — The House of Representatives has rejected a timetable for pulling US forces out of Iraq after a ferociously partisan debate, forcing lawmakers in both parties to go on record on a major issue in re-election campaigns nationwide. A day after the Senate took the same position against troop withdrawal, the Republican-led House voted 256-153 to approve a nonbinding resolution that says an "arbitrary date for the withdrawal or redeployment" of US forces is not in the national interest. "Achieving victory is our only option," declared House Majority Leader John Boehner, casting Democrats as defeatists who want to retreat in the face of terrorist threats. "We must not shy away." "`Stay the course' is not a strategy, it's a slogan," answered House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi as she called for a new direction in a war she labeled "a grotesque mistake." Angling for political advantage, House Republicans engineered the debate and vote as polls show voters favoring Democrats to replace Republicans as the controlling party. Those same polls show the public increasingly frustrated with the war as the death toll and price tag continue to rise. Voters could hold it against incumbent candidates, regardless of political party, come the November elections that will decide who runs Congress. Republicans across Capitol Hill are sensitive to those political realities. Republican leaders in both the House and Senate sought to put lawmakers of both parties, and particularly Democrats, on record on the conflict, and looked to draw attention to deep Democratic divisions on the war. Senate Republicans succeeded in doing that on Thursday. In a maneuver Democrats assailed as a political stunt, Republican leaders brought up legislation calling for withdrawing combat troops by year's end and quickly dismissed it on a 93-6 vote. Six Democrats were in the minority. It was the House Republicans' turn a day later. They scheduled a vote on their symbolic resolution that also praises US troops and labels the Iraq war part of the larger global fight against terrorism. Democrats denounced the Republican-orchestrated debate and vote as a politically motivated charade, and most, including Pelosi, voted against the measure. They said that supporting it would have the effect of affirming US President George W. Bush's "failed policy" in Iraq. Still, 42 Democrats broke ranks and joined with all but three Republicans to support the resolution. Two Republicans and three Democrats declined to take a position by voting present. Balking carried a risk for Democrats, particularly when they see an opportunity to win back control of Congress from the Republican Party, because Republicans were expected to use Democratic "no" votes to claim that their opponents don't support US troops. Within two hours of the House vote, the Republican Senate campaign committee circulated news releases that said Congressman Harold Ford Jr, a Democrat running for an open Senate seat in Tennessee, and Congressman Sherrod Brown, a Democrat challenging Senator Mike DeWine in Ohio, voted to "cut and run" from Iraq. Lawmakers were mindful of the political implications of the votes throughout the debate that ran for more than 12 hours over two days. In floor speeches, several Republican incumbents who face tough challenges from Democrats in November tried to strike a balance. They carefully criticized the resolution that their leaders had written, calling it weak and incomplete, but then reluctantly voted in favor of it.

Bush Claimed Iraqis Oppose Timetable
The Day After Iraq’s VP Personally Asked Him for One

(June 16, 2006) — After Bush returned from his trip to Iraq this week, President Bush attacked those calling for a timetable for withdrawal. He said Iraqis had “concerns” that a timetable would disrupt their strategy to create a secure and democratic Iraq:

And the willingness of some to say that if we’re in power we’ll withdraw on a set timetable concerns people in Iraq, because they understand our coalition forces provide a sense of stability, so they can address old wrongs and develop their strategy and plan to move forward. They need our help and they recognize that. And so they are concerned about that.

Today, the AP reports that Iraq’s Vice President, Tariq al-Hashimi, personally asked President Bush to set a timeline for withdrawal of US forces the day before. Iraq’s President, Jalal Talabani, said he supported the request:

Iraq’s vice president has asked President Bush for a timeline for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Iraq, the Iraqi president’s office said. Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni, made the request during his meeting with Bush on Tuesday, when the US president made a surprise visit to Iraq.

“I supported him in this,” President Jalal Talabani said in a statement released Wednesday. Al-Hashimi’s representatives could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

Separately, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said that Iraqi security forces should be completely in charge of the nation’s security in 18 months.
Top Sunni Asked Bush for Pullout Timeline
The State (South Carolina) / Associated Press

BAGHDAD, Iraq (June 15, 2006) — Iraq’s vice president has asked President Bush for a timeline for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Iraq, the Iraqi president’s office said.

Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni, made the request during his meeting with Bush on Tuesday, when the US president made a surprise visit to Iraq.

“I supported him in this,” President Jalal Talabani said in a statement released Wednesday. Al-Hashimi’s representatives could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

Bush made it clear during his visit that the US military presence — now at about 132,000 troops — would continue, though he stressed the fate of the Iraqis was in their own hands.

Al-Hashimi also said there were “promises to free about 3,500 detainees” by June 26, the statement from Talabani’s office said. That number that would be above the 2,500 to be freed as part of a bid by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to soothe Sunni Arabs over allegations of random detentions and maltreatment at the hands of the Shiite-led government.

More than 450 detainees were being released Thursday as part of al-Maliki’s national reconciliation efforts, according to the US military.

The vice president also complained about a number of covert prisons run by the Shiite-led Interior Ministry “where many violations are committed,” according to the statement from the president’s office.

Such detention centers have been discovered in recent months and al-Hashimi said they “contradict the principles on which the new Iraqi is being built and quick steps should be taken to close them.”

The vice president stressed the need for an “emergency plan to tackle the overall issue of detainees (held by) the interior and defense ministries” and for the release of all detainees held without cause, the statement said.

Talabani Says Iraqis Could Replace Many US Troops
Jim VandeHei / Washington Post

The President’s Claim About Major American Withdrawal by Year’s End Conflicts With White House Position

(September 13, 2005) — Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said in an interview yesterday that the United States could withdraw as many as 50,000 troops by the end of the year, declaring there are enough Iraqi forces trained and ready to begin assuming control in cities throughout the country.

After the White House and Pentagon were contacted for comment, however, a senior adviser to Talabani called The Washington Post to say Talabani did not intend to suggest a specific timeline for withdrawal. “He is afraid . . . this might put the notion of a timetable on this thing,” the adviser said. “The exact figure of what would be required will undeniably depend on the level of insurgency [and] the level of Iraqi capability.”

In the interview, Talabani said he planned to discuss reductions in US forces during a private meeting with President Bush today, and said he believed the United States could begin pulling out some troops immediately.

“We think that America has the full right to move some forces from Iraq to their country because I think we can replace them [with] our forces,” Talabani said. “In my opinion, at least from 40,000 to 50,000 American troops can be [withdrawn] by the end of this year.”

That assessment differs dramatically from those offered by Bush and by US military commanders in Iraq.

Bush has carefully avoided setting a timetable for reducing the number of US troops in Iraq, currently about 140,000, and the Pentagon plans to maintain or slightly increase the force level in anticipation of an Oct. 15 referendum on Iraq’s new constitution. White House officials say that Bush’s strategy for eventually withdrawing troops hinges on Iraqis’ approving the constitution and holding successful elections in December.

Dan Bartlett, a senior Bush adviser, said the president and Talabani have the same goals. “We share the same view: As Iraqis build up their capabilities to defend their country, fewer US troops will be needed to complete our mission,” Bartlett said. “The president will continue to work with Iraqi leaders, and base his military decisions on the advice of commanders in the field and the secretary of defense.”

A senior Army official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the military does not openly discuss withdrawal timelines, said bringing home as many as 50,000 US troops — or more than 35 percent of those now in Iraq — by the end of the year is not under discussion. “Any talk of reduction has been for well after the election time frame,” the official said. “Are there discussions about how to pull back and when? Sure. But certainly not that dramatically in such a short time.”

Talabani’s statement has the potential to put Bush in a difficult position if the troops are not pulled out by year’s end, since critics are certain to ask why US soldiers cannot come home when Iraq’s own president says they can. The two leaders will hold a joint news conference today after their meeting.

In the interview, Talabani said Iraqi troops are prepared to assume control of security in several cities throughout southern, central and northern Iraq, despite continued violence, suicide bombings and killings. Many military experts predict a spike in insurgent attacks ahead of next month’s vote.

Talabani said the number of “well-trained” Iraqi security forces stood at 60,000 and would reach 100,000 by the end of the year. All told, there about 190,000 Iraqis enlisted in the military or local security forces. “Some are well-trained, some are not so well-trained,” he said. Iraqi troops have light arms, but he said they need 50 tanks and automatic weapons.

Talabani, who is Kurdish, could be influenced by the fact that the Kurds are fairly capable of defending their territory in northern Iraq and are less in need of US military support, said Michael O’Hanlon, a fellow at the Brookings Institution who studies Iraq.

Many Sunni Arabs oppose the draft constitution, and they are organizing in record numbers to vote against it in Sunni-dominated regions. Talabani raised the possibility of an addendum to the constitution in coming days in an effort to appease Sunni factions. “Of course, we would like to have consensus on all articles of the constitution,” he said.

In the interview, Talabani said he did not want to speak critically of neighboring Syria, which the top US envoy to Iraq chastised for interfering there. Many of the foreign insurgents fighting in Iraq are believed to have entered the country along the porous Syrian border. “Our patience is running out, the patience of Iraqis [is] . . . running out. The time for decision . . . has arrived for Damascus,” Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters at the State Department.

Commenting on the upcoming trial of ousted president Saddam Hussein, Talabani insisted that the former leader had confessed to the killings of tens of thousands of Kurds in the late 1980s, an assertion denied by Hussein’s attorney.

Hussein is scheduled to go on trial Oct. 19 on charges stemming from a massacre of Shiite Muslims following a failed assassination attempt on the Iraqi leader in the northern town of Dujail in 1982. Hussein allegedly retaliated for the plot by killing at least 143 people and razing much of the town.

Talabani, based on a conversation with the judge in the case, recounted a scene right out of the movie “A Few Good Men.” Asked about the mass killings, Hussein sat silent, refusing to utter a word, Talabani said. But Hussein was taunted, asked if he was afraid to say he carried out such an act. Hussein said, “I am not afraid,” and defiantly admitted he ordered the killings. Talabani said the judge has a video and recording of the confession.

Staff writer Josh White contributed to this report.

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