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article imageIraqi Officials Want US Troops to Stay

By rob13     May 12, 2007 in World
Iraqi diplomats are being sent to the United States this week to help gain support from the Democratic controlled Congress that will allow all US troops to remain in Iraq a little while longer.
Hoping one-on-one meetings with Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress will lead to US troops sticking around in Iraq, Baghdad is dispatching diplomats to the United States for talks on the continued role of US military personnel in this war torn country.
The Iraqi diplomats are planning on meeting with members of both the Republican and Democrat parties, but Iraqi officials are hoping to meeting with Congressional members that are the most influential in the Iraq war debate.
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh met on Thursday with more than 30 House Republicans and more than a dozen Senators just hours before the House voted to place limits on funding US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Among those willing to meet with Minister Saleh were Senate leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., John Warner,R-Va., and Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.
After meeting with Saleh,Iraqi Ambassador Samir Shakir al-Sumaidaie and Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., over lunch, Sen. Norm Coleman, R-MN, issued a statement saying Iraqi officials realized Americans are starting to lose patience with progress being made in Iraq.
Iraqi lobbying efforts are not alone when it comes to applying pressure in the Nations Capitol over this boiler plate issue.
Sen. Clinton saw it has a good sign that some House Republicans met with President Bush to express their displeasure over how the war is adversely affecting the Republican party.
In an interview Friday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program with Joe Scarborough, Presidential hopeful Clinton said the Republicans who met with the President told him point blank that a change of course is needed in Iraq. Sen. Clinton feels Bush is still not ready to reverse course. Clinton went on to say that whatever the mission was in Iraq it appears the mission was either accomplished or finished, so if there are any remaining US interests in Iraq then these interests need to be spelled out.
Baghdad's ability to persuade Congressional members like Coleman and Chambliss is vital if the Iraqi government truly wants US troops to remain in Iraq. Sen. Coleman said he has started to become very doubtful of the President's plan to send additional troops to Iraq, and Coleman also said patience for the war is starting to wear thin.
Along with Coleman and Chambliss, Sen. John Sununu,R-N.H., are up for re-election next year, and these Senators are facing voters who are growing tired of a war were more than 3,300 US troops have been killed. All three Senators still decided to meet separately with Saleh to discuss Americas continued involvement in Iraq despite this growing concern among their constituents.
While most Republicans are still reluctant to pull their support from President Bush, some Republicans say the President's 'surge plan' will have until September to show that progress is being made in getting Iraq under control. If it does not look like progress is being made, more Republicans may join the ranks of calling for a different approach in handling the Iraq crisis.
Saleh is a Kurdish politician highly regarded by U.S. officials, speaks impeccable English, knows time is running out on continued US support of their troops in Iraq. He came to the Captiol so he could speak directly to American politicians about the extreme importance of success in Iraq.
"Iraq is a central battleground in this historic conflict" against terrorism, he said in a brief interview after meeting with Reid, the Senate majority leader.
The trip by Saleh to the US came on the heels of a trip made by Mowaffak al-Rubaie, the national security adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, along with three other senior advisers. Al-Rubaie's trip to Washington was reported by the New York Times on Tuesday, but this trip did not garner much national interest in the United States.
With Congress ready to send the President another troop funding bill that is most likely going to set benchmarks for the Iraqi government, there is no hiding the fact these visits by Iraqi officials are meant to gain support for a continued presence of US troops in Iraq.
The question still remaining is what happens if the Iraqi government misses a benchmark or two? Will US troops be pulled from Iraq, or will the troops stay because only a few benchmarks were missed.
Senate leader Harry Reid has all ready stated publicly the US has lost the war in Iraq, and this means most Democrats want the troops out of Iraq to avoid further loses in a failed cause. Some Republicans say they still do not want to redeploy troops, but these Republicans are willing to withhold more than $5 billion in foreign aid to Iraq.
Even with the House passing a troop funding bill that would only last until July, many feel this bill will not pass the Senate unless changes are made to the language contained within this bill.
What is making matters worse in Iraq is a planned 'summer vacation' of the Iraqi parliament.
"Our armed forces are up to 150,000 troops; we're over $600 billion appropriated for this, lost 3,300 lives, 25,000 wounded fellow citizens. ... And the Iraqi answer? We're taking a summer off. Goin' fishing," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill.
Minister Saleh said nothing has been decided about the 2 month vacation for parliament, but he thinks Iraqi lawmakers may be willing to cut this vacation short by a month. Saleh stressed the importance Iraqis place on being independent, and that Iraqis do not take kindly to being told when, and how long, they can recess from parliament.
Democrats viewed these meeting as beneficial because they were able to vent their frustrations over the Iraq war directly to representatives of the Iraqi government.
Reid's spokesman Jim Manley said the senator told Saleh that "U.S. patience, blood and treasure were not unlimited and that the Congress would be taking a more decisive role in the coming weeks and months."
Minister Saleh said he did understand the point Senator Reid was making, and Saleh said he would deliver this message to the Iraqi cabinet on Monday.
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