Thursday, August 09, 2007
Ranking Senate Democrat concedes surge is working
Looks like Dick Durbin just ruined his Christmas present from the Daily Kossack crowd :) http://www.nysun.com/article/60135 BY ELI LAKE - Staff Reporter of the Sun August 9, 2007 WASHINGTON — The no. 2 Democrat in the Senate — the assistant majority leader, Richard Durbin of Illinois — is conceding that the surge of American troops has led to military progress in Iraq. His comments make him the second Democratic leader in 10 days to make comments that could open the door for the majority party in Congress to pivot away from its insistence on a deadline for an American retreat. Speaking to CNN yesterday while visiting Baghdad, Mr. Durbin said, "We found that today as we went to a forward base in an area that, in the fifth year of the war, it's the first time we're putting troops on the ground to intercept Al Qaeda."Those words are a long way from a statement Mr. Durbin made on the floor of the Senate on May 16. Then, just before voting for an amendment to set a hard deadline for the withdrawal of troops, he said there was no hope for Iraq: "This morning, the White House announced that the president has finally found a general who will accept the responsibility for the execution of this war. Why did four generals before him refuse this assignment? Because those four generals know, the American people know, and this Senate knows that the administration's policy in Iraq has failed."While Mr. Durbin and Senator Casey, a Democrat of Pennsylvania, have acknowledged recent military progress, they were more pessimistic about political progress. They told CNN that they saw little evidence that the Iraqi parliament would soon reach a political compact between Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis.Their political pessimism was underscored yesterday when Prime Minister Maliki arrived in Tehran for meetings with President Ahmadinejad of Iran, and American jets began bombing Sadr City, a Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad named after the grandfather of a populist Iraqi cleric, Moqtada al Sadr. The campaign in Sadr City is part of a larger offensive planned for in the coming weeks that seeks to take the offensive to strongholds of Mr. Sadr's militia, the Mahdi Army, and to continue the fight against Iranian intelligence networks. American generals have accused those networks of providing terrorists with lethal roadside bombs capable of puncturing the bottom of most American Humvees. In light of the lack of progress on the political front, General David Petraeus is expected to make the case next month before Congress that the success of the military campaign against Al Qaeda and against Mr. Sadr's and Iran's networks will pay dividends politically down the road, but not in the near future. General Petraeus has consulted with a number of more moderate Democrats in and out of Congress, including Messrs. Durbin and Casey. Last week, Rep. James Clyburn, a Democrat of South Carolina who serves as House majority whip, said the "Blue Dog" caucus of more conservative Democrats in the House will reserve judgment on withdrawal legislation until hearing from General Petraeus. Also last week, the White House touted an opinion piece in the New York Times by two scholars at the Brookings Institution who are known for advising Democrats, Kenneth Pollack and Michael O'Hanlon.That op-ed argued that continuing the surge into next year could leave Iraq in far better shape than if the surge was ended prematurely because of votes in Congress. Despite the recognition from some Democrats that the military strategy is working, it may still not be enough to get them to vote against a hard deadline for withdrawal.Mr. Casey yesterday said that he supported the amendment last month from the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, to end the surge by April."I think they're the right votes and continue to be the right votes. We have to make sure that the diplomacy and the political work is done in Washington, as well as in Baghdad. What we're seeing now is the Iraqi government officials have left, we're seeing Sunni representatives have walked out and are boycotting. So the political work in Baghdad and Washington has yet to match the courage and the dedication of our troops. We haven't seen that yet," Mr. Casey said.Last month, a Sunni Islamist front known as Tawafuq withdrew its members from parliament in protest.Negotiations have started again to bring these Sunnis back into the Maliki government.