The Iraq Accountability Project: A Wrap-Up of This Week's Senate Oversight on Iraq

Jan 19, 2007, 00:00 ET from Office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

    WASHINGTON, Jan. 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Following is a release
 from the Office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:
     As the 110th Congress moves forward, the Senate will continue to
 exercise its constitutionally mandated oversight role. The Senate hearings
 on Iraq this week demonstrate why congressional oversight is of such
 fundamental importance. Americans need clear answers on President Bush's
 Iraq doctrine. The American people demanded a change of course in Iraq.
 Congress intends to press President Bush to provide it.
     Thursday, January 18
     Senate Foreign Relations Committee: Securing America's Interests in
 Iraq: The Remaining Options, Military and Security Strategy
     General Barry McCaffrey (Ret.) warns of the growing crisis in Iraq.
     GEN. MCCAFFREY: " ... the situation in Iraq is perilous and growing
 worse. Thousands of Iraqis are killed each month; hundreds of thousands are
 refugees. The government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is largely
 dysfunctional. Our allies, including the brave and competent British are
 nearly gone."
     According to General Joseph P. Hoar, USMC (Ret.), the president's surge
 strategy is unlikely to succeed.
     GEN. HOAR: "The addition of 20,000 troops is too little too late. This
 is still not enough to quell the violence and without major changes in the
 command and control of forces within Baghdad, the current set-up of shared
 control is unsatisfactory."
     Lt. General William E. Odom, USA (Ret.), former director of the
 National Security Agency, believes the president's new strategy in Iraq is
     LT. GEN. ODOM: It is strategic error of monumental proportions to view
 the war as confined to Iraq. Yet this is the implicit assumption on which
 the president's new strategy is based. We have turned it into two wars that
 vastly exceed the borders of Iraq. First, there is the war against the U.S.
 occupation that draws both sympathy and material support from other Arab
 countries. Second, there is the Shiite-Sunni war, a sectarian conflict
 heretofore sublimated within the Arab world but that now has opened the
 door to Iranian influence in Iraq. In turn, it foreordains an expanding
 Iranian- Arab regional conflict. Any military proposals today that do not
 account for both larger wars, as well as the Iranian threat to the Arab
 states on the Persian Gulf, must be judged as wholly inadequate if not
     Wednesday, January 17
     Senate Foreign Relations Committee: Securing America's Interests in
 Iraq: The Remaining Options, Regional Diplomatic Strategy
     Ambassador Haas disagrees with the administration's refusal to directly
 engage Iran and Syria.
     SEN. BIDEN: [Secretary Rice] indicated that direct negotiations with
 Syria and Iran would be -- her words were, quote "puts us in a role of
 supplicant," end of quote, it would be, quote "extortion;" end of quote,
 not diplomacy. You've spoken to this. Can you tell me why there are those
 -- and because these are very bright and respected people -- why they would
 view it as extortion and/or us being a supplicant?
     AMBASSADOR HAAS: I always think negotiations have two real purposes.
 One is to potentially reach an agreement; the other is to clarify. If they
 don't succeed and if it turns out that Iran and Syria are being outrageous
 in their demands, then I think that can be quite useful for the secretary
 of State and others as they go about trying to build regional and global
 support for some sort of a sanction. So again, I don't understand -- let me
 put this way. I don't agree with the reluctance to negotiate, but I do
 believe it largely stems from an assessment that our relative position has
 worsened. Let me say one other thing very quickly. There's an irony here,
 because when our relative position was quite strong several years ago, we
 also refused to negotiate.
     Regional dialogue is important for achieving stability and moving
 toward a resolution of the conflict in Iraq.
     HAGEL: Where do we go from here?
     AMBASSADOR HAASS: Three things on the diplomatic side, again -- a
 regional forum I would support, again, modeled on the Afghan experience;
 American support, rather than resistance, to an Israeli-Syrian dialogue;
 and thirdly, I would favor unconditional bilateral talks with Iran.
     MR. NASR: I would say that a war that has changed the region -- and we
 all attest to that. Everybody in the region would say that this war has
 changed everything: the perception of one another, the calculus. How could
 that war be resolved without that region having to buy in? I mean, we
 almost want to recreate Iraq and put the Humpty Dumpty back without having
 anybody buying. And we, I think, we -- our focus has not been on a final
 solution that the region, all of Iraq's neighbors, would be willing to
 accept. We've constantly said, well, stability is in their interest. Yes it
 is, but if -- that they all agree on. Nobody wants chaos in Iraq. What they
 don't agree on is, what is the final shape of Iraq? And we have had no
 conversation, and they have had no conversation.
     MR. ROSS: Yeah. I would echo a lot of that. I would simply add that the
 easiest way for us to begin an engagement would be through a regional
 conference on Iraq.
     Professor Nasr says that the president's continued focus on a military
 solution, particularly in the absence of a political plan, is unlikely to
 achieve progress toward peace in Iraq.
     MR. NASR: Part of the problem with the surge is that there is a
 military solution here with no political plan to back it up. It would have
 been possible to assuage the fears of both sides if there was a new
 political plan that would have shown a road map to peace with, I think, a
 step-by-step about how the United States can actually get the two sides to
 make the compromises rather than just putting benchmarks at it.
     Professor Nasr does not believe that the Maliki government is ready to
 take the action necessary to achieve national reconciliation.
     MR. NASR: Nothing I have seen from the Maliki government in the past
 several months suggests that it can act independent of its core
 constituency or that it's willing to do so. I think it's more driven by
 survival within that coalition and it's more driven by the public opinion,
 which, unfortunately, is not right now in a conciliatory mood. And I think
 if we listen to, say, the statements of Maliki's partners in his own
 coalition, in his government, in the Parliament, not to say the mood in the
 street, it's far more sectarian and hard- line than what we hear from him.
     Ambassador Hass believes that the administration's policies in Iraq
 have undermined stability in the Middle East, emboldened Iran, and
 effectively weakened U.S. influence in the region.
     SEN. MENENDEZ: Ambassador Haass, let me ask you. I think I see a --
 sense you want to comment on that as well. But let me ask you one thing.
 One -- you said in recent article, quote "One thing is certain: the
 American era in the Middle East is over;" end quote. And then you went on
 to talk about -- the Iraq war more than anything else has caused this fall.
 Could you expand upon that for us and what that means?
     AMBASSADOR HAASS: What concerns me now is we have put a
 disproportionate share of our resources, broadly defined, in Iraq, which
 leaves us less resources to do other things. We've lost the principal
 counter to Iran, which was Iraq, so we've lost the local geopolitical
 balance. Iran, meanwhile, is feeling --- I guess the street expression is
 feeling that it's riding high thanks to relatively high energy costs, their
 strategic accomplishment this summer with Hezbollah, looking at the loss of
 the Taliban and what's happened in Iraq. So they're feeling strategically
 advantaged. And you add all this up, and it seems to me that we're entering
 an era where the Untied States has less resources that are discretionary
 available to make things happen, that Iran has dramatically improved its
 position, and many of the things that the United States would want to bring
 about in the Middle East we're simply unable to."
     Tuesday, January 16
     Senate Judiciary Committee: The Plight of Iraqi Refugees
     According to the United Nations, more than 3.5 million Iraqis have been
 internally displaced or have fled the country to countries in the region.
     "According to the High Commissioner for Refugees, 1.7 million people
 have been driven from their homes, up to 2 million have sought refuge in
 neighboring countries, at least 700,000 in Jordan, 600,000 in Syria, 80,000
 in Egypt, 54,000 in Iran, and 20,000 in Lebanon. . . . And more than 10
 percent of the people of Iraq are refugees. And we will see increasin[g]
 numbers as sectarian, ethnic and generalized violence continue unabated."
 (Testimony of Senator Edward Kennedy, supported by the testimony of Michael
 Gabaudan, Regional Representative for the U.S. and Caribbean Office of the
 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees)
     The UN High Commissioner for Refugees warns that Iraqi refugees will
 suffer if the strain on host countries in the region is not alleviated.
     While "host countries have been generous in receiving arriving Iraqis,
 effectively tolerating their presence for limited periods of stay. . . We
 are . . . increasingly concerned about reports of deportations and denial
 of access at the borders, and this reflects the strain that large refugee
 population have placed on host societies." (Testimony of Michael Gabaudan,
 Regional Representative for the U.S. and Caribbean Office of the United
 Nations High Commissioner for Refugees)
     The living conditions for Iraqi refugees are deteriorating.
     "Living conditions for refugees who remain in host countries are also
 deteriorating. Families have either depleted the resources that they
 brought with them or lacked resources to begin with. In the context, some
 women may be vulnerable to forced prostitution and young people to child
 labor. Some 30 percent of Iraqi children are not attending school, and
 access to health care is seriously limited." (Testimony of Michael
 Gabaudan, Regional Representative for the U.S. and Caribbean Office of the
 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees)
     The Iraq Study Group found that the United States bears a large part of
 the responsibility for the plight of Iraqi refugees.
     "Like other aspects of the war, we bear a heavy responsibility for [the
 refugees'] plight. As the Iraq Study Group states, events in Iraq have been
 set in motion by American decisions and actions. The study group concluded
 that if this refugee situation is not addressed, Iraq and the region could
 further be stabilized and the humanitarian suffering could be severe.
 America must respond." (Testimony of Senator Edward Kennedy)
     The United States has not admitted its fair share of Iraqi refugees,
 even those refugees who have helped us.
     "While other countries have accepted hundreds of thousands of Iraqi
 refugees, the United States has only admitted 466 refugees since the
 American invasion of Iraq in 2003. (Testimony of Ellen Sauerbrey, Assistant
 Secretary of State Population, Refugees and Migration, U.S. Department of
 State) Last year, "the United States admitted only 202 Iraqi refugees. A
 special immigrant visa program for U.S. military and Afghan translators
 currently has a six-year waiting list. . . . The answer, of course, is not
 to bring every Iraqi refugee to the United States, but we do have a special
 obligation to keep faith with the Iraqis who have bravely worked for us and
 often paid a terrible price for it, by providing them with safe refuge."
 (Testimony of Senator Edward Kennedy) As noted by Senator Leahy, "We should
 not repeat the tragic and immoral mistake from the Vietnam era and leave
 friends without a refuge and, of course, subject to very violent and often
 deadly reprisals." (Testimony of Senator Patrick Leahy)
     The United Nations has often given up on resettling Iraqis in the
 United States due to long delays.
     "[F]rom 2003 through 2006, UNHCR was compelled to direct most Iraqi
 referrals to other resettlement countries [instead of the United States]
 because many departures were long delayed and in some cases approved cases
 were actually never able to depart to the United States. . . . We trust
 that in the future these obstacles can be avoided and that the U.S.
 material support and related bars will not pose new barriers to the
 resettlement of Iraqi refugees." (Testimony of Michael Gabaudan, Regional
 Representative for the U.S. and Caribbean Office of the United Nations High
 Commissioner for Refugees)
     The wife of slain reporter Steven Vincent pleaded with the United
 States to increase aid to the refugee effort.
     "Because of our role in the conflict, I think we should consider
 doubling [our] contribution for Iraqi refugee, because fast action is
 what's going to save more lives. The host countries, particularly Jordan
 and Syria, need multilateral and bilateral assistance in shouldering the
 burden of the refugee population. This means programs to resettle the most
 vulnerable refugees to third countries and help in sharing the costs of
 those who stay. The worst outcome . . . would be to see Syria and Jordan
 close their borders to Iraqis. . . Iraqis who are unable to flee the
 country are now in a queue awaiting their turn to die." (Lisa
 Ramaci-Vincent, Executive Director, Steven Vincent Foundation)
     CONTACT: Jim Manley of the Office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid,

SOURCE Office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid