McCain: A ‘last chance’ to reverse failure in Iraq

U.S. Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, said on Saturday he was preparing a resolution setting a series of targets for the Iraqi government as a “last chance” effort to reverse U.S. failure.

The Senate resolution would set benchmarks for the Iraqi government to defuse the escalating conflict and create the conditions for a U.S. withdrawal, McCain said at a briefing at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

It calls on the Iraqi government to hold provincial elections, pursue and punish criminal acts, and spend down a $10 billion reconstruction fund designed to provide basic services and education in Iraq.

“I cannot guarantee success but I can guarantee the consequences of failure,” said McCain, an outspoken member of the Senate Armed Services Committee who supports President George W. Bush’s plan to sent 21,500 troops to Iraq. “This is our last chance in many respects.”

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted this week to approve a resolution opposing Bush’s plan to send more troops to Iraq to restore order. The Senate is expected to take it up next week, and Democratic leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives say they will follow suit. The resolutions in both houses of Congress are non-binding.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and member of the committee, voiced his support for the McCain resolution at the Davos briefing.

“Economically, we’re going to try to hit the economy hard to make it less likely for the militias to prey on people without jobs,” he said.

McCain reiterated his support for Bush’s plan to send additional troops to Iraq and said he knew the proposal, which has drawn wide criticism, might hurt his possible 2008 presidential bid. “I’m very aware of that and I’m not worried about it,” he said.

It would take three to six months after the deployment of the new troops, which is possible in May, to know whether the Iraqi government was making progress in meeting the benchmarks, McCain said.

“It’s taken us four years to get into this debacle and it’s going to take some time to get us out,” he said.

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