Senators talk tough with Iraq

A delegation of U.S. senators said told Iraqi leaders this weekend that American patience was running thin over the war in Iraq.

After meeting with Iraqi politicians, Senator John McCain of Arizona said he was guardedly optimistic that postwar Iraq’s first full term government would be formed “in weeks”.

Washington has been pressing Iraqi politicians to reach agreement but there are no signs that the political paralysis will be broken soon, raising fears that the vacuum will fuel insurgent violence.

“We read the polls and we know that the American people have grown frustrated and we also know the stakes are very high. Success is vital,” McCain told a news conference.

McCain, a Republican, said Americans must be informed of tough realities on the ground in Iraq, where sectarian violence has exploded since the bombing of a Shi’ite shrine a month ago pushed the country to the brink of civil war.

“We all acknowledge, particularly after visiting here, that this is a very long, tough enterprise and challenge that we are facing and I think the best way to treat it is to tell the American people exactly that,” McCain told reporters.

“We all know that the polls show declining support amongst the American people,” he said.

The United States hopes Iraqi troops will improve their performance against rebels and enable an American troop withdrawal.

But the Iraqi army, security forces and police are still struggling three years after the U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein.

“All of us would like to find an easy way out,” said McCain, who noted there has been an increase in Iraqi casualties.

Some senators in the delegation questioned the wisdom of a continued U.S. military presence in Iraq.

Sen. Russ Feingold, a Democrat from Wisconsin, said it would only fuel the insurgency.

But McCain said a premature pullout would result in an American foreign policy failure with dire consequences.

U.S. forces have launched major offensives against insurgents but have failed to have much effect on the guerrilla violence which has killed thousands of American soldiers, Iraqi security forces and civilians.

Bodies with bullet holes which show signs of torture show up nearly every day in Baghdad, apparent victims of a sectarian “dirty war” that has been gaining pace in the political vacuum left by deeply divided Iraqi politicians.

Alabama Governor Bob Riley, a Republican, expressed concern over poor services in Iraq, a major oil producer that has been hurt by rebel bombings of crude pipelines.

“One reason to focus on water, sewage and oil production, is it’s hard to have a functioning government without all of these parts.”