Democrats come up with new Iraq plan

Rep. Steny Hower (AFP)

Democrats sparked a new skirmish with President George W. Bush over Iraq Tuesday, with a plan to bankroll the unpopular war for just three months with an option to cut off funds in July.

The latest move in a titanic struggle over ending US involvement in Iraq came a week after Bush vetoed a Democratic bid to condition future financing for the four-year-old conflict on a timeline for troop withdrawals.

As new vitriol over the war rattled Washington, Democratic leaders in Congress also latched onto first signs of Republican impatience over Bush's surge of nearly 30,000 troops into Iraq.

But the White House hit back that the Democratic view of the war appeared as steeped in fantasy as the "Wizard of Oz" movie, and Bush backers accused them of treating combat troops like children waiting for pocket money.

Top Democrats in the House of Representatives said a vote on a new war budget to send back to Bush could come as soon as Thursday.

They said the bill would fund operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for three months, but "fence off" around 40 billion dollars of funding until Bush reported progress in Iraq, where 3,375 US soldiers have died.

"You get three months of funding, the balance would be fenced subject to the report," Democratic House leader Steny Hoyer told reporters, adding the first tranche of funding would take operations through August.

Congress would vote again on freeing up the remaining war funding in July, upon receiving a progress report on development, quelling sectarian violence and other key goals.

Should it block the funds, troop withdrawals would begin within 180 days, Hoyer said.

But even if the new war budget goes to a vote this week, it appears unlikely a split-funding bid would squeeze through the more closely divided Senate.

"It's possible to get something in the House side that can be done only with Democrats," said Senate majority leader Harry Reid.

"I can't just jam something with Democrats, as much as I'd like to."

House and Senate versions of the bill must be merged before Bush is asked to sign it into law, Democratic leaders hope, at the end of May.

The White House reacted angrily, branding the new plan bad management and a "stop-and-start measure" and House Republican leader John Boehner said the plan was tantamount to treating US troops in the field like "children who are getting a monthly allowance."

Democrats are determined to bring US troops home from Iraq, but have been loath to use their constitutional power to cut funding for military operations, fearing being portrayed as deserting troops who are under fire.

New wrangling over the war came as the Pentagon announced that 10 US combat brigades with 35,000 troops had been ordered to Iraq later this year, enough to sustain a "surge" in forces through 2007 if necessary.

Decisions have not been made on future force levels, but the deployment orders will make it possible to sustain up to 20 combat brigades in Iraq through the end of the year, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

Democrats meanwhile tried to exploit signs of an expiry date on Republican patience on the surge strategy.

Boehner caused a stir on Sunday by saying his congressional colleagues needed to see progress in the surge by mid-to-late this year.

"By the time we get to September, October, members are going to want to know how well this is working, and if it isn't, what's Plan B?" Boehner said on Fox News.

September is emerging as a key date for Iraq strategy, as it is then that General David Petraeus, commander of the 146,000 US troops in the country, is expected to assess the surge's progress.

Democrats seized on Boehner's remarks to claim cracks were opening in Republican support for the administration.

"It's obvious they also believe that there must be a change of course in the war in Iraq," Reid said.

The White House dismissed the idea of a firm deadline for a decision on whether to rejig Iraq policy.

"Please avoid the idea that Iraq is like Oz and one day it's going to be black and white and the next day you're going to wake up and it's color," Snow said.

The Democratic-led Senate Select Committee on Intelligence meanwhile said it had completed a long awaited report on the accuracy of pre-war intelligence forecasts on the post-invasion situation in Iraq.

The report will be made public when security services have vetted it for intelligence secrets.


  1. gene

    Please excuse me when I say F**K the white house and all the butt sucking, lieing, murdereous asskissing Bush lovers. Who gives a shit what they think. We know the truth, Bush is a lier, coward and murderer.

    At least the dems are starting to fight. I am sick of this fabricated (war?) as many other are.

  2. Rick Fuller

    Very clever game-plan. The Federal fiscal year begins October 1st. This game-plan would set new priorities, like withdrawal for the fiscal year 2008.

    I’m sure Karl Rove HATES Nancy Pelosi right now!

  3. lydiahowell

    Lydia Howell, independent journalist Minneapolis,MN

    It’s odd that U.S. corporate media did NOT feel that the exercise of democracy in Iraq’s Parliment, with a clear majority voting on Tues.May 8th,FOR a TIMELINE OF WITHDRAWAL OF U.S. TROOPS TO LEAVE Iraq, was NOT considered news-worthy..It’s a failure of the most basic journalistic principles to CENSOR this news. The facts are below.
    Lydia Howell, Minneapolis,MN

    FROM ARTICLE:”{On Tue.MAY 8th] MORE THAN HALF of the members of Iraq’s parliament REJECTED THE CONTINUING OCCUPATION of their country. 144 lawmakers signed onto a legislative petition calling on the United States to set a timetable for withdrawal…According to a poll by the
    University of Maryland’s Project on International Public Policy Attitudes, MAJORITIES of all three of Iraq’s major ethno-sectarian groups support a unified Iraq with a strong central government. For at least two years, poll after poll has shown that LARGE MAJORITIES of
    Iraqis of all ethnicities and sects WANT THE UNITED STATES TO SET A TIMELINE FOR WITHDRAWAL, even though (in the case of Baghdad residents), they expect the security situation to deteriorate in the short term as a result…” (emphasis ADDED)

    Majority of Iraqi Lawmakers Now Reject Occupation

    By Raed Jarrar and Joshua Holland, AlterNet. Posted May 9, 2007.

    More than half of the members of Iraq’s parliament rejected for the first time on Tuesday the continuing occupation of their country. The U.S. media ignored the story.

    On Tuesday, without note in the U.S. media, more than half of the members of Iraq’s parliament rejected the continuing occupation of their country. 144 lawmakers signed onto a legislative petition calling on the
    United States to set a timetable for withdrawal, according to Nassar Al-Rubaie, a spokesman for the Al Sadr movement, the nationalist Shia group that sponsored the petition.

    It’s a hugely significant development. Lawmakers demanding an end to the occupation now have the upper hand in the Iraqi legislature for the first time; previous attempts at a similar resolution fell just short of the 138 votes needed to pass (there are 275 members of the Iraqi parliament, but many have fled the country’s civil conflict, and at times it’s been difficult to arrive at a quorum).

    Reached by phone in Baghdad on Tuesday, Al-Rubaie said that he would present the petition, which is nonbinding, to the speaker of the Iraqi parliament and demand that a binding measure be put to a vote. Under Iraqi law, the speaker must present a resolution that’s called for by a
    majority of lawmakers, but there are significant loopholes and what will happen next is unclear.

    What is clear is that while the U.S. Congress dickers over timelines and benchmarks, Baghdad faces a major political showdown of its own. The major schism in Iraqi politics is not between Sunni and Shia or supporters of the Iraqi government and “anti-government forces,” nor is
    it a clash of “moderates” against “radicals”; the defining battle for Iraq at the political level today is between nationalists trying to hold the Iraqi state together and separatists backed, so far, by the United
    States and Britain.

    The continuing occupation of Iraq and the allocation of Iraq’s resources– especially its massive oil and natural gas deposits — are the defining issues that now separate an increasingly restless bloc of nationalists in the Iraqi parliament from the administration of Iraqi
    Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose government is dominated by Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish separatists.

    By “separatists,” we mean groups who oppose a unified Iraq with a strong central government; key figures like Maliki of the Dawa party, Shia leader Abdul Aziz Al-Hakeem of the Supreme Council for the Islamic
    Revolution in Iraq (“SCIRI”), Vice President Tariq Al-Hashimi of the Sunni Islamic Party, President Jalal Talabani — a Kurd — and Masoud Barzani, president of the Kurdish Autonomous Region, favor partitioning
    Iraq into three autonomous regions with strong local governments and a weak central administration in Baghdad. (The partition plan is also favored by several congressional Democrats, notably Sen. Joe Biden of

    Iraq’s separatists also oppose setting a timetable for ending the U.S. occupation, preferring the addition of more American troops to secure their regime. They favor privatizing Iraq’s oil and gas and decentralizing petroleum operations and revenue distribution.

    But public opinion is squarely with Iraq’s nationalists. According to a poll by the University of Maryland’s Project on International Public Policy Attitudes, majorities of all three of Iraq’s major ethno-sectarian groups support a unified Iraq with a strong central
    government. For at least two years, poll after poll has shown that large majorities of Iraqis of all ethnicities and sects want the United States to set a timeline for withdrawal, even though (in the case of Baghdad
    residents), they expect the security situation to deteriorate in the short term as a result.

    That’s nationalism, and it remains the central if unreported motivation for many Iraqis, both within the nascent government and on the streets.

    While sectarian fighting at the neighborhood and community level has made life unlivable for millions of Iraqis, Iraqi nationalism — portrayed as a fiction by supporters of the invasion — supercedes
    sectarian loyalties at the political level. A group of secular, Sunni and Shia nationalists have long voted together on key issues, but so far have failed to join forces under a single banner.

    hat may be changing. Reached by phone last week, nationalist leader Saleh Al-Mutlaq, of the National Dialogue Front, said, “We’re doing our
    best to form this united front and announce it within the next few weeks.” The faction would have sufficient votes to block any measure proposed by the Maliki government. Asked about the Americans’ reaction to the growing power of the nationalists, Mutlaq said, “We’re trying our
    best to reach out to the U.S. side, but to no avail.”

    That appears to be a trend. Iraqi nationalists have attempted again and again to forge relationships with members of Congress, the State Department, the Pentagon and the White House but have found little
    interest in dialogue and no support. Instead, key nationalists like al-Sadr have been branded as “extremists,” “thugs” and “criminals.”

    That’s a tragic missed opportunity; the nationalists are likely Iraq’s best hope for real and lasting reconciliation among the country’s warring factions. They are the only significant political force focused
    on rebuilding a sovereign, united and independent Iraq without sectarian and ethnic tensions or foreign meddling — from either the West or Iran.Hassan Al-Shammari, the head of Al-Fadhila bloc in the Iraqi parliament,
    said this week, “We have a peace plan, and we’re trying to work with other nationalist Iraqis to end the U.S. and Iranian interventions, but we’re under daily attacks and there’s huge pressure to destroy our peace mission.”

    A sovereign and unified Iraq, free of sectarian violence, is what George Bush and Tony Blair claim they want most. The most likely reason that the United States and Britain have rebuffed those Iraqi nationalists who
    share those goals is that the nationalists oppose permanent basing rights and the privatization of Iraq’s oil sector. The administration, along with their allies in Big Oil, has pressed the Iraqi government to
    adopt an oil law that would give foreign multinationals a much higher rate of return than they enjoy in other major oil producing countries and would lock in their control over what George Bush called Iraq’s “patrimony” for decades.

    Al-Shammari said this week: “We’re afraid the U.S. will make us pass this new oil law through intimidation and threatening. We don’t want it to pass, and we know it’ll make things worse, but we’re afraid to rise up and block it, because we don’t want to be bombed and arrested the
    next day.” In the Basrah province, where his Al-Fadhila party dominates the local government, Al-Shammari’s fellow nationalists have been attacked repeatedly by separatists for weeks, while British troops in
    the area remained in their barracks.

    The nationalists in parliament will now press their demands for withdrawal. At the same time, the emerging nationalist bloc is holding hearings in which officials from the defense and interior ministries
    have been grilled about just what impediments to building a functional security force remain and when the Iraqi police and military will be able to take over from foreign troops. Both ministries are believed to
    be heavily infiltrated by both nationalist (al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army) and separatist militias (the pro-Iranian Badr Brigade).

    The coming weeks and months will be crucial to Iraq’s future. The United States, in pushing for more aggressive moves against Iraqi nationalists
    and the passage of a final oil law, is playing a dangerous game. Iraqi nationalists reached in Baghdad this week say they are beginning to lose
    hope of achieving anything through the political process because both the Iraqi government and the occupation authorities are systematically bypassing the Iraqi parliament where they’re in the majority. If they
    end up quitting the political process entirely, that will leave little choice but to oppose the occupation by violent means.

    Raed Jarrar is Iraq Consultant to the American Friends Service Committee. He blogs at Raed in the Middle East.

  4. Ardie

    Come on, let’s settle this once and for all. Let the Iraqis hold a referendum. Put to the Iraqi voter the following question: “I want the U.S. to stay in Iraq to steal my oil and act as a poster boy for Al-Qaeda.” If the majority vote “yes”, then we stay. If not we pack up and leave.

  5. gene

    What will be the actual outcome of this political and theological mess. First without nuking Iraq, GIs will eventually be withdrawn. Secondly, Iraqis will continue to distrust each other according to their particular theology. I dare say that the potential for the country to be split into different theological/political entities is certainly a possibility.

  6. Calliet

    At tbis time next year, voters will be so disgusted with the Repubs and their war, that Bush’s approval rating will be even lower than it is now. Remember how pissed the Pubs were over Rummy NOT getting fired BEFORE last year’s election? They will remember that next year and the White House will get a good cleaning before next year’s election.

    The next elected president won’t be Republican. It is a long time until the election and things will get worse again. Look for violence to spike again in Iraq AND Baghdad before the end of the summer.


  7. SEAL

    Lydiahowell – thanks for posting that. It’s what I and others have been saying in bits and pieces for some time. That article lays all of it out perfectly to the conclusion that Bushco does exactly the opposite of what it says. They have deliberately created this civil war and support the side [they placed in power] that will give them the oil and the permanet bases. However, they will lose. As more and more Iraqis become aware of the Bushco plan the resistance will grow until they are powerful enough to win. Right now, some very brave Iraqis are putting their lives on the line to expose the plan.

    Actually, they already are winning. The American voters have grown tired and aware of the lies. They want an end to our occupation. Congress is responding to that pressure. Republican moderates are applying pressure to Bush because they see their own careers going down the tubes by continuing to support him. Bush has already declared he will veto the new so-called compromise bill. He is committed to a showdown. There will be no compromise.

    I suspect this bill was deliberately created for another veto giving the democrats a “well, we tried to get along” position before pulling the plug. For them it is imperative that the blame goes to Bush so they cannot be the ones not supporting the troops. They have to always offer the funds to support the troops on their way home.

    Gates has come to front as the primary spokesman with all the arguments for continuing. Cheney made a not so surprise visit to his puppet Iraqi leader and I would bet the farm he threatened him to do whatever is necessary to make it appear the surge plan is working or else. He may have told him what to do. They know that if they cannot do that by August they will lose and be forced to withdraw which means the puppet leaders will also lose.

    This is going to be a very tense time for us because, I for one, fully expect them to resort to something drastic if the surge does not show significant enough results to keep them there. Cheney is the hired gun of this bunch. When he goes over there it’s to lay it out to Iraq first followed by clueing in the rest of the neighbors or forcing their support. The only question, in my mind, is what is he cooking up this time.