Another veteran Republican senator Thursday broke with President George W. Bush over Iraq, days before a new war powers tussle was due to start in Congress.
New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici, a senator for more than three decades, up for reelection in 2008, was the third Republican elder statesman to publicly turn against the president’s troop ‘surge’ policy within 10 days.
“I am unwilling to continue our current strategy,” Domenici said at a news conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, blaming the Iraqi government for not making sufficient progress to merit the sacrifices of US troops.
“I do not support an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, or a reduction in funding for our troops,” Domenici said.
“But I do support a new strategy that will move our troops out of combat operations and on the path to coming home.”
Domenici signalled support for a bill introduced in the Senate that would implement the findings of the bi-partisan Iraq Study Group unveiled late last year.
The panel recommended a policy that would aim to get most US combat troops out of Iraq, with a target date for withdrawal of March 2008.
It said some US troops should remain in Iraq to train its new armed forces, protect US installations and conduct rapid reaction and special forces missions against terrorists.
On Tuesday, Bush warned that his strategy to surge up to 30,000 extra troops into Iraq, now reaching its peak, should be given a chance to succeed.
“If we were to quit Iraq before the job is done, the terrorists we are fighting would not declare victory and lay down their arms,” he told Air National Guard troops in West Virginia.
“They would follow us here, home. However difficult the fight is in Iraq, we must win it,” Bush said.
Last week, respected Republican senator Richard Lugar sent shock waves through Washington by taking to the floor of the Senate to argue that the “surge” policy was not likely to work.
Fellow Republican George Voinovich, meanwhile recommended a disengagement from Iraq.
Domenici’s remarks came days before members of Congress were due back in Washington after a week-long recess, with Democratic leaders girding for a new assault on Bush’s war policy.