Republicans threaten Iraq aid cut

Two Republican senators said Monday that unless Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki makes more political progress by January, the U.S. should consider pulling political or financial support for his government.

The stern warnings, coming from Sens. Lindsey Graham and Saxby Chambliss, are an indication that while GOP patience on the war has greatly increased this fall because of security gains made by the military, it isn’t bottomless.

“I do expect them to deliver,” Graham, R-S.C., said in a phone interview upon returning from a Thanksgiving trip to Iraq. “What would happen for me if there’s no progress on reconciliation after the first of the year, I would be looking at ways to invest our money into groups that can deliver.”

Chambliss, R-Ga., who traveled with Graham as part of a larger congressional delegation, said lawmakers might even call for al-Maliki’s ouster if Baghdad didn’t reach agreement on at least some of the major issues seen as key to tamping down sectarian violence.

“If we don’t see positive results by the end of the year I think you’ll probably see a strong message coming out of Congress calling for a change in administration,” he said in a conference call with reporters.

Republican support for the war is crucial, especially in the Senate where Democrats hold a narrow majority and routinely come up eight or so votes short when trying to pass anti-war legislation.

While GOP support stumbled this summer as voter opposition to the war grew, Republicans have since rallied behind President Bush’s Iraq policies because of a sharp reduction in violence largely credited to a buildup of 30,000 additional troops. U.S. combat deaths in Iraq stood at 38 last month, down from 126 in May, 101 in June and 65 in September.

Congressional Democrats contend the troop buildup is only a temporary fix and that security will deteriorate again after the military reduces its force levels, which it plans to do this year.

Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, has said he wants to withdraw the 30,000 additional forces by July 1.

Graham and Chambliss said the recent military gains are remarkable, but they agree with Democrats that the political progress has been disappointing. Graham, an early ally of Bush’s troop buildup, said he would lose confidence in al-Maliki’s government if it could not pass by January a law that would ease curbs on former Baathists from holding government jobs.

Noting the large amounts of reconstruction and other economic aid provided to the central government, Graham said that if progress remains stagnant U.S. might want to consider “putting our money into some of the provinces where they have reconciled.”

“There are no more excuses as far as I’m concerned not to achieve some benchmark success,” he said.

Both senators expressed optimism that Baghdad would rise to the challenge.

“Time will tell,” Chambliss said. “They have committed to doing everything they can,” he added.

On their trip to Iraq, Chambliss and Graham were joined by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and Utah’s Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman.


  1. Sandra Price

    Well, it seems as if the American people are making gains with our letters of complaint to our Republican Senators. Why could this not have been done several years ago?

    I think we must continue putting pressure on our Senators, House Members and Governors to get us out of Iraq before they tire of killing our soldiers and toss a big one at us.

    This was an unwinnable war from the beginning and BushCo must have known it. It simply directed our focus on the White House and it turned on them all.

    The House of Representatives knows they are history and the Senate is walking away from the mess. Was Cheney’s heart problem an excuse for Bush to appoint another V.P. that would then be a Candidate for POTUS in November? Has the GOP finally had their fill with Bush?

  2. Elmo

    Call me a cynic if you must, but I doubt that these Senators are being responsive to their constituents. As for Cheney leaving… the only thing I can see that would make that happen would be if Bush was going to nominate someone like Rudy G. to be Veep on condition that when Georgie pulls a Nixon, Rudy could pull a Ford.

  3. acf

    Saxby Chambliss says if the Iraqis don’t have serious positive political results by the end of next year, then Congress should come out with a strong message for a change in administration. Next year? That sounds to me more like political cover for Bush to last through the end of his term by staying the course, rather than heeding the results of the 2006 election and getting the hell out of there. For the hardcore right wing Republicans, it’s always been about some undefined ‘win’, and following Bush no matter what hole he drags them through.