The top military commander and senior U.S. diplomat in Iraq told members of the Senate that the President's surge is implementing security conditions necessary for political reconciliation.
"The security has improved and that gives you an environment when you can proceed with political reconciliation," Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker told the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Monday morning. "They are starting to get the space to work on it."
Crocker’s assessment echoes President Bush’s hope that his January decision to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq would create "breathing room" for the Iraqi government to reconcile.
Army Gen. David H. Petraeus said stable security was a precondition for unity: “Political progress will only take place is sufficient security exists." He cited a decrease in violent attacks, an overall decrease in civilian casualties and willingness of Anbari Iraqis to fight with the Iraqi Security Forces as evidence of the surge’s success thus far.
Sen. Chuck Hagel (R.-Neb.), who announced he would be retiring from the Senate when his term expires in 2008, asked some of the most aggressive questions of the day. “The President said we were going to buy time! Time for what? There has been very little political progress, which is the core question,” Hagel said.
“Where is this going to go?” Hagel demanded.
“It is my judgment that Iraq completely unraveled in 2006 and in the beginning of 2007,” Crocker told him. “Under those conditions...[it was] impossible to proceed with effective government or effective reconciliation. It is just in those last few months that those measures of violence have come down.”
At one point, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D.-Calif.) told Petraeus and Crocker to “take off your rosy glasses” and take responsibility for the Iraq war, which she called the “the mother of all mistakes.” Because of time constraints, Petraeus and Crocker were only permitted to respond to her in writing after the hearing.
Sen. Barack Obama (D.-Ill.), who is pursuing the Democratic nomination for President, had seven minutes of question time but spent the majority of it making clear he was not satisfied with the performance of the surge.
Obama said, “We’ve set the bar so low that modest improvement...is considered a success. And it’s not. This continues to be a disastrous foreign policy mistake.”
He conceded “the surge had some impact” but “the impact has been relatively modest given the situation.”