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US Lawmakers Hear List Of Iraq’s Missed Political Reforms January 30, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Congress, Politics, US News.
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WASHINGTON (AP)–Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, while assuring senators Tuesday that the Bush administration expects Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to make political reforms, provided a list showing deadlines already missed.

Iraq has passed target dates to make laws establishing provincial elections, regulating distribution of the country’s oil wealth and reversing measures that have excluded many Sunnis from jobs and government positions because of Baath party membership, according to the list Rice provided.

The Iraq government had also agreed to approve a law governing political amnesty and the charged question of sectarian militias by Dec. 31 and to finish a review of the constitution, seen as unfair to minority Sunnis, by Wednesday.

The list was drafted by the al-Maliki government in September, Rice said in a letter to Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and John McCain, R-Ariz.

Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and McCain, the panel’s ranking member, said Rice’s letter lacked details and ignored a goal previously suggested by U.S. officials: that the Iraqis should be able to assume control of their provinces by November 2007.

“What Secretary Rice’s letter makes abundantly clear is that the administration does not intend to attach meaningful consequences for the Iraqis’ continuing to fail to meet their commitments,” the senators wrote. “What has been said before is still true: ‘America supplying more troops while Iraqi leaders simply supply more promises is not a recipe for success in Iraq.”‘

President Bush and al-Maliki have outlined some of the pledges in public addresses, but Levin and other senators said they had pressed the State Department for months to provide a comprehensive list.

The benchmarks for Iraqi political reform are a central pillar of Bush’s new strategy to turn around the unpopular war. He has said that he is relying on al-Maliki to reduce sectarian violence and make hard political choices, but has not spelled out the consequences if al-Maliki fails.

“The president has made clear to the prime minister and other Iraqi leaders that America’s commitment is not open-ended,” Rice wrote to Levin. “It is essential that the government of Iraq, with our help but its lead, set out measurable, achievable goals and objectives.”

Many in Congress have become openly skeptical that al-Maliki, a Shiite, has the political will or desire to contain the spiral of tit-for-tat Sunni-Shiite sectarian killings that has left Iraq at the doorstep of civil war.

Although the Iraqi parliament and Cabinet have done intermittent work on some elements of the list, including the symbolic oil law, it appeared that none of the targets have been fully met. The list spans September 2006 through March 2007.

Last week al-Maliki called on lawmakers to pass several items on the list, including the oil and de-Baathification laws.

Levin and McCain had written to Rice asking for a clarification of Bush’s Jan. 10 address on his new Iraq plan.

“America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced,” Bush said then. Levin has said it was not clear precisely which benchmarks Bush was referring to.

“It is essential that Congress have the information on those benchmarks to comprehensively consider as it addresses the way ahead in Iraq,” Levin and McCain wrote.

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