A U.S. Senate panel is holding three days of hearings into Iraq this week. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee began the first hearing Monday with a look at security issues.
Amid continuing violence in Iraq, three experts offered suggestions on how best to respond to security challenges in that country.
Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution said U.S. policy is not adequately addressing the insurgency in Iraq.
He called for a strategy that would deprive insurgents of any popular support, first by securing a base of operations in one or two areas of the country, barring insurgents from these areas, and then gradually expanding the zones.
"When we concentrate our forces principally in that area or in those areas, (we) make them safe for the Iraqis, make them safe for Iraqi life to revive, the Iraqi economy to revive, for Iraqi political affairs to arrive at the local level," Mr. Pollack says. "We would use foot patrols, a general presence, an emphasis on law and order in these safe zones. We would then pour in economic resources into these safe zones to give the Iraqis tangible material benefits from our presence, to help them help their economy revive."
Under such a scenario, Mr. Pollack argued, Iraqis would reject the insurgents and embrace the counterinsurgency strategy.
But Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies said security is ultimately the responsibility of the Iraqi people, and he said the U.S. role should reflect that.
"It is by creating Iraqi forces, Iraqi politics, and Iraqi governance that (we) can establish security," Mr. Cordesman says.
Mr. Cordesman also expressed concerns about the possibility of civil war in Iraq. He said it is imperative that the Sunni Arab minority be involved in the political process in an effort to keep the country together.
"If this is to work in any form, there must be a political structure which is inclusive. We need to give as much effort as we can to help the Iraqis be inclusive, and put as much influence as we can on them to stay inclusive," he explains.
Sunni Arabs make up one-fifth of the Iraqi population. They dominated all aspects of society under ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and formed the core of Iraq's insurgency.
Sunni leaders persuaded many ordinary Sunnis to boycott January's election of a new National Assembly. But quite a few of those leaders now believe that was a mistake, as it helped rival Shi'ite Muslims and ethnic Kurds to win control of the new government, and they are calling on their followers to vote in the December 15 general elections.
Retired General Barry McCaffrey, who served in the Clinton administration, said Sunni-led governments in the region should be doing more to support Sunnis in a new Iraqi government, and questioned why they have not been more forthcoming.
"What we lack is (significant) political and economic support in the Arab world, and in particular, from Sunni Muslim governments. Where are the Egyptians, the Saudis, the Kuwaitis, to come in and tell this minority - 20 percent of Iraq, who are (responsible for) most of the violence we are facing, most of the political opposition - and for them to enter and say, 'okay, cooperate and we will back you up, but we want you to get into the government,' " Mr. McCaffrey says.
Mr. Pollack of the Brookings Institution suggested the United States could create a forum for such input from regional governments.
"We might create a constant contact group, in which all of Iraq's neighbors would be participating, along with the Iraqis and ourselves," Mr. Pollack says. "That would at least give them the opportunity to receive regular briefings on developments inside Iraq and give them a regular forum from which they could express their views."
The political process in Iraq will be the focus of Tuesday's Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.