Two influential Senate Republicans are calling on President Bush to seek a new war authorization for U.S. military operations in Iraq. They are also urging him to draft contingency plans in Iraq and report them to Congress by October. VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.
The former chairmen of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Senators John Warner of Virginia and Richard Lugar of Indiana, respectively, offered their proposals in an amendment to a defense policy bill.
The amendment calls on President Bush to seek a new rationale for the war authorization by September, when the top U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, is to brief Congress on Iraq.
In remarks prepared for delivery next week, when the measure is to be debated, Lugar argues that many of the conditions and motivations that existed when Congress authorized the use of force against Iraq nearly five years ago no longer exist, or are irrelevant to the current situation.
The amendment also calls on the president to present Congress with contingency plans in Iraq by October 16. The measure says those plans, which would include a downsizing of U.S. combat forces, should begin by the end of the year.
Senator Lugar first proposed such a plan last month, when he publicly broke with President Bush on Iraq strategy in a speech on the Senate floor:
"Our security interests call for a downsizing and re-deployment of U.S. military forces to more sustainable positions in Iraq or the Middle East," he said. "Numerous locations for temporary or permanent military bases have been suggested, including Kuwait or other nearby states, the Kurdish territories, or defensible locations in Iraq outside of urban areas."
Senator Warner, too, has expressed concern about the president's strategy in Iraq, but he withheld proposing the amendment until after the Bush administration sent Congress an interim report on Iraq.
That report, released Thursday, says the Iraqi government has made progress on just eight of 18 political, military and economic benchmarks.
The Warner-Lugar amendment is one of several expected to be debated next week.
Another is one that calls for a U.S. combat troop withdrawal to begin 120 days after passage, and be completed by next April. Some troops would remain in Iraq to train Iraqi forces and fight terrorism.
The House of Representatives passed a similar measure Thursday, but prospects for Senate passage appear dim.
Supporters, who are overwhelmingly Democrats, say the measure would force Iraqis to make the compromises necessary to establish a unity government.
"It is clear that there is now a state of chaos in Iraq, and it is up to the Iraqi people to make themselves safe. We cannot do it. It is time that they took care of their own country," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat.
But Republican opponents say setting an arbitrary deadline for a troop pullout before stability is restored to Iraq would only spur more violence.
"If we leave Iraq before the Iraqis can maintain peace and stability, the kind of genocide and killing and terrorism that would ensue would be almost incalculable," Arizona Republican Senator Jon Kyl replied.
Republican Senate leaders are vowing to prevent the troop withdrawal proposal from coming to a vote. Supporters must get the 60 votes necessary in the 100-member chamber to overcome any effort to halt the legislation, and it appears they do not have the votes.
At the White House, spokesman Tony Snow says congressional efforts to set troop withdrawal deadlines amount to political posturing:
"A lot of this is trying to lay the groundwork for an election, keep throwing up resolutions and saying, you know, so and so voted against bringing our troops home," he said. "It is a political play."
President Bush is staunchly opposed to setting troop withdrawal deadlines.