US lawmakers are calling for greater international assistance for Iraq's interim government.
A chorus of U.S. senators, both Republican and Democrat, say, with an Iraqi interim government in place and the planned transfer of power just days away, now is the time for the international community to rally behind efforts to rebuild and secure Iraq.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist spoke on the U.S. television program Fox News Sunday. "It is time for the international community to step up and to aggressively come to the table [engage] with Iraq. I would like to see NATO come forward somewhat more aggressively," he said.
Mr. Frist's words were echoed by the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Joe Biden of Delaware. Mr. Biden spoke on ABC's This Week program after visiting Iraq days ago.
"Now it is time for NATO, particularly the French and the Germans, to step up to the ball [get involved]," added Mr. Biden. "They bled [complained] for years about how the [U.N.] embargo was doing such great damage to the Iraqi people. If they now refuse [Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad] Allawi's plea for additional help, then they are being irresponsible."
Earlier this month, French President Jacques Chirac expressed reservations about a U.S. proposal to expand NATO's role in Iraq. Mr. Chirac said NATO's involvement should increase only if Iraq's sovereign government asks for assistance. Sunday, Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi urged the international community to help train and equip Iraq's security forces.
Senator Biden says the international community as a whole will suffer if democracy fails in Iraq. "To trade [former Iraqi leader] Saddam [Hussein] for an ayatollah, to trade Saddam for a civil war, to trade Saddam for chaos in the region is not a very good bargain," he said. "The rest of the world has to understand that."
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham has also visited Iraq recently. He says that previous tensions between the United States and some of its allies over the initial decision to go to war in Iraq must be set aside.
"It was not a mistake to replace Saddam Hussein," he said. "But we [the United States] have made mistakes. We have underestimated how many people we need on the ground [in Iraq]. We have made it difficult, at times, to get international cooperation. But that is in the past. It is now time for NATO to help where NATO can."
Senator Graham added that there is much to be done in Iraq, including non-military tasks such as rebuilding and upgrading the country's infrastructure.