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Lawmakers Offer Conflicting Assessments on Iraq

Republicans and Democrats in Congress continue to put forward conflicting assessments of the situation in Iraq. Lawmakers also considered a new report from the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office regarding reconstruction and other efforts.

Just back from their latest trip to Iraq, two Democratic senators used a news conference to underscore their view that the situation in Iraq is not improving.

Pointing to what he calls the primitive capacity of Iraqi government ministries to deliver essential services and security, Senator Jack Reed gives this assessment:

"Reality has disabused all but the most ideologically obsessed that our presence in Iraq would be non-contentious and that Iraq can be transformed spontaneously into an oasis of democracy and market economics which will, in turn, transform the region," said Jack Reed.

Senator Reed sites what he calls lagging training of Iraqi police and security forces, and slow progress in disbanding militias.

While impressed by the commitment of U.S. troops, Senator Joseph Biden says the success of their mission remains as he puts it, a prisoner to terrible and growing violence.

He echoes Senator Reed's observations, and reiterates concerns about the need for a political solution among Iraqis to end violence:

"In the absence of a political solution, Sunni insurgents are not going to stand down and the Shia militia violence won't stop," said Joseph Biden. "We have to cut this Gordian knot [difficult problem]. The Shia-led government has to take significant steps to bring the Sunnis in, and they have to move against the Shia militia and guarantee the Sunnis a share of the oil revenue. I know of no other way [that] you get from here to there.

House Majority Leader John Boehner told reporters Tuesday that while there are concerns about increasing violence, there is also optimism.

However, officials of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) testified to a congressional panel about a new report outlining key shortcomings hampering efforts to stabilize and rebuild Iraq.

GAO criticisms include inadequate U.S. planning and accountability in Iraq, along with waste, abuse and mismanagement in U.S. contracting.

David Walker, GAO and U.S. Comptroller General, summarizes one key point regarding the Bush administration's National Strategy for Victory in Iraq.

"It does not fully address how U.S. goals and objectives will be integrated with those of the Iraqi government and the overall international community, nor does it detail the Iraqi government's anticipated contribution to its future security and reconstruction needs," said David Walker.

Republican Congressman Christopher Shays says that while there have been mistakes, progress is being made.

"We made mistakes in our efforts to secure and rebuild the country," he said. "But we are correcting those mistakes and progress is being made. Yes, the task is difficult but that only reinforces the need to closely examine our roadmap for success."

Among other things, GAO official Walker told lawmakers Iraq will require continuing U.S. support in repairing its oil infrastructure if there is to be any hope for oil revenues supporting reconstruction.