Thursday, May 10, 2007

Worried Republicans Vent Iraq Concerns To Bush

The gradual -- though at times, fitful -- attenuation of the Republican party as a result of the self-inflicted Iraq disaster, has become so troubling to some House GOP members that they made a visit Tuesday afternoon to try to play upon any residual sympathies President Bush may have for his unfortunate confreres.

The House members pressed Bush and Gates hard for a "Plan B" if the current troop increase fails to quell the violence and push along political reconciliation. (Rep. Tom) Davis (VA) said that administration officials convinced him there are contingency plans, but that the president declined to offer details, saying that if he announced his backup plan, the world would shift its focus to that contingency, leaving the current strategy no time to succeed.

Davis, a former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, also presented Bush dismal polling figures to dramatize just how perilous the party's position is, participants said. Davis would not disclose details, saying the exchange was private. Others warned Bush that his personal credibility on the war is all but gone.

Snow, who sat in on the meeting in the president's private quarters, said it should not be overdramatized or seen as another "marching up to Nixon," a reference to the critical moment during Watergate in 1974 when key congressional Republicans went to the White House to tell President Richard M. Nixon that it was time to resign.

"This is not one of those great cresting moments when party discontents are coming in to read the president the riot act," he said. But Snow acknowledged that the meeting included some blunt, if respectful, discussion.

Davis stressed that Republicans will remain united against the Democratic bill in the House today. But the search for an exit is almost inevitable. "The key for everybody is to try to find a way to declare victory and get out of there," he said.

This will come as a surprise to the Iraqi National Security Advisor, who happens to be visiting Washington.

In a sign of growing tensions between Washington and Baghdad, Iraqi national security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie said yesterday that the United States needs to give Iraq more "time and space" to take pivotal military and political steps and to stop making plans based on "the Washington clock."

Although U.S. troops could eventually redeploy to forward bases in Iraq and the region, he said, a U.S. presence will be needed until Iraq builds not just an army, but also an air force and a navy, which could take decades.

"We will need coalition forces for the foreseeable future," he said in an interview with editors and reporters at The Washington Post. "Building an air force to own our air and to be able to defend Iraq cannot be done overnight, or in months. It will take decades to build an air force and to build a navy." He added: "People are trying to fit or to sync the Iraqi clock to the Washington clock, and this is all about Iraq. This is not about Washington. We need to sync the Washington clock to the Baghdad clock."

Rubaie is one of several senior Iraqi officials now in Washington or expected soon as part of Baghdad's campaign to get Democratic lawmakers to ease the pressure on the White House to have a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. But Rubaie's trip has only accentuated the differences between the Democratic-controlled Congress and Baghdad -- and the increasing dispute over a timeline for the U.S. military presence.

<< Home