Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Levin and Warner are back from Iraq, and they have a bleak assessment

Senators Levin and Warner, Chairman and former Chairman/ second ranking Republican member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, respectively, are back from Iraq, and they have a grim assessment of the situation there. So grim, in fact, that Levin openly called for the ouster of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kemal al-Maliki. "I hope the parliament will vote the Maliki government out of office and will have the wisdom to replace it with a less sectarian and more unifying prime minister and government," Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) told reporters upon his return from a three-day trip to Iraq and Jordan. He and ranking Republican member of the committee Sen. John W. Warner (Va) embarked on a hastily arranged trip to Iraq last Friday in advance of the report on the war due in less than four weeks after the Mighty Wurlitzer cranked up last week.

Via McClatchy:

In a joint statement, Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the committee's chairman, and John Warner, R-Va., the committee's senior Republican, said that while a surge of U.S. troops had tamped down violence in some parts of Baghdad, there was no sign of political reconciliation between Iraq's Sunni and Shiite rivals and "we are not optimistic about the prospects." They said U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker shared their views.

Levin later told reporters during a conference call from Tel Aviv that he believed the Iraqi parliament should replace Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki. "The Maliki government is nonfunctional and cannot produce a political settlement because it is too beholden to religious and sectarian leaders," Levin said.

Levin said he and Warner spent two hours with Army Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, but that Petraeus didn't say what he planned to recommend about U.S. Iraq policy in a much-anticipated report to Congress next month.

The Maliki government, still clung to desperately by Resident Evil as "the last chance for this government to solve the Iraqi political crisis" is on the verge of collapse. Enough cabinet members have withdrawn from the government that a quorum can not be reached by the cabinet to advance legislation to the parliament to be debated and voted on.

Levin’s statement is the strongest open condemnation of the Maliki attempt at governance yet by an American lawmaker.

al Maliki is a Shiite, and he spent many years in exile in Iran when Iraq was under the control of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, and indeed has a closer relationship with the Iranian government than the current occupant would prefer.

In recent days, al Maliki has been trying to conjure a summit with rival Sunni politicians and ethnic Kurdish officials in an attempt to come to compromise positions on several issues, including the Exxon Mobile Enrichment Act Oil Sharing Law.

Should he prove unable to bring the summit together in the coming days, Levin and Warner said, "[T]he Iraqi Council of Representatives and the Iraqi people need to judge the Government of Iraq's record and determine what actions should be taken -- consistent with the Iraqi Constitution -- to form a true unity government to meet those responsibilities."

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