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White House snubs GOP Iraq plan

  • Story Highlights
  • White House rejects GOP call for new course in Iraq
  • Stephen Hadley: White House awaiting report from top U.S. commander
  • Bush ordered nearly 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq in January
  • Interim report on Iraq progress found only mixed progress toward meeting
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The White House on Sunday rejected a call by leading Republicans to begin charting a new course in Iraq, with National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley saying the administration would await a September report from the top U.S. commander.

The proposal, authored by senior GOP senators Richard Lugar and John Warner, is one of several under consideration as the Senate debates the Defense Department authorization bill for 2008. Hadley told CNN's "Late Edition" that their proposal contained "some interesting ideas," but the White House wasn't ready to support them.

"The Congress in May set out a schedule and a structure for that process of consideration, and it begins in September," he said. "It begins with some reports that will be prepared by the administration and from outside the administration."

Bush ordered nearly 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq in January, launching a campaign aimed at pacifying Baghdad and its surrounding provinces and buying time for Iraq's year-old government to reach a political settlement of the country's insurgent and sectarian warfare.

But an interim report on the progress of the war last week found the Iraqis had made only mixed progress toward meeting 18 political benchmarks set by Congress in May. A more detailed report by Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker is expected by mid-September.

Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Warner, the former chairman of the Armed Services Committee, have given pessimistic assessments of the current campaign and introduced a proposed amendment to the defense bill that would require the administration to come up with contingency plans, including a possible withdrawal, that could be set into motion by the end of the year.

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"There's nothing in the Warner-Lugar amendment that in any way dislodges this strategy from going forward through September," Warner told ABC's "This Week." However, it requires the White House to "be prepared," he said.

Added Lugar, "What we're looking for now are plans that are much more realistic, with the use of our troops in Iraq and the Middle East and worldwide."

The resolution also would declare "obsolete" the 2002 resolution that authorized the invasion of Iraq -- which the Bush administration said was necessary because Iraq had weapons of mass destruction it could have provided to terrorists. And it would push the administration to begin a diplomatic effort to settle the conflict, as the December report of the Iraq Study Group recommended.

"That we can do now," Lugar said. "We don't have to wait until the 15th of September and General Petraeus's report. I would hope that diplomacy would be very, very vigorous in the coming months."

The Senate's Republican minority has managed to block Democratic efforts to wind down the war on procedural votes, effectively filibustering any change in the administration's course. And in May, Bush vetoed a $120 billion-plus war spending bill that set a March 2008 target date for pulling U.S. combat troops out of the 4-year-old conflict.

Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott told CNN that the current U.S. campaign should be given more time to work.

"We gave them a mission. We've got men and women in there doing their job," Lott told CNN. "Let's at least give it a chance. Why are we back redebating this in July?"

But Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said the military is increasingly stretched by the war, which is costing the Treasury more than $2 billion a week.

"Frankly, I don't know anyone in the Pentagon who will say that they can maintain this war structure beyond April of next year," Reed said. "The reality here is that he has to recognize and we have to recognize that we do have to change missions because of the overall capacity of our military to sustain 160,000 troops."

Reid and Sen. Carl Levin, the current chairman of the Armed Services Committee, are trying to amend the defense bill to require American combat troops to start leaving Iraq within 120 days, leaving behind a force that would train Iraqi units, battle al Qaeda terrorists and protect other Americans in the country.

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Levin told "Fox News Sunday" that last week's report showed no progress on the most important issues facing the Iraqis, such as holding provincial elections, allocating the country's oil wealth and allowing former members of executed dictator Saddam Hussein's Baath Party to re-enter public life.

"They try to make it out in their own self-assessment that this is a glass which is half-full rather than it being half empty," he said. "As a matter of fact, this is a cup or a glass with a big hole in the bottom. This is not a half full, half empty issue." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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