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January 21, 2007

New Iraq Strategy Should Involve Alliance with Iran, Generals Tell Senate

Washington DC – At a Senate Foreign Relations hearing on January 18, 2007, three highly-decorated former military leaders testified in favor of a course in Iraq which would reject President George W. Bush’s plan to “surge” troop levels, and would involve opening dialogue with Iranian officials. Furthermore, Committee Chair Joseph R. Biden (D-DE) indicated that he would soon be introducing Senate legislation that would limit the President’s authority to take military action against Iran.

In opening remarks, Sen. Biden interpreted recent statements by the President on Iran and Syria as signaling a White House intention to confront those countries in the near future. Biden appeared to express bewilderment at a policy which he thought attempted to collaborate with Shiite leaders in Iraq while being belligerent toward Shiite Iran, and which wooed Sunni allies in the region, while planning to aggressively take on Sunni elements in Iraq. He pointed out that U.S. actions in regard to Iranian representatives in Iraq were at odds with the stated foreign policy stance of the Iraqi government.

Ranking minority committee member, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) said that he expected Congress to contemplate a non-binding resolution objecting to an Iraq troop increase, but called it “unlikely to influence what the administration does.” Lugar likened the “surge” plan to telling someone that your company is going into bankruptcy – so he should “buy more stock.”

Panelist Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey described the situation as “civil war almost since we went [into Iraq].” He opposed the addition of new troops in Baghdad, and favored dialogue with Iran, Syria and other neighbors in the region, saying that the Iraqi government should be taking the lead in such outreach efforts.

Gen. Joseph P. Hoar shared McCaffrey appraisal of conditions in Iraq and expressed support for the devising and discussion of alternate Iraq plans within Congress. He warned that an attack on Iran would constitute “the most significant blunder we will have committed since World War II” (an assessment recently advanced by committee panelist Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE)). Hoar said that Iran did not have the capability to attack the United States directly, but if attacked would direct its attention to states in the Persian Gulf – which would explain why U.S. “Patriot” missiles have been moved into the area.

Also critical of President Bush’s Iraq policy, Lt. Gen. William Odom cited contradictions in elements of the earlier Iraq War rationale: weapons of mass destruction (which he said are irrelevant, as they were never found), the overthrow of Saddam Hussein (which has been achieved), and establishment of a liberal democracy (which he did not believe was ever going to happen). He said we have instead created “a disaster,” one that has been largely to the benefit of both Iran (with the overthrow of Saddam and the elevation of Shiite politicians) and of Al Qaeda (which had the targeting of secular Arab leaders as a priority agenda item).

The withdrawal of U.S. troops, rather than being “a recipe for disaster, [is] a precondition for reframing a strategy for a campaign that is in U.S. interests,” Odom testified, adding that “the means used [by this administration] to ensure regional stability has in fact increased instability.” On the subject of a “nuclear Iran,” Odom said he “would not that strongly oppose [that outcome], if they became our ally.”

Of the four witnesses, only Gen. Keane was willing to give President Bush’s strategy a chance to work (he was reportedly consulted by the President as the plan was being developed), although he, too, seemed to regard its chances for success as slim.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) said that the generals’ testimony [at the hearing] was in “marked contrast to the lack of candor that we have had from witness after witness from this administration over the past six years…with the exception of Gen. Abizaid.”

Sen. Biden, who is conducting a series of hearings on Iraq, announced that the Iraq Study Group coauthors, former Rep. Lee Hamilton and former secretary of state James Baker, will be appearing before the committee for joint testimony on January 30. He also signaled an intention to sponsor legislation clarifying that the original congressional authorization for presidential power on Iraq was not intended to authorize any contemplated assault on Iran.

Further information on the witnesses is included below: Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, US Army Ret., president of B.R. McCaffrey Associates LLC and adjunct professor with the US Military Academy in Arlington, VA; he was also a White House drug policy “czar” [for a bio-sketch, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barry_McCaffrey ]

Gen. Joseph P. Hoar, US Marine Corps Ret., former commander-in-chief of the Central Command (the military’s coordination area in which Iraq, Iran and other countries of the Middle East and Central Asia are located) [for a recent article, see: http://www.larouchepub.com/other/interviews/2004/3120gen_joe_hoar.html ]

Lt. Gen. William E. Odom, former director of the National Security Agency, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute who also teaches at Yale University [for a recent article, see: www.niemanwatchdog.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=ask_this.view&askthisid=129 ]

Gen. Jack Keane, US Army Ret., former Army vice chief-of-staff, a member of then-secretary of defense Rumsfeld’s policy board and advisor to President Bush [for a recent interview on NPR: www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6594270 ]

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