The Democrats' plan to increase sectarian killing in Iraq
David Cloud and Michael Gordon:
The top military commander in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus, warned Thursday that an American troop pullback this fall would lead to an escalation in sectarian killings and worsening violence.The Democrats are thwarting our chance for victory by slowing funds needed for training Iraqis to help fight the war and by denying the time needed for victory. They see political advantage in doing things to bring about our defeat and they are aggressively going after that defeat. If by September when Petraeus reports on the progress of the surge and it is working the Democrats will probably be more disappointed than the enemy.
“My sense is that there would be an increase in sectarian violence, a resumption of sectarian violence, were the presence of our forces and Iraqi forces at that time to be reduced,” General Petraeus said at a Pentagon news conference.
His comments came just hours before the Senate approved a plan calling for beginning troop reductions in October at the latest, a measure that President Bush has pledged to veto. The House passed the plan on Wednesday.
In his comments on Thursday, as well as in private briefings to lawmakers a day earlier, according to one lawmaker who was involved, he talked about numerous obstacles to stabilizing the country, including evidence of new assistance going to Al Qaeda of Mesopotamia from outside Iraq and what he called “exceedingly unhelpful activities” by Iranian-backed Shiite militants.
American forces, he said, found evidence of this in a 22-page document on a computer seized during a raid last month that outlined details of a Jan. 20 attack on the provincial headquarters in Karbala in which five American soldiers were abducted and killed.
General Petraeus also said that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq lacked enough power to single-handedly push through measures sought by the United States that were aimed at easing tensions between Shiite and Sunni Arabs. In order to have any hope of results, the general said, pressure would be needed on factional leaders in the government and Parliament.
Though some Democrats in Congress have insisted in recent days that Iraq had grown so unstable that an American pullback would not greatly worsen the situation, General Petraeus disagreed.
“It can get much, much worse,” he said. “Right now it’s a good bit better, but again I am not trying in any way, shape or form to indicate that this is a satisfactory situation whatsoever.”
On the security issues, he cited progress in fielding more Iraqi forces, but called it a “work in progress.”
He said that sectarian killings had declined two-thirds from their level in January, in part because of construction of walls around some neighborhoods that had allowed security forces to maintain control of areas as they were cleared.
But he conceded that the overall violence had not subsided, and he warned that large-scale attacks using car bombs against markets and other locations filled with civilians could still occur and set off more Sunni and Shiite revenge killings.
Also worrisome, he said, was the continued evidence that Iran was providing support to Shiite militants.