Rice's Testimony on Iraq Strategy
I have previously posted the Dr. Rice remarks before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee explaining the U.S. strategy on Iraq. Here is the New York Times report on the entire hearing including Dr. Rice's key answers:
Rice, in Testy Hearing, Cites Progress in Iraq
New York Times
By STEVEN R. WEISMAN
WASHINGTON, Oct. 19 - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, facing tough questions about Iraq from Republican and Democratic senators, asserted that progress was being made in securing the country but declined to predict when American forces could withdraw or to rule out widening the war to Syria.
In three and a half hours of hearings at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Ms. Rice was both conciliatory and combative, rebutting the gloomy assessments from senators of both parties but at the end offering a weary concession to Senator Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois.
"I understand that, yes, it might not work," Ms. Rice told Mr. Obama, referring to American plans to raise the effectiveness of Iraqi forces and heal Iraq's fractious society. "But every day we have to get up and work at our hardest to make it work."
It was a day that echoed the anguish, anger and skepticism that opinion polls show have begun to dominate the thinking of Americans. The hearing was punctuated by a heckler who called for an end to the war, only to be hustled out. There were also a few glimmerings of a change in the administration's tone on a few subjects.
For example, Ms. Rice said for the first time that the American ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, had the "flexibility" to reach out to Iranian envoys to discuss the problem of insurgents entering Iraq from Iranian territory and other matters related to the stability of the country. Such contacts have been forbidden for the last couple years.
"We're considering whether that might be useful," she said of such contacts.
There were also hints in her testimony of mounting American impatience with countries around the world unwilling to support Iraq financially and politically, and the unwillingness of Saudi Arabia and other Sunni-dominated Arab countries to do more to encourage Iraqi Sunnis to work with Shiites.
The Iraqi government also did not escape criticism for its troubles unifying the country and for not working with other governments. She said Iraqis "must continue to come together in order to build their nation" and that the government "must forge a more effective partnership with foreign governments."
"I have said our strategy is to clear, hold and build," Ms. Rice said. "The enemy's strategy is to infect, terrorize and pull down." She explained that this meant efforts to clear out insurgents' sanctuaries, occupy these areas with Iraqi and other forces and build a political consensus while reconstructing the country.
Led by Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware, all eight Democrats on the committee expressed doubts about administration goals, as did most of the six Republicans at the hearing. Senators Mel Martinez, Republican of Florida, and George Allen, Republican of Virginia, offered the most extensive praise for the administration on its handling of Iraq.
Several Democrats pressed Ms. Rice to set some kind of timetable for withdrawing troops, and Senator Richard G. Lugar, Republican of Indiana and chairman of the committee, said that even though withdrawal timelines were "unwise," Americans "need to more fully understand the basis upon which our troops are likely to come home."
But Ms. Rice said troop withdrawals had to be based on results, not arbitrary timetables. She declined a request by Senator Paul S. Sarbanes, Democrat of Maryland, to say whether American troops could be pulled out in 10 years, saying it was "not appropriate" to "try and speculate" about such matters.
Later she told Senator Russell D. Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, she had "no doubt" that as Iraqi forces got better at holding territory "we are going to be able to bring down the levels of our forces," and said she had "no doubt that that's going to happen in a reasonable time frame."
Ms. Rice was also peppered with questions about possible expansion of the fighting to Syria and Iran, especially after she said both countries had to decide whether they were on the side of war or peace in Iraq.
Asked about news reports that fighting on the border could spread to Syria, Ms. Rice repeatedly indicated that no options were being ruled out. When Senator Lincoln Chafee, Republican of Rhode Island, asked whether President Bush would seek Congressional approval for a military action against Syria, she declined to say anything to "circumscribe" his powers as commander in chief.
Even those Republican senators who said they believed that the Iraq war was going well expressed dismay, saying other countries were not doing their share. Ms. Rice said $13.5 billion had been pledged in aid from other countries but did not dispute a suggestion that only about $3 billion had been disbursed, partly because of security problems.
Ms. Rice offered a cutting comment about Saudi Arabia, which administration officials say has not come forward with aid or debt relief commensurate to its wealth.
Asked by Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, about the recent comments of the Saudi foreign minister, Saud al-Faisal, that Iraq was disintegrating, she said: "I really think that the proper role for Saudi Arabia or for any other country in the region is to help them, not critique them. And I've made that point very clear to countries in the region."
Administration officials say Ms. Rice was incensed by Prince Saud's comment last month.