Iraq Surge a Failure, Top Democrats Tell Bush

Agence France-Presse

Wednesday 13 June 2007

Top US congressional Democrats bluntly told President George W. Bush Wednesday that his Iraq troop "surge" policy was a failure, as the Pentagon submitted a report saying early results of the strategy were mixed.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (news, bio, voting record) and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi (news, bio, voting record) challenged the president over Iraq by sending him a letter ahead of a White House meeting later on Wednesday.

The Pentagon report, delivered to Congress, is a quarterly report on progress on the war in Iraq mandated by law.

The escalation "has failed to produce the intended results," Reid and Pelosi wrote, saying that the larger US force "has had little impact in curbing the violence or fostering political reconciliation.

"It has not enhanced Americas national security. The unsettling reality is that instances of violence against Iraqis remain high and attacks on US forces have increased.

"In fact, the last two months of the war were the deadliest to date for US troops."

The letter appeared to preview a fresh showdown over Iraq between anti-war Democrats and the president, just a few weeks after Bush forced his foes to strip troop withdrawal timelines from a 100 billion dollar emergency war budget.

Pelosi and Reid also told Bush that they planned to send him new legislation to "limit the US mission in Iraq, begin the phased redeployment of US forces, and bring the war to a responsible end."

The Pentagon report submitted to lawmakers, which covers the period between February and May 2007, said the surge was "a greatly increased effort to secure turbulent areas to give Iraqis political space to implement reforms and pursue reconciliation among competing factions."

It added: "It is too soon to assess results.

"Positive indicators include a decrease in civilian murders and sectarian violence in Baghdad and in total attacks in (the Sunni-majority) Anbar province, while negative indicators include the rise of high-profile attacks and expanded use of explosively formed projectiles."

The report says that reconciliation among the Iraq's diverse factions "remains a serious unfulfilled objective," while oil production, the country's "principal economic driver ... is not growing and remained at about the same levels as during this period in 2006 due to poor infrastructure and inadequate security."

The report and the letter comes just days after the US military mourned its 3,500th soldier killed in action in Iraq and amid more bloodshed in Iraq.

Suspected Al-Qaeda militants on Wednesday blew up the two minarets of a revered Shiite shrine in the Iraqi town of Samarra, 15 months after a first bombing sparked brutal sectarian killings.

The bombing threatens to spark another surge in sectarian violence that could doom US efforts in Iraq.

On Tuesday, Reid said that Senate Democrats would attach troop withdrawal deadlines to a Defense Department Authorization bill, due to be debated within weeks.

The next critical point in the showdown between Bush and Congress over Iraq is expected in September, when US commander in Iraq David Petraeus is due to report on progress in the strategy to "surge" up to 30,000 more US troops into the war-ravaged nation.

Even senior Republicans have said they expected the president will have little choice but to make adjustments in the Iraq strategy, once the report is made public.