Sen. Richard Lugar, one of the Senate's most senior Republicans and a respected voice on foreign affairs, has broken ranks with the Bush administration over the issue of Iraq, calling for the U.S. to downsize its military role there.
Lugar (R-IN) said the White House strategy on Iraq is not working and that the U.S. should draw down its troop commitment.
The unusually blunt assessment comes as a surprise. Most Republicans have said they were willing to wait until September to see whether Bush's recently ordered troop buildup in Iraq was working.
"In my judgment, the costs and risks of continuing down the current path outweigh the potential benefits that might be achieved," Lugar said Monday in a Senate floor speech. "Persisting indefinitely with the surge strategy will delay policy adjustments that have a better chance of protecting our vital interests over the long term."
Only a few Republicans have parted ways with the Bush administration and called for a change in Iraq or embraced Democratic proposals ordering troops home by a specific date. As the top Republican and former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Lugar's critique could provide political cover for more Republicans wanting to challenge Bush on the war.
Lugar spokesman Andy Fisher said the senator wanted to express his concerns publicly before Bush reviews his Iraq strategy in September.
"They've known his position on this for quite a while," Fisher said of the White House.
However, Fisher said the speech does not mean Lugar would switch his vote on the war or embrace Democratic measures setting a deadline for troop withdrawals.
In January, Lugar voted against a resolution opposing the troop buildup, contending that the nonbinding measure would have no practical effect. In spring, he voted against a Democratic bill that would have triggered troop withdrawals by Oct. 1 with the goal of completing the pullout in six months.
From NPR reports and The Associated Press