Snowe Looks for Bipartisan Support on Iraq Bill
ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
Senator Snowe joins us from the Capitol Hill. Welcome to the program once again.
OLYMPIA SNOWE: I'm delighted to be on the program. Thank you.
SIEGEL: And perhaps you can explain to us what your bill would require if, in fact, some of those benchmarks for example, Iraq assuming control of its military or passing a law to disarm the militias or an oil law - what if, say General Petraeus came back in four months and said that has not happened?
SNOWE: Well, I think, at that point then he would be required to submit a plan for a phase redeployment of those troops that are associated with the surge in Baghdad, and in addition, to have a plan for the change of mission for all of the other troops. Because at that point, if the political solutions that are obviously critical to the future of Iraq in achieving national reconciliation hasn't been accomplished by the Iraqi government then it's clear that they're not demonstrating a good phase effort.
SIEGEL: Now to distinguish your bill from a spending bill that calls straightaway for a withdrawal or sets a date next year - is it correct to say that your bill says give the administration four months and give the Iraqis four months to show that current plans are succeeding, and if they can't, then start redeploying as much as you'd have to under the other bill?
SNOWE: So, in four months whether that could be accomplished, the surge will be fully implemented in July with all the forces. And they would have the summer in which to pass these initiatives, you know, in their council of representatives.
SIEGEL: How would this satisfy President Bush's stated objections to what he calls a rigid and artificial deadline for withdrawal? That is, it would push it down the road four months but at that point if you didn't hear what you wanted to hear there would be a deadline.
SNOWE: Well, I think the president has to understand, you know, deadlines do serve a purpose. And we now have to see a demonstration - a good phase effort on part of the Iraqi government that they are prepared to do what is going to require to achieve a political consensus. And General Petraeus has indicated that by early September, we will know whether or not the surge has been a success.
SIEGEL: Do you feel, at all, uncomfortable about the provision that you wrote into this bill by which effectively the Congress would be ordering the general who's commanding forces in Iraq? Because that would be a rather novel arrangement in terms of who the general is reporting to. Obviously, you feel it's necessary - you wrote the bill. Do you have any qualms at all about that?
SNOWE: No, not at this stage of the Iraq war. I think that General Petraeus has been very forthcoming and very straightforward. He himself has indicated that there's really no military solution that's going to address the problems in Iraq. That really does have to be a political resolution. Even in his own counterinsurgency manual he indicates a host nation has to win it on its own. And so I think at this point, the time has come. And I think, he understands that and has an obligation, not only to the president of the United States, but to the American people.
SIEGEL: And would you imagine that the benchmarks you've spelled out - for example, passing a law to disarm and demobilize the militias - that there is wiggle room there? I mean, and that even doesn't say that militias must be disarmed and demobilized but (unintelligible) the law has been passed to that effect. But if there's a law that's winding its way through the Iraqi parliament when it's time to report, is there some room here for saying, ah, they're - well, they're moving in the right direction even if they haven't achieved their benchmark?
SNOWE: We hope to have an independent analysis so that we can best discern as to whether or not they are truly achieving those objectives by all accounts is a measure of whether or not they're moving towards national reconciliation.
SIEGEL: But you're opening up the discussions, say, for four months down the road that, hey, they got four and half out of six. Let's not invoke the redeployment clause because there's some motion here.
SNOWE: Well, at this point we think that each of those benchmarks are essential - individually and collectively. So we would expect results on all o them.
SIEGEL: Well, Senator Snowe, thank you very much once again for talking with us.
SNOWE: Thank you.
SIEGEL: So Olympia Snowe, Republican senator from Maine.
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