Maliki: Iraq is 'Front Line in War on Terror' Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki calls for continued U.S. military and political support of his nation's fledgling democracy in an address to a joint session of Congress. Many congressional leaders -- particularly Democrats -- had criticized the Iraqi leader for failing to condemn the Hezbollah militants currently battling Israeli forces.
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Maliki: Iraq is 'Front Line in War on Terror'

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Maliki: Iraq is 'Front Line in War on Terror'

Maliki: Iraq is 'Front Line in War on Terror'

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

From the studios of NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

NOAH ADAMS, host

And I'm Noah Adams. Coming up on the program, the harrowing journey home from Lebanon to the U.S. We'll hear the story of scholar Fawaz Gerges in a few minutes.

CHADWICK: First, we're going to Capitol Hill where Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told the joint session of Congress today that Iraq is a front line in the war on terror.

Prime Minister NOURI AL-MALIKI (Iraq): (Through Translator) I know that some of you here question whether Iraq is part of the war on terror. Let me be very clear. This is a battle between true Islam - for which a person's liberty and rights constitute essential cornerstones - and terrorism, which wraps itself in a fake Islamic cloak, and reality wages a war on Islam and Muslims and values.

CHADWICK: Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki speaking through an interpreter to the House and Senate today on Capitol Hill and an unusually tough crowd. Many Democrats in Congress threatened to boycott this speech because the prime minister has been very critical of Israel for the fight it is waging with Hezbollah militants in Lebanon.

NPR's Brian Naylor's on Capitol Hill. He joins us now. Brian, welcome back to the show. What can you tell us about these lawmakers? Did any of them make good on this threat to boycott?

BRIAN NAYLOR reporting:

Hi, Alex. Well, the only lawmaker that I spoke with that was definitely - or talking about - boycotting was Senator Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York. And I did not see him on the floor, although I must say I spoke with him about a half hour before the speech. He still hadn't made up his mind.

But it appears as though he did not show up. However, most of the Democratic leadership did show up, as well as many, many Republicans - and I should say rank-in-file lawmakers from both sides of the aisle.

CHADWICK: Well, what did the prime minister have to say about Iraq in general?

NAYLOR: Well, it was interesting. He talked an awful lot about how the United States and Iraq, the two countries' fates were tied together. He was very grateful for the U.S. assistance for the hundreds of billions of dollars that had been spent in developing a new democracy in Iraq, and, of course, the thousands of American lives that have been lost in that war.

I think a lot of Republicans were hoping to hear and - the sense that Iraq was building its armed forces up, and that would allow U.S. forces to return home. I think members from both sides of the aisle wanted to hear that.

He did not really say that. He hinted that there was a need for the Iraqis to build up their defense forces, but he did not indicate that they were going to be at that goal any time soon.

CHADWICK: There was some sort of disruption of the speech by an anti-war protestor, Brian. What happened?

NAYLOR: That's right. There was one woman sitting in the gallery. And she interrupted the speech, saying troops, go home now. Iraqis want the troops to leave. Bring them home now.

She apparently had a t-shirt on that had a similar message. She was removed from the House chamber by the Capitol police. That was the only demonstration.

CHADWICK: So, did the prime minister say anything about Lebanon?

NAYLOR: No. He mentioned nothing at all about Lebanon, although we're told that Iraq's foreign minister - in a separate meeting with the congressional leaders earlier today - said that Iraq will join Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt in condemning Hezbollah. It's not clear exactly when or where that condemnation will take place.

CHADWICK: NPR's Brian Naylor on Capitol Hill. Thank you, Brian.

NAYLOR: You're welcome, Alex.

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