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Warner Downbeat After Iraq Trip

Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) speaks to reporters in Baghdad with Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich), left, and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. Later, he said the U.S. approach may have to be reassessed if the Iraq situation doesn't improve.
Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) speaks to reporters in Baghdad with Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich), left, and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. Later, he said the U.S. approach may have to be reassessed if the Iraq situation doesn't improve. (Pool Photo By Ali Jasim)

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By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 6, 2006

The Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday offered a stark assessment of the situation in Iraq after a trip there this week, saying that parts of the country have taken "steps backwards" and that the United States is at risk of losing the campaign to control an increasingly violent Baghdad.

Sen. John W. Warner (Va.) told reporters on Capitol Hill that the Iraqi government is having trouble making strides and is incapable of providing even basic human necessities to people in certain areas of the country. Though Warner praised U.S. efforts to keep Iraq under control, he was far less optimistic about the situation there than he had been over the past three years.

Echoing the sentiments of several leading Democrats on his committee, Warner said he believes the United States may have to reevaluate its approach in Iraq if the situation does not improve dramatically over the next several months.

"I assure you, in two or three months, if this thing hasn't come to fruition and if this level of violence is not under control and this government able to function, I think it's a responsibility of our government internally to determine: Is there a change of course that we should take?" Warner said. "And I wouldn't take off the table any option at this time."

Warner and other senators traveled to Jordan, Iraq and Israel this week to discuss the security situation and to evaluate the progress of the Iraqi government. He said U.S. military commanders believe there is no way to reduce the number of U.S. troops in the region in the foreseeable future because of a steady increase in the level of violence, and he added that it is important to acknowledge the civil insurrection, sectarian violence, "unacceptable level" of killings and "heavy casualties" among U.S. forces there.

Sen. Carl M. Levin (Mich.), the committee's ranking Democrat, who was on the same trip, called yesterday for a change in dynamic in Iraq if the government continues to falter in the coming months.

Warner blamed the Iraqi leaders for failing to improve conditions. "You do not see them taking the levers of sovereignty and pulling and pushing them and doing what is necessary to bring about a situation in Iraq whereby the people are able to live, have sufficient food and fresh water, and have a sense of confidence in their government that they're going forward," Warner said.

But he said the situation is not beyond repair. "We're not going to give up hope yet. Let's give it more time to work."

Warner acknowledged that, before the invasion of Iraq, there was a lack of understanding among members of Congress about how much it would take to give Iraq full sovereignty. He blamed himself for not aggressively asking such questions before the war.


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