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Holbrooke: Bush's Mistakes Make Iran Big Winn
In Dem. Radio Address, Former US Ambassador Calls for Phased Iraq Withdrawal
02/24/2007 6:27 PM ET
Richard Holbrooke in Paris, October 2006
Photo by Francois Durand
Richard Holbrooke in Paris, October 2006
Hello, my name is Richard Holbrooke and I served as ambassador to the United Nations under President Clinton.

This week, one of our closest allies, Prime Minister Tony Blair, announced that Great Britain will remove some of their troops from Iraq. After five years of unwavering support for this mismanaged war, Blair's announcement is a clear sign that now even our closest ally has broken with President Bush over his plan to escalate the war.

As Americans, we should ask, "Why are thousands more of our troops being sent to Iraq just as British troops are planning to leave?"

Like our allies, the Bush White House needs to acknowledge some unavoidable, if unpleasant facts on the ground. Plain and simple, there are not and never have been enough troops in Iraq to accomplish the mission, as stated by President Bush.

As all the world now knows, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's initial mistake was catastrophic. Even the Pentagon says the all volunteer army is stretched to the breaking point.

We need a new strategy in Iraq and, at the same time, we must find ways to limit the consequences of a policy that is failing in the larger region that stretches from the Mediterranean to the Himalayas.

This administration has severely damaged relations with our indispensable NATO ally, Turkey. It has left our close friend, Israel, more isolated.

The other war, the vital war in Afghanistan against Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban is going so poorly that even the president finally admitted it last week and he is belatedly adding new troops to the effort in Afghanistan.

And who is the major beneficiary of U.S. policy in the last five years? Iran, the most dangerous country in the region.

Why has President Bush ignored the advice of the bipartisan Iraq study group mission, which called for, and I quote, "new and enhanced diplomatic and political efforts in Iraq and the region and a change in the primary mission of the U.S. forces in Iraq, which will enable the U.S. to begin to move its combat forces out of Iraq responsibly," end quote?

Both Democrats and Republicans have long called on President Bush to make a political resolution in Iraq his top priority. His own generals have made this point repeatedly in public, only to be ignored.

We owe this effort to the many Iraqis who welcomed the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and who put their trust in us only to find their lives in mortal danger as a result and, above all, we owe this to our brave troops who risk their lives every day in Iraq.

By a political solution, I mean something far more ambitious than the current American efforts aimed at strengthening Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, our primary objective should be to encourage Iraqi leaders to make political compromises that will foster national reconciliation.

We need to begin a careful phased redeployment of U.S. troops, as the British are doing. Redeploying American troops will give the U.S. greater flexibility in combating terrorist networks and pursuing its interests in the Middle East.

It will also encourage the Iraqi government to take greater responsibility for its own affairs.

We also need to embark on a new diplomatic offensive in the Gulf region to help stabilize Iraq. All countries in the region with a stake in the future of Iraq, including Syria and Iran, should be involved in the diplomatic effort, if possible.

Engaging in a broad-based diplomatic offensive and beginning the redeployment of U.S. forces in Iraq represents the best way to secure America's interests in the region hreat of terrorist networks.

The president needs to demonstrate that these difficult problems will not be handed off to future administrations. If we are still at war next year, as seems highly probable, it will benefit neither party, but it will leave the next president and our nation with the same choices under far worse circumstances.

President Bush should not presume he has a blank check to deal with Iran. We should not make the same mistake twice, especially after the administration's false claims about the intelligence leading up to the Iraq war.

This administration should not continue to ignore the lessons of history. They should not continue to ignore the American people, our military leaders and our Congress, all of whom have rejected the president's escalation plan.

Thank you for listening.


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