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StateSide:Policy
Eye on Congress
McCain Slams Iraqi Progress on Benchmarks
GOP Senator, Just Back From Iraq Visit, Says Petraeus Making Positive Strides
07/10/2007 1:47 PM ET
US Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)
Justin Sullivan/Getty
US Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) slammed the Maliki regime's failure to make political progress during Tuesday's Senate debate on the defense authorization bill, while also commending the leadership of Gen. David Petraeus and the successes he has achieved so far with the surge.

The Republican Presidential hopeful spent his 4th of July holiday visiting troops in Iraq, meeting with US and Iraqi officials for an update on the security and political situation.

McCain clarified that he did not intend to imply that he had learned the areas of US operation had become safe, but only that the surge was making advances unseen under the "failed Rumsfeld-Casey strategy" of keeping US forces contained to FOBs and focused on counterterrorism and training operations.

The final summary of his view on the progress of the surge sounded like a carefully constructed and vague assertion of optimism: "What I do believe," he said, "is that, while the mission – to bring a degree of security to Iraq, and to Baghdad and its environs in particular, in order to establish the necessary precondition for political and economic progress – while that mission is still in its early stages, the progress our military has made should encourage all of us."

Encouraged by the capabilities of men in US uniform, McCain then turned to speak of the failures of the Iraqi government to capitalize on Petraeus's success by making its own progress on reconciliation or political benchmarks.

Now that the military effort in Iraq is showing some signs of progress, the space is opening for political progress. Yet rather than seizing the opportunity, the government of Prime Minister Maliki is not functioning as it must. We see little evidence of reconciliation and little progress toward meeting the benchmarks laid out by the President. The Iraqi government can function; the question is whether it will.

McCain's solution for advancing political progress selectively cites a proposal put forth by Henry Kissinger in a January op-ed, which would include working to strengthen political dialogue between Iraqi leaders, and encouraging regional participation.

The Senator specifically constrained his recommendation for regional involvement to the Sunni countries of audi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan, though Kissinger's suggested "Contact Group" would also include Turkey. McCain completely ignores that Kissinger also argues the importance of parallel negotiations with Syria and Iran, designed to engage them in a forward-moving process rather ostracizing them as foes.

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