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Webb: No permanent presence without Congress’s consent.

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"Webb: No permanent presence without Congress’s consent."

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Bush recently announced a new, “enduring” occupation of Iraq, to be implemented without Congress’ approval. Today, Sens. Jim Webb (D-VA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Robert Byrd (D-WV), Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Carl Levin (D-MI) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY) warned Bush against committing the U.S. to a long-term presence without congressional consent:

[W]e want to convey our strong concern regarding any commitments made by the United States with respect to American security assurances to Iraq to help deter and defend against foreign aggression or other violations of Iraq’s territorial integrity. Security assurances, once made, cannot be easily rolled back without incurring a great cost to America’s strategic credibility and imperiling the stability of our nation’s other alliances around the world. [...]

It is unacceptable for your Administration to unilaterally fashion a long-term relationship with Iraq without the full and comprehensive participation of Congress from the very start of such negotiations. [...]

We trust you agree that the proposed extension of long-term U.S. security commitments to a nation in a critical region of the world requires the full participation and consent of the Congress as a co-equal branch of our government.

Read the full letter to President Bush below:

Dear Mr. President:

We write you today regarding the “Declaration of Principles” agreed upon last week between the United States and Iraq outlining the broad scope of discussions to be held over the next six months to institutionalize long term U.S.-Iraqi cooperation in the political, economic, and security realms. It is our understanding that these discussions seek to produce a strategic framework agreement, no later than July 31, 2008, to help define “a long-term relationship of cooperation and friendship as two fully sovereign and independent states with common interests”.

The future of American policy towards Iraq, especially in regard to the issues of U.S. troop levels, permanent U.S. military bases, and future security commitments, has generated strong debate among the American people and their elected representatives. Agreements between our two countries relating to these issues must involve the full participation and consent of the Congress as a co-equal branch of the U.S. government. Furthermore, the future U.S. presence in Iraq is a central issue in the current Presidential campaign. We believe a security commitment that obligates the United States to go to war on behalf of the Government of Iraq at this time is not in America’s long-term national security interest and does not reflect the will of the American people. Commitments made during the final year of your Presidency should not unduly or artificially constrain your successor when it comes to Iraq.

In particular, we want to convey our strong concern regarding any commitments made by the United States with respect to American security assurances to Iraq to help deter and defend against foreign aggression or other violations of Iraq’s territorial integrity. Security assurances, once made, cannot be easily rolled back without incurring a great cost to America’s strategic credibility and imperiling the stability of our nation’s other alliances around the world. Accordingly, security assurances must be extended with great care and only in the context of broad bipartisan agreement that such assurances serve our abiding national interest. Such assurances, if legally binding, are generally made in the context of a formal treaty subject to the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate but in any case cannot be made without Congressional authorization.

Our unease is heightened by remarks made on November 26th by General Douglas Lute, the Assistant to the President for Iraq and Afghanistan, that Congressional input is not foreseen. General Lute was quoted as asserting at a White House press briefing, “We don’t anticipate now that these negotiations will lead to the status of a formal treaty which would then bring us to formal negotiations or formal inputs from the Congress.” It is unacceptable for your Administration to unilaterally fashion a long-term relationship with Iraq without the full and comprehensive participation of Congress from the very start of such negotiations.

We look forward to learning more details as the Administration commences negotiations with the Iraqi government on the contours of long-term political, economic, and security ties between our two nations. We trust you agree that the proposed extension of long-term U.S. security commitments to a nation in a critical region of the world requires the full participation and consent of the Congress as a co-equal branch of our government.

Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey, Jr., U.S. Senator
Robert Byrd, U.S. Senator
Ted Kennedy, U.S. Senator
Carl Levin, U.S. Senator
Hillary Clinton, U.S. Senator
and Jim Webb, U.S. Senator

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