The White House and its conservative allies have been arguing that the congressional debate over a non-binding resolution on Iraq is sending the wrong message to Iraqis about our commitment. “What signal does it send to the Iraqis in terms of steadfastness?” asked Press Secretary Tony Snow last week.
But in her recent trip to Iraq, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice used the debate as part of a diplomatic strategy to urge Iraqi political leaders to accelerate their efforts to produce results on the economic and security conditions in Iraq. The NY Times reported:
Ms. Rice said she used the restiveness in Washington to underline for Iraqi officials the spread of American frustration with Iraq’s lagging political and economic progress.
She said she had ‘’made clear that some of the debate in Washington is, in fact, indicative of the concerns that the American people have about the prospects for success’’ if Iraq’s leaders did not quickly take actions to ensure longer-term stability.
Iraqi leaders took note. Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq’s foreign minister, said Rice “emphasized a great deal the issue of urgency.” Rice stressed to Iraqi leaders that “patience is not unlimited in the United States and that there’s a great deal of frustration,” Zebari added.
Noting the irony, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) said, “It’s interesting that finally [the administration] understands the power of what we are doing in the Congress.” Watch it:
LEVIN: Well, the course that the president is on is a failing course. It’s been failing for four years. We’re trying to change that course to one which has the maximum chance of success.
And the maximum chance of success is to limit our mission, to get us out of the middle of a sectarian civil war. So it’s the president’s course which is a course toward failure.
Interestingly enough, while we’re being criticized at the White House for having this debate, Condi Rice over in Baghdad was using the fact that Congress is moving towards restricting the presence of American troops in her effort to put pressure on the Iraqi leaders to tell them yesterday in Baghdad hey, folks, you better get your political act together, because look, Congress is about to restrict in a number of possible ways the president in terms of American presence in Iraq.
It’s interesting that finally they understand the power of what we are doing in the Congress.