Details Of Iraq Benchmarks Yet To Be Decided

Details Of Iraq Benchmarks Yet To Be Decided
May 15th, 2007  
Team Infidel

Topic: Details Of Iraq Benchmarks Yet To Be Decided

Details Of Iraq Benchmarks Yet To Be Decided
USA Today
May 15, 2007
Pg. 5

Negotiators Must Work Out How Tough To be
By David Jackson, USA Today
WASHINGTON President Bush and the Democratic-controlled Congress agree there should be benchmarks for the Iraqi government. A deal could end a lengthy impasse over an emergency funding bill for the Iraq war.
The question is how stringent the benchmarks should be.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and others want "meaningful" benchmarks on politics, security and other areas of Iraqi life and "consequences" if the Iraqi government cannot deliver them. Bush has not discussed details, only saying the idea of benchmarks "makes sense."
A deal "depends so much on the specifics," said Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, who tracks the Iraqi government's performance.
O'Hanlon said Iraqi leaders who see impossible demands from Congress may simply give up and prepare for withdrawal of U.S. troops sooner rather than later. The result, he said, could be an "ensuing, all-out civil war."
He also said non-binding benchmarks would enable Bush and others to pursue a basically open-ended commitment in Iraq. "You need some flexibility," O'Hanlon said.
This month, the president vetoed a $124 billion spending bill for the Iraq war because it included timetables for withdrawing U.S. troops. Bush said timetables would tie the hands of military commanders and early withdrawal of U.S. troops would leave Iraq a haven for terrorists. He also said he would veto a new bill passed by the House of Representatives that would fund the war for two months.
This week, the Senate plans to hold two test votes: one on a plan to cut off funding for the war and another to withdraw troops by the fall. Reid said Democratic senators still want something close to the proposal Bush vetoed.
Bush gave some ground last week by announcing that he agreed with members of both parties that "it makes sense to have benchmarks as a part of our discussion on how to go forward."
Some of Bush's fellow Republicans, such as Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, said benchmarks would help prod the Iraqi government to deliver political and security reforms and allow U.S. troops to come home.
Snowe and Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., are sponsoring a proposal that would set six specific benchmarks. They include Iraq's assumption of military authority from U.S.-led forces, a law on dividing oil revenue, dismantling of private militias and political changes.
The Snow-Bayh plan also would require Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, to report to Congress in 120 days on whether Iraq hit the benchmarks. If not, Petraeus would be required within two weeks to submit a plan for redeploying troops.
"We need to have results," Snowe said, "and the Iraqi political leadership needs to understand that."
The White House has not commented on the proposal by Snowe and Bayh. Spokesman Tony Snow declined Monday to discuss the negotiations, which are being led by Bush chief of staff Joshua Bolten.
Petraeus told members of Congress recently that the number of sectarian killings in Baghdad has fallen by one-third since Bush implemented a strategy in January of sending more U.S. troops.
A United Nations report released last month said the humanitarian crisis in Iraq is "rapidly worsening" and violence is rising.
Anthony Cordesman, a military expert with the Washington-based Center on Strategic & International Studies, said it's a lot easier for Congress to demand benchmarks than for a struggling Iraqi government to deliver them.
Forcing the Iraqis to go faster than they can carries risks, Cordesman said.
For example, he said, a failed oil revenue law could provoke more civil unrest among Iraqi's factions, especially the Sunnis and Kurds. "When you demand the impossible," he said, "you have to live with the consequences."
Oil law, political reform among goals
President Bush has agreed to negotiate with Congress on "benchmarks" in the final version of an emergency spending bill to fund the Iraq war. These are essentially goals the Iraqi government would have to meet to continue receiving assistance from the United States. Among the possible benchmarks:
Goal -- Pass legislation dividing oil revenue among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds.
Challenges --
Sunni Arabs want the central government to negotiate and sign oil deals, but Kurds want regional governments to have that power. The Iraqi parliament has been unable to agree on rules governing foreign investment.
Constitution reform
Goal -- Adjust the constitution approved by voters in 2005 to better reflect power-sharing among Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.
Challenges --
Sunnis have threatened to leave the government over some proposals. They fear giving more power to provinces will allow Shiites and Kurds to form their own oil-rich states that surround Sunni areas.
Local elections
Goal -- Organize elections for cities and provinces to elect local governments.
Challenges -- The Iraqi government is still trying to work out power-sharing between federal and local governments. Election security is also a concern.
Ban on Baathists
Goal --
Reverse or loosen the ban on former high-ranking Baathists in government jobs. Many Iraqis say the decision to impose the ban in 2003 contributed to the insurgency.
Challenges --
Many of the majority Shiites oppose a return of high-ranking Baathists, citing their oppression during Saddam's reign.
Goal -- Break up private militias that are sometimes involved in attacks on U.S. troops.
Challenges --
Some Iraqi citizens regard local militias as better at security than the Iraqi army.
Iraqi security forces
Goal -- Train enough members of Iraq's military and police forces so they can take over their nation's security from U.S.-led forces.
Challenges -- It's difficult to measure the true abilities of Iraqi security forces and hard to say how they would perform if U.S. troops pull back.
Reported by David Jackson, USA TODAY

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