Prominent Republican Sen. John Warner, R-Va., who said Thursday that he wants President Bush to withdraw some U.S. troops from Iraq before year's end, harshly criticized Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki today, calling his beleaguered government a failure.
"The partnership we formed with the Maliki government has failed," said Warner. "We did our job, the troops did their job, but Maliki has let down the American forces, the coalition forces, indeed, the president, in not carrying through with his part of the bargain to take active roles in reconciling the bitterness, the hatred, the mistrust, between the Sunni, the Shia, and the Kurds."
The Armed Services Committee member, just back from a trip to Iraq this month, faulted Maliki for not paving the way towards reconciliation, saying the Shia leaders in the Maliki government have little motivation to cede any of their power to other groups.
"Someone has got to show strong leadership," Warner said, following an appearance this morning on NBC's "Meet the Press."
"We would hope that Maliki would do that, but you've got to remember that the Maliki government, Shia interests, are very closely aligned with Iran, and the Shia see that, now that they're on top of the hill, they've achieved what they basically wanted, and there's a reluctance to give up a fair share to the Sunnis, to the Kurds, and unless you have a unity government between those three factions, Iraq will not become a strong sovereign nation."
The G.O.P. legislator reiterated his call on Bush to bring some troops home from Iraq by Christmas in an effort to send a message to the Maliki government, which promised this winter to work towards soothing the strains of sectarian strife that was impeding political progress in Iraq.
"Somebody has got to get the attention of the Iraqi government and say, 'you failed in your commitments that you made around January 10, to begin a process of political reconciliation.'"
Warner's call to start a withdrawal was met with criticism by some military officials, with Army Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch calling it a "giant step backward."
Today, Warner responded by saying that he was just making "a suggestion to the president," and that the final decision rested in the hands of the commander in chief. Bush will receive a report on the progress of the 30,000-plus troop surge from the top military commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, before September 15.
"Clearly, you do not want to give up the gains that our troops — at great sacrifice in the course of the surge — have made, but at the same time, every military man coming before the Congress has said there is no military solution," Warner said.
"The solution is dependent upon the reconciliation of the differences between the factions. That reconciliation will go much further to provide security in Iraq than any use of force to date. That's not to detract from what our brave men and women have done thus far, but where is the answer? Where is the fulfillment of that commitment?
"I suggest this is one option to get their attention. Perhaps there are better options, but I put it out, and now we'll wait until the 15th when the president makes his decision," said Warner.