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Congressional Hearing

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Copyright 2007 Congressional Quarterly, Inc. All Rights Reserved. CQ Transcriptions

"All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ Transcriptions. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content."

 

January 11, 2007 Thursday

 

TYPE: COMMITTEE HEARING

 

LENGTH: 30773 words

 

COMMITTEE: SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE

 

HEADLINE: SEN. JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR. HOLDS A HEARING ON IRAQ

 

SPEAKER:

SEN. JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., CHAIRMAN

 

LOCATION: WASHINGTON, D.C.

 

WITNESSES:

 

SECRETARY OF STATE CONDOLEEZZA RICE

 

BODY:

 

 

U.S. SENATE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS HOLDS A HEARING

ON IRAQ

 

JANUARY 11, 2007

 

SPEAKERS:

SEN. JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., D-DEL.

CHAIRMAN

SEN. CHRISTOPHER J. DODD, D-CONN.

SEN. JOHN KERRY, D-MASS.

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD, D-WIS.

SEN. BARBARA BOXER, D-CALIF.

SEN. BILL NELSON, D-FLA.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, D-ILL.

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ, D-N.J.

SEN. BENJAMIN L. CARDIN, D-MD.

SEN. BOB CASEY, D-PA.

SEN. JIM WEBB, D-VA.

 

SEN. RICHARD G. LUGAR, R-IND.

RANKING MEMBER

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL, R-NEB.

SEN. NORM COLEMAN, R-MINN.

SEN. GEORGE V. VOINOVICH, R-OHIO

SEN. JOHN E. SUNUNU, R-N.H.

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI, R-ALASKA

SEN. BOB CORKER, R-TENN.

SEN. JIM DEMINT, R-S.C.

SEN. JOHNNY ISAKSON, R-GA.

SEN. DAVID VITTER, R-LA.

 

 

 

*

 

 

BIDEN: Welcome to the Foreign Relations Committee, Madam Secretary. It's an honor to have you here.

 

Nearly four years ago, Congress and the American people gave the president of the United States the authority to destroy Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and, if necessary, to depose a dictator.

 

We know now that weapons of mass destruction were not there and that the dictator is no longer there as well.

 

The Iraqis have held elections and they've formed a government. But the country and our troops, in my view, are now embroiled in the midst of a vicious civil war.

 

As of last night, according to the Pentagon, 3,009 Americans have lost their lives. Over 22,000 have been wounded. And we have spent and committed hundreds of billions of dollars, and there seems to be no end in sight.

 

For many months, now, the American people have understood that our present policy is a failure. And they wanted to know, and continue to want to know, where we go from here.

 

Last night, like millions of my fellow Americans, I listened intently to the president of the United States lay out his new strategy for Iraq.

 

We all hoped and prayed that the president would present us with a plan that would make things better. Instead, I fear that what the president has proposed is more likely to make things worse.

 

We hoped and prayed we would hear of a plan that would have two features: to begin to bring American forces home and a reasonable prospect of leaving behind a stable Iraq.

 

Instead, we heard a plan to escalate the war, not only in Iraq but possibly into Iran and Syria as well.

 

BIDEN: I believe the president's strategy is not a solution, Secretary Rice. I believe it's a tragic mistake.

 

In Iraq, the core of the president's plan is to send another 20,000 Americans to Baghdad, a city of more than 6 million people, where they will go, with their fellow Iraqi soldiers, door to door in the middle of a civil war.

 

If memory serves me, we've tried that kind of escalation twice before in Baghdad, and it's failed twice in Baghdad, and I fear it will fail a third time.

 

And the result will be the loss of more American lives and our military stretched to the breaking point with little prospect of success and a further loss of influence in the region.

 

Secretary Rice, this November the American people voted for a dramatic change in Iraq. The president said, forthrightly, he heard them. But it seems clear to me from listening to him last night, he did not listen.

 

And for the life of me, I don't understand how he could reject the overwhelming opposition to his plan from a broad, bipartisan, cross-section of the country's leaders, military, civilian and civic.

 

As I understand it, the Joint Chiefs of Staff opposed this plan. Our commander in the region, General Abizaid, opposed the plan. Our commanders in Iraq, starting with General Casey, opposed this plan. The Baker-Hamilton commission opposed this plan. And so did our greatest soldier-statesman, Colin Powell.

 

BIDEN: They all gave advice to the president that could be boiled down to two things.

 

First, our military cannot stop the Shia, the Kurds and the Sunnis from killing each other. The Iraqi people have to make very, very, very difficult political compromises in order for the killing to stop.

 

And all of the people who gave advice to the president that I mentioned suggested that the best way to force the leaders and the people to make these hard compromises was to start this year to draw down our forces, not escalate them.

 

The second consensus point from the advice the president got was that the way to secure this political solution to secure Iraq -- it was to secure support for whatever political solution the Iraqis arrived at from Turkey, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia and all the neighbors.

 

And there's a second reason for seeking that kind of support and consultation. It was that if in fact the civil war cannot be stopped, at least with a regional consensus the hope would be it could be contained within Iraq.

 

So Secretary Rice, to be very blunt, I can't in good conscience support the president's approach.

 

But because there's so much at stake, I'm also not prepared to give upon finding a bipartisan way forward that meets the twin goals most Americans share and I believe -- I don't speak for anyone on this committee, but I believe most of my colleagues in the Senate share -- and that is, how do we bring American forces home in an orderly way over the next year and leave behind a stable Iraq?

 

BIDEN: In all my years in the Senate, Secretary Rice, I don't think we've faced a more pivotal moment than the one we face today.

 

Failure in Iraq will not be confined to Iraq. It will do terrible damage to our ability to protect our interests all over the world, and I fear for a long time to come.

 

That's why we have to work together for a solution.

 

I'm aware that the surge is not 22,000 people or 20,000 people getting on a boat, landing in one moment. The reason why I think there's still time for us to work out a bipartisan solution is that this is a process.

 

We need a solution that will gain the support of our fellow citizens.

 

I say to my colleagues, maybe because I got here in the midst of the Vietnam War, or toward the end, I think we all learned a lesson, whether we went or didn't go, whether we were for it or against it, is no foreign policy can be sustained in this country without the informed consent of the American people. They've got to sign on. They've got to sign on.

 

I just hope it's not too late.

 

Mr. Chairman?

 

LUGAR: Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman.

 

I join you in welcoming Secretary Rice to the Foreign Relations Committee once again.

 

LUGAR: I appreciate her willingness to discuss policy on Iraq with the committee in advance of a very important trip to the Middle East, which I understand commences tomorrow.

 

All of us listened intently to President Bush's speech last night. And yesterday, I said that initially the president and his team should explain what objectives we're trying to achieve if forces are expanded. Where and how will they be used? Why is it the strategy will succeed? How Iraqi forces will be involved? How long additional troops may be needed? What contingencies are in place if the situation does not improve? And how this strategy fits into our discussion throughout the region?

 

The president made an important start on this process with the speech. The elements of his plan require careful study by members of Congress. And I appreciate the efforts the president has made thus far to reach out to Congress and to the American people for that discussion.

 

I was encouraged by the president's emphasis on a regional element in his Iraq strategy. Whenever we began to see Iraq as a set piece, an isolated problem that can be solved outside the context of our broader interests, we should reexamine our frame of reference.

 

Our efforts to stabilize Iraq and sustain a pluralist government there have an important humanitarian purpose. But remaking Iraq in and of itself does not constitute a strategic objective.

 

Stability in Iraq is important because it has a direct bearing on vital U.S. strategic objectives. To determine our future course in Iraq, we must be very clear about what those objectives are.

 

In my judgment, there are four primary ones.

 

First, we have an interest in preventing Iraq or any piece of its territory from being used as a safe haven or training ground for terrorists.

 

LUGAR: As part of this, we have an interest in preventing any potential terrorists in Iraq from acquiring weapons of mass destruction.

 

Secondly, we have an interest in preventing a civil war or conditions of permanent disorder in Iraq that upset wider regional stability. The consequences of turmoil that draws in outside powers or spills over into neighboring states could be grave. Such turmoil could generate a regional war, topple friendly governments, expand destabilizing refugee flows, close the Persian Gulf to shipping traffic, or destroy key oil production and transportation facilities.

 

Any of these outcomes could restrict or diminish the flow of oil from the region, with disastrous results for the world economy.

 

Third, we have an interest in preventing the loss of U.S. credibility and standing in the region and throughout the world. Some loss of confidence in the United States has already occurred, but our subsequent actions in Iraq may determine how we are viewed for generations.

 

Fourth, we have an interest in preventing Iranian domination of the region. The fall of Saddam Hussein's Sunni government opened up opportunities for Iran to seek much more influence in Iraq. And if Iran was bolstered by an alliance with the Shiite government in Iraq or a separate Shiite state in southern Iraq would pose serious challenges for Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and other Arab governments.

 

Iran is pressing a broad agenda in the Middle East with uncertain consequences for weapons proliferation, terrorism, security of Israel and other U.S. interests. Any course we adopt in Iraq should consider how it would impact the regional influence of Iran.

 

Now, these are not our only interests in Iraq, but they're fundamental reasons for our military presence during the last several years.

 

I would observe that all four of these objectives are deeply affected not just by whether the insurgency and sectarian violence can be abated in Iraq's cities and neighborhoods, but by the action of Iraq's neighbors.

 

LUGAR: For this reason I've advocated broader diplomacy in the region that is directed at both improving stability in Iraq and expanding our options in the region.

 

Inevitably when one suggests such a diplomatic course, this is interpreted as advocating negotiations with Syria and Iran, nations that have overtly and covertly worked against our interests and violated international norms.

 

The purpose of the talks is not to change our posture toward these countries. But necessary, reasonable dialogues should not be sacrificed because of fear of what might happen if we include unfriendly regimes.

 

Moreover, we already have numerous contacts with the Iranians and Syrians through intermediaries and other means. The regional dialogue I am suggesting does not have to occur in a formal conference setting, but it needs to occur, and it needs to be sustained.

 

Both our friends and our enemies in the region must know that we will defend our interests and our allies. They must know that we are willing to exercise the substantial leverage we possess in the region in the form of military presence, financial assistance, diplomatic contacts and other resources.

 

Although it's unlikely that a political settlement in Iraq can be imposed from the outside, it's equally unlikely that one will succeed in the absence of external pressures and incentives.

 

We should be active in bringing those forces to bear on Iraqi factions. We should work to prevent miscalculations related to the turmoil in Iraq.

 

Now, finally, much attention has been focused on the president's call for increasing troop levels in Iraq. This is an important consideration, but it's not the only element of his plan that requires examination.

 

The larger issue is how we will manage our strategic interests in the Middle East in light of our situation in Iraq. Can we use the stability that we offer the region and our role as a counterweight to Iran to gain more help in Iraq and in the region?

 

I look forward to continuing our examination of Iraq in the committee's hearings, and especially your testimony this morning.

 

Thank you.

 

BIDEN: Thank you.

 

Madam Secretary, the floor is yours.

 

RICE: Thank you very much.

 

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

 

Thank you, Senator Lugar.

 

Thank you, members of the committee.

 

I look forward to our discussion. And in order to facilitate that, Mr. Chairman, I have a longer statement that I would like to have entered into the record and I would (inaudible) an excerpt.

 

BIDEN: Without objection, your entire statement will be placed in the record.

 

RICE: Thank you.

 

As I come before you today, America is facing a crucial moment, indeed, as the chairman has put it, a pivotal moment, concerning our policies in Iraq and concerning our broader policies in the Middle East.

 

I think that we all know that the stakes in Iraq are enormous and that the consequences of failure would also be enormous, not just for America and for Iraq, but for the entire region of the Middle East and, indeed, for the world.

 

And so, we agree that the stakes in Iraq are enormous.

 

And, as the president said last night, Americans broadly agree -- and we in the administration count ourselves among them -- that the situation in Iraq is unacceptable.

 

RICE: On these two points, we are unified: the enormousness of the stakes and the unacceptability of the current situation.

 

The president has, therefore, forged a new strategy that speaks both to our stakes in Iraq and the need to change the way that we are doing things.

 

The Iraqis have devised a strategy that they believe will work for their most urgent problem: that is to return security to Baghdad.

 

We are going to support that strategy through the augmentation of American military forces. I think Secretary Gates will say more about that in his committee.

 

But I want, also, to emphasize that we see this not just as a military effort, but also as one that must have very strong political and economic elements.

 

In order to better deliver on the governance and economic side, the United States is further decentralizing and diversifying our civilian presence. And I will talk a little bit more about that and in greater detail.

 

We are further integrating our civil and military operations.

 

And as Senator Lugar has noted, it's important to see Iraq in a regional context. And I would like to talk a little bit about the regional strategy that we want to pursue that supports reformers and responsible leaders in Iraq and across the broader Middle East.

 

RICE: Let me be very clear: We all understand that the responsibility for what kind of Iraq this will be rests with Iraqis. They are the only ones who can decide whether or not Iraq is, in fact, going to be an Iraq for all Iraqis, one that is unified, or whether they are going to allow sectarian passions to unravel that chance for a unified Iraq.

 

We know historically that Iraq rests on the regions religious and ethnic fault line. And in many ways, the recent events in Baghdad over the last almost a year -- that Baghdad has become the center of that struggle.

 

The Samarra mosque bombing provoked sectarianism and it set it aflame at a pace that threatens to overwhelm the fragile and yet promising process of reconciliation, the process that has produced successful elections and a new constitution, and substantial agreement as we sit here today on a law to share Iraq's oil wealth fairly, as well as a commitment to a more reasonable approach to deBaathification and to hold provincial elections.

 

Iraqis must take on the essential challenge, therefore, that threatens this process of national reconciliation, and that is the protection of their population from criminals and violent extremists who kill in the name of sectarian grievance.

 

The president last night made clear that the augmentation of our forces is to support the Iraqis in that goal of returning control and civility to their capital.

 

He also noted that there are also very important strategic -- important economic and political elements that must be followed up if clear, hold and build is to actually work this way.

 

And so I want to assure you that we in the State Department recognize the importance of surging our civilian elements and our civilian efforts, as well as the surge that would be there on the military side.

 

RICE: Iraq has a federal government. We need to get civilians out of our embassy, out of the green zone, into the field across Iraq.

 

We have had, over the last year and a half, the establishment of provincial reconstruction teams that are operating outside of Baghdad.

 

And the importance of those teams should be understood in the following way: It is extremely important to have an effective and functioning government in Baghdad. And we have worked with them on ministries, on budget processes, on the technical assistance that they need to have a functioning government.

 

But it is equally important to have local and provincial governments that can deliver for their people. And indeed, this gives us multiple points for success, not just the government in Baghdad but the people with whom we're working in the provinces.

 

I might just note that we believe that this is having an effect in places like Mosul, an effect in places like Tal Afar. But it's having a very good effect even in some of the most difficult places.

 

And one of the other elements of the president's policy last night was to announce that 4,000 American forces would be augmented in Anbar, the epicenter of Al Qaida activity.

 

That is, in part, because we believe that the efforts that we've been making with local leaders, particularly the sheikhs in Anbar, are beginning to pay fruit.

 

For instance, they have recruited, from their own ranks, 1,100 young men to send to Jordan for training. And these sons of Anbar, as they call them, will come back to enter the fight against Al Qaida.

 

And so I want to emphasize: We're very focused on the need to return control to Baghdad. But we're also very focused on the need to build capacity in the local and provincial governments and to be able to deliver economic and reconstruction assistance there.

 

Finally, let me just say one point about our regional diplomatic strategy -- one word about our regional diplomatic strategy.

 

Obviously, Iraq is central, now, to America's role in the Middle East, central to our credibility, central to the prospects for stability, central to the role that our allies and friends and Iraq's neighbors will play in the Middle East.

 

But we have to base our regional strategy on the substantially changed realities of the Middle East.

 

RICE: This is a different Middle East.

 

This Middle East is a Middle East in which there really is a new alignment of forces.

 

On one side are reformers and responsible leaders who seek to advance their interests peacefully, politically and diplomatically.

 

On the other side are extremists of every sect and ethnicity who use violence to spread chaos, to undermine democratic governments and to impose agendas of hatred and intolerance.

 

On one side of that divide are the Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia and the other countries of the Gulf, Egypt, Jordan, the young democracies of Lebanon, of the Palestinian territory led by Mahmoud Abbas and in Iraq.

 

But on the other side of that divide are Iran, Syria and Hezbollah and Hamas.

 

And I think we have to understand that that is a fundamental divide.

 

Iran and Syria have made their choice and their choice is to destabilize, not to stabilize.

 

And so, with all respect to those who talk about engagement with Syria and Iran, I think we need to recognize that if Iran and Syria wish to play a stabilizing role for their own interests, then they will do so.

 

If, on the other hand, they intend to offer a stabilizing role because they believe that in our current situation in Iraq, we are willing to pay a price, that's not diplomacy; that's extortion.

 

And I would just ask you what that price might be. I have a hard time believing that Iran will, on one side, talk to us about stabilizing Iraq and say, "Oh, by the way, we won't talk about what you're doing in the Security Council to stop our nuclear program; that's not part of the price" -- or that Syria will talk about stabilizing Iraq while they continue to destabilize it and say, "Oh, we aren't actually interested in talking about the fact that we are irreconciled -- we have not reconciled -- to the loss of our position in Lebanon or to the existence of a tribunal to try those who are responsible for the assassination of Rafik Hariri."

 

RICE: These two will most certainly come into contact with each other: the destabilizing activities in Iraq and the desires of these states to have us pay a price that we cannot pay.

 

We do have a regional approach. It is to work with those governments that share our view of where the Middle East should be going. It is also to work with those governments in a way that can bring support to the new Iraqi democracy. It is to support the very normal democracy that Iraq itself may engage in with all of its neighbors. And it is to have an international compact which is a bargain between the international community and Iraq for support in response to Iraqi reforms, economic and, indeed, some that are political.

 

In that Iraqi compact both Syria and Iran have been present and will continue to be.

 

Let me just conclude by saying that we all understand in the administration that there are no magic formulas for Iraq, as the Baker-Hamilton commission said. I want you to understand that I personally, too, understand and know the skepticism that is felt about Iraq and, indeed, the pessimism that some feel.

 

I want you to know that I understand and, indeed, feel the heartbreak that Americans feel at the continued sacrifice of American lives, men and women who can never be replaced for their families, and for the concern of our men and women who are still in harm's way, those in uniform and those civilians who are also on the front line -- civilian diplomats and civilian personnel who are also operating in places like Anbar and Mosul.

 

That said, I know, too, how carefully President Bush and the entire national security team considered the options before us. And I'd like you to understand that we really did consider the options before us.

 

The president called on advisers from outside. He called on the advice of the Baker-Hamilton study group. And, of course, he discussed the policies with his advisers, like me, who've been there from the beginning and therefore bear responsibility for both the successes and failures of this policy, and new advisers, like Secretary of Defense Gates, who came with a fresh eye.

 

RICE: After all of that, he came to the conclusion -- and I fully agree -- that the most urgent task before us now is to help the Iraqi government -- and I want to emphasize "help" the Iraqi government -- establish confidence among the Iraqi population that it will and can protect all of its citizens, whether they are Sunni, Shia, Kurds or others; and that they will in an evenhanded fashion punish those violent people who are killing innocent Iraqis, whatever their sect, ethnicity or political affiliation.

 

We believe that the Iraqi government, which has not always performed, has every reason to understand the consequences now of nonperformance.

 

They, after all, came to us and said that this problem had to be solved.

 

They came to us and said that, yes, they would make the necessary decisions to prevent political interference in the military operations that need to be taken to deal with the Baghdad problem.

 

They came to us and said that this government will not be able to survive if it cannot reestablish civil order.

 

And they gave to the president -- and not just Prime Minister Maliki, but many leaders -- an assurance that this time they're going to make the difficult choices in order to get it done.

 

The situation in Iraq is unacceptable. But Iraq is also at this point in time of very high stakes to this nation. This is a time for a national desire and a national imperative not to fail in Iraq. We've faced crucible tests as a country before, and we've come through them when we have come through them together.

 

I want to pledge to you, as the president did last night, that we want to work with all Americans, here particularly in the Congress, the representatives of the American people, as we move forward on a strategy that will allow us to succeed in Iraq.

 

RICE: This is a strategy that the president believes is the best strategy that we can pursue. And I ask you careful consideration of it, your ideas for how to improve it. And, of course, understanding that not everyone will agree, I do believe that we're united in our desire to see America succeed.

 

Thank you very much.

 

BIDEN: Madam Secretary, thank you very much.

 

And I assure you, no one on this committee has any doubt about your intense concern and the intensity in which you have deliberated on this -- and your frank acknowledgement of the mistakes that have been made. And I don't have any doubt about us wondering whether or not you care a great deal about this.

 

I've been told by the staff that the secretary, she has a big day today -- she has to be here -- in terms of time -- here, as well as in the House. And she is understandably -- will have to leave here by 1 o'clock at the latest.

 

According to the staff calculation -- and I'm going to hold everybody to this, including myself -- that if we give everyone seven minutes, everyone will have an opportunity to ask her -- not all the questions you have, but the most important question you think need be asked.

 

We will be holding these hearings for another two and a half weeks. There'll be plenty of opportunity again. The secretary will be back over the ensuing months. And so I hope that that meets with everyone's approval. As a matter of fact, seven minutes may be stretching it. But that's where we're going to start, if we can.

 

Let me begin, Secretary Rice. Last night the president said, and I quote, "succeeding in Iraq requires defending its territorial integrity and stabilizing the region in the fact of extremist challenges. And that begins with addressing Iran and Syria."

 

He went on to say, "We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria, and will seek out and destroy networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq."

 

Does that mean the president has plans to cross the Syrian and/or Iranian border to pursue those persons or individuals or governments providing that help?

 

RICE: Mr. Chairman, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs was just asked this question, and I think he, perhaps, said it best. He talked about what we're really trying to do here, which is to protect our forces, and that we are doing that by seeking out these networks that we know are operating in Iraq.

 

RICE: We are doing it through intelligence.

 

We are then able, as we did the 21st of December, to go after these groups where we find them.

 

In that case, we then asked the Iraqi government to declare them persona non grata and expel them from the country because they were holding diplomatic passports.

 

But what is really being contemplated here, in terms of these networks, is that we believe we can do what we need to do inside Iraq.

 

Obviously, the president isn't going to rule anything out to protect our troops, but the plan is to take down these networks in Iraq.

 

The broader point is that we do have, and we have always had, as a country, very strong interests and allies in the Gulf region.

 

And we do need to work with our allies to make certain that they have the defense capacity that they need against growing Iranian military build-up; that they feel that we are going to be a presence in the Persian Gulf region as we have been, and that we establish confidence with the states with which we have long alliances, that we will help to defend their interests. And that's what the president had in mind.

 

BIDEN: Secretary Rice, do you believe the president has the constitutional authority to pursue, across the border into Iraq or Syria, the networks in those countries?

 

RICE: Well, Mr. Chairman, I think I would not like to speculate on the president's constitutional authority, or to try and say anything that certainly would abridge his constitutional authority, which is broad as commander in chief.

 

I do think that everyone will understand that the American people -- and I assume, the Congress -- expects the president to do what is necessary to protect our forces.

 

BIDEN: Madam Secretary, I just want to make it clear, speaking for myself, that if the president concluded he had to invade Iran or Iraq in pursuit of these -- or Syria -- in pursuit of these networks, I believe the present authorization granted the president to use force in Iraq does not cover that and he does need congressional authority to do that. I just want to set that marker.

 

Let me move on. How long do you estimate American forces will be going door to door with their Iraqi counterparts in Baghdad before they can -- I believe the phrase is -- secure -- or clear, hold and build? What is the estimate of how long will it take to clear? And how long are we prepared to hold with American forces in Baghdad that are being surged?

 

RICE: Well, I can't give you an exact timetable on how long operations might take.

 

Let me just note that the Iraqis are in the lead on these Baghdad operations. And I think that one reason that it's extremely important that they are bringing some of their best forces from around Iraq to participate in this -- to lead this effort -- is that a good deal of the establishing of confidence in these neighborhoods has to be done by Iraqis.

 

We will be in support of them, but I think that it's extremely important to have an image in mind that it is Iraqis who are expected to take census -- after all, they're the ones with the linguistic skills to do so. It is Iraqis that are expected to be in these neighborhoods.

 

The problem with previous Baghdad security plans were there weren't enough forces to hold.

 

RICE: I think that it is important that it will be a combination of forces, Iraqi forces, army, police and national police and local police. But we want to be certain, this time, that the holding phase lasts long enough for the Iraqis to be able to deal with the perpetrators of the violence.

 

And so I don't want to try to put a time frame on it, but Secretary Gates said earlier today that he expects this to, of course, be a temporary measure while Iraqi forces are brought up to...

 

BIDEN: Secretary Rice, I think you're right. It's important to have a visual image of what this means: 6.2 million people, a civil war, a sectarian war, taking place. And here's what the president said last night, referring to our surged troops: "The vast majority of them, five brigades, will be deployed to Baghdad. These troops will work alongside Iraqi units and will be embedded in their formations."

 

No American should misunderstand that what that means. It means young Marines are going to be standing next to an Iraqi soldier as they break down a door.

 

So I want to know -- and you've answered it -- my question related to how long we think these Marines and these five brigades are going to be kicking in doors, standing on street corners, patrolling neighborhoods, going to second-story walkups, et cetera. And that was the reason for my question.

 

But you're right. It's important we have the correct image of what this is -- and that's what it is.

 

RICE: It is important we have the correct image that Iraqis want to have this be their -- their -- responsibility.

 

BIDEN: Are you confident -- you, personally, Madam Secretary -- this will be my concluding question -- are you confident that Maliki has the capacity to send you a sufficient number of troops that will stay in the lead, that will allow American Marines to feel that their physical security is not being jeopardized merely by being with this brigade of Iraqis? Are you confident they will send a sufficient number and their best?

 

RICE: Most importantly, General Casey and our ambassador believe strongly that the Maliki government intends to live up to its...

 

BIDEN: I'm asking you...

 

RICE: I have met Prime Minister Maliki. I was with him in Amman. I saw his resolve. I think he knows that his government is, in a sense, on borrowed time, not just in terms of the American people, but in terms of the Iraqi people.

 

BIDEN: Are you confident?

 

RICE: I'm confident.

 

BIDEN: Thank you very much.

 

Secretary -- excuse me, I made you secretary -- Senator Lugar, Chairman Lugar?

 

LUGAR: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

 

Secretary Rice, in the New York Times today, columnist David Brooks in a column called "The Fog Over Iraq," presents information that I simply wanted your comment. Because you've indicated you have visited Prime Minister Maliki.

 

LUGAR: And the article by David Brooks references the meeting of our president with Prime Minister Maliki on November 30, in which, purportedly, Maliki presented a plan in which our troops, the American troops, would go to the periphery of Baghdad, would fight off insurgents, Sunni insurgents or whoever, trying to penetrate Baghdad.

 

But the Iraqi army and police, including Shiite and Kurds, principally, would take over the responsibility of attempting to clear the city.

 

Now, essentially, the books says President Bush rejected that plan, or our government did, and the president, as the head of it, has indicated this, and decided that, indeed, we would do the opposite.

 

American troops and the additional troops would come into Baghdad, would be embedded in the nine police districts. And it would in fact be more heavily involved, whether door-to-door -- and there are certainly disputes over whether that is the case.

 

The thought is, no, not door-to-door; that the Shiites go door- to-door, essentially, and that we are back in the background advising and supporting and so forth.

 

But the article goes on to suggest that, in fact -- or gives the impression that Maliki and the Kurds and the Shiites had, at least, an idea of creating their own stability.

 

Now, from our standpoint, this might have rejected the Sunnis as a partner in the process, and thus led to greater destabilization of the country as a whole.

 

LUGAR: But let me just ask for your comment as to whether the sequence of events that transpired into the plan that the president gave last night -- and what are the strengths and dangers of that?

 

RICE: Yes, Senator Lugar, the core of the Maliki plan has really been preserved here.

 

This, really, is based on his plan.

 

It is absolutely the case that the Iraqis have wanted to have responsibility for their own problem, to have their troops under their command and to move out.

 

When Prime Minister Maliki presented the plan, he wanted our people to look at it with his military people to see how quickly this could be accelerated so that he could go and take care of the sectarian problem in Baghdad.

 

The fact is that it could not be accelerated quickly enough with only Iraqi forces in order to meet the timeline that he really felt he had, in terms of dealing with the Baghdad problem.

 

And so, out of this planning process, came from our general, the view that we needed to augment their forces as embeds -- as, by the way, the Baker-Hamilton commission recommends -- as people who can help them with, in a sense, on-the-job training; who can help them to kind of solidify their ability to after this.

 

But the Iraqis continue to press that they really need to be the ones interfacing with their population in a major way.

 

They need to be the ones to deliver the stability that is needed.

 

I think you will see that in a relatively brief period of time, as their forces develop, they will take on more and more.

 

And as the president said last night, the thought is they would have all of their forces by November.

 

But there was a gap in time between the time that they need to get Baghdad under control and having the capability to do it; even bringing, as they are, their best and most reliable army forces from around the country.

 

RICE: So that's the difference.

 

But I don't believe it was ever really the prime minister's intention that it would be Shia and Kurds only. I think he understands that one of the problems that they have is that the Sunni population feels that the Iraqi government is not even-handed in dealing with death squads.

 

LUGAR: What can you tell us about a favorable reception of some of the sheiks in Anbar province of our new policies? Would you describe that situation?

 

RICE: Yes. Well, the last time that there was a kind of formal report about Anbar, I remember some of the reporting as being the tremendous difficulties in Anbar. And it is a difficult place, because it is the epicenter of Al Qaida.

 

Now, what you will hear from our commanders in the area and also I have heard directly from my provincial reconstruction team leader, a very seasoned diplomat, is that the sheiks have essentially gotten tired of Al Qaida and want them out.

 

They do not believe that we can do that alone. They have begun to recruit their own young men to be trained to be a force against the foreign invaders. They have, for instance, sent 1,100 young men to Jordan to train for something that they call the Sons of Anbar, to come back. They will recruit more and send them.

 

This is also a part of a success, we believe, of a policy with regional neighbors, who have been involved in the Sunni outreach piece.

 

It is into that Anbar that we believe it's important to surge both civilian and military assets. And so, when the president talks about 4,000 additional forces into Anbar, this is not because of a sectarian problem, this is because we think we may be able to support this local effort against Al Qaida and secondly to surge resources into Anbar.

 

To be very frank, the chairman asked me if I was confident about the Iraqi government.

 

RICE: I'm confident that they want to do this.

 

I'm also one who knows that there have been times when they haven't performed in the past. And one of the things that they've got to perform better on is getting economic resources into some of the Sunni areas, particularly into Anbar. And so we are also going to increase the number of provincial reconstruction teams in Anbar to help with that process.

 

LUGAR: Thank you.

 

BIDEN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

 

Senator Dodd?

 

DODD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

 

And thank you, Madam Secretary. And let me thank you as well -- we've had some conversations over the last couple of weeks, prior to the trip Senator Kerry and I took to the region, and then on the return as well. And I thank you for that, and I thank you for being here this morning.

 

And again I thank the chairman for holding these set and series of hearings that we're going to have on this subject matter. It'll offer, I hope, an opportunity for us not only to listen to you, as we did the president last evening, but also an opportunity for you to hear from us as well.

 

I think it's important that there be a conversation here as we try to sort out this policy and begin to make sense of it. It's not about Democrats and Republicans, it's about getting this right.

 

I couldn't agree more with Senator Biden. I don't know of another foreign policy crisis that's been as compelling as this one. Over the past 32 years, as a member of the House and as a member of this body and a member of this committee for a quarter of a century, I've never been the region where I felt it was more in crisis than it is today and at greater risk.

 

So I'd like to share just some opening thoughts and comments, if I can, with you, and then -- and get to a quick question.

 

On the eve of the Second World War, the 20th century's most daunting and difficult struggle, Winston Churchill explained in the follow words a compelling thought, I think. He said: "There's no worse mistake in public leadership than to hold out false hopes to be swept away. People face peril or misfortune with fortitude and buoyancy. But they bitterly resent being deceived or finding that those responsible for their affairs are themselves dwelling in a fool's paradise."

 

DODD: Madam Secretary, I'm sorry to say today, and I think many hold this view, that a fool's paradise describes nothing as aptly as our Iraq policy today. I think most Americans know it. Painfully, the Iraq people, of course, know this in compelling numbers.

 

If the president did grasp, I think, the sad extent of that failure, I sincerely doubt he would have ordered yet more troops into Iraq. The president's plan simply strikes me as a continuation of Operation Together Forward, which has been described already, which far from improving Iraq's security climate, produced the unintended consequences of heightened sectarian violence.

 

I failed to see, and I think many others share this view, how the outcome will be different this time. And that is a true disservice, I think, to the American troops, who have shown nothing but professionalism and courage and should not be asked to risk their lives for an unsound strategy and an unsure purpose.

 

The Baker-Hamilton report should have disabused us, in my view, of the notion that caught in the midst of sectarian, ethnic and religious political hatreds we can simply bludgeon our way to victory. As many of us have been saying for some time now, only political and diplomatic possibilities hold out any real hope of reversing the spiral in to chaos.

 

The time for blunt force, I think, is long past, and many hold that view. Instead, we ought to withdraw, I think, our combat troops in these large urban areas of sectarian conflict where they simply are cannon fodder.

 

There are 23 militias operation in Baghdad alone. It's hard to identify exactly who is the enemy here. We have Shias and Sunnis. You have Baathists. You have insurgents; some Al Qaida elements here. Asking our military people to sort out who the enemy is in all of this is extremely difficult, to put it mildly.

 

And, instead, we ought to be focusing our attention on training reliable Iraqi security forces, providing some security in the border areas, and as several of our junior officers that I talked with in Baghdad suggested, providing the kind of security around some of these critical infrastructure areas to provide the kind of water, sewage, electrical grids that are so critical for people having some sense of opportunity or hope for the future.

 

DODD: If the only solution in Iraq is a political one, then diplomacy happens to be the weapon that we have left and must use.

 

The president's solution for all of this, or to all of this, of course, is to ignore the most important recommendations of the Iraq Study Group; namely, robust diplomacy, and instead, settle on an escalation of our current combat strategy.

 

This is a tactic in search of a strategy, in my view, and will not bring us a more stable Iraq.

 

The American people have spent $14 billion training and equipping 300,000 Iraqi police and security forces. Yet, as I said a moment ago, 23 separate sectarian militias operate with impunity throughout Baghdad alone.

 

Sectarian killings continue largely unabated, averaging scores of deaths every day and thousands a month. This is not random violence. It is a targeted civil war, complete with ethnic cleansing.

 

Those of us who have been to Iraq recently have seen it with their own eyes, heard it with their own ears.

 

Beyond that, the president's own intelligence experts have told us that the Islamic world is growing more radical, and that terrorist threat is greater today than it was on 9/11, not despite but because of the continuing war in Iraq.

 

They conclude -- their conclusion has become both a physical and ideological training ground for the next generation of extremists.

 

The wider region has been further plunged into violence, as we know. Hezbollah has crippled the Lebanese government. Civil war in the Palestinian territories now seems more likely than ever. Syria and Iran are more powerful and emboldened than they have been in recent memory.

 

We're further away from stabilizing Afghanistan, as drug traffickers and tribal warfare now threaten to destroy its nation's democracy. And the Taliban is growing stronger by the hour.

 

And perhaps most troubling of all is our standing in the world. According to the Pew Center for Global Opinion, most people in Great Britain, France, Spain, Russia, Indonesia, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Pakistan, Nigeria, India and China think that the war in Iraq is a greater danger to world peace than either Iran or North Korea, stunning as those numbers are.

 

The president says that we're in a war of ideas.

 

DODD: But how can we possibly win that kind of a war between democracy and extremism when so much of the world considers us to be the threat? It's deeply troubling to me, as I hope it is to you as well. How weakened is our standing in the world that our support from foreign peoples, how many tools have we thrown away and how safe are now?

 

Senator Lugar raised an important question in his opening comments that I'd like you to address, if you can.

 

And that is, none of us are suggesting at this table that we engage Iran or Syria as if they were an ally or a friend or talking about conferences where we give them a status that they don't deserve.

 

But it's awfully difficult to understand, Madam Secretary, why we would not try to engage very directly with people here who can play a critical role in providing some stability?

 

We heard in Syria the president say that he's interested in a secular Arab state operating on his border, does not want a Shia- dominated fundamentalist state on his border.

 

That was just a comment to us in the room with embassy personnel present.

 

It seems to me, it's worthy of examining and exploring those areas where we can have a common ground here, rather than just neglecting or ignoring that kind of an offer if we're going to stability to the region.

 

I wish you'd, once again, address the issue raised by Senator Lugar in the context in which he raised it -- not diplomacy as a favor or a gift or some acknowledgement that we agree with these people, but rather the necessity for the United States to leave in a region where we have not been able to do so.

 

RICE: Thank you, Senator.

 

Let me address the question, first, of Iran and Syria. And they are different. And I think we need to separate the two.

 

First of all, on Syria: We did engage for quite a long time. Colin Powell engaged, Rich Armitage engaged, Bill Burns engaged. And, in fact, actually got nowhere.

 

And indeed, I would argue that the situation, from our point of view, is worst today, in terms of the terms on which we were to be engaging, than it was at that time.

 

The terms on which we would be engaging now, and in which we're being asked to engage, is that we go to the Syrians and we say, "Help us to stabilize Iraq," or, "Let's join in our common interests to stabilize Iraq."

 

RICE: That's what we would say to them.

 

The problem, of course, is that if they have an interest in stabilizing Iraq, I assume that they will do it on the basis of their national interest and that they will do it because it is in their national interest.

 

To do anything more with them is to suggest that there's a trade- off that's possible -- you help us stabilize in Iraq and perhaps we will overlook some of your activities in Lebanon; you help us stabilize in Iraq, perhaps we can do something to shave some of the teeth from the tribunal.

 

I think it's extremely important to note that we have talked to the Syrians; we've generally gotten nowhere. And now, we would be going in a way that I fear looks like a supplicant.

 

DODD: Could I just ask you, Madam Secretary, is that speculation on your part, or has that been...

 

RICE: No.

 

DODD: ... the reaction you've heard?

 

RICE: Well, I would also just note that an awful lot of people have engaged the Syrians recently to no good effect. The Italians, the Germans, the British, all engaged them, to no good effect.

 

DODD: Well, but...

 

RICE: Senator Dodd, if I really thought that the Syrians didn't know how to help stabilize Iraq and we needed to tell them, then perhaps that would be worth doing. They know how to stabilize Iraq. They just need to stop allowing terrorists to cross their borders.

 

DODD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

 

RICE: Shall I go to Iran, because I do think they're different?

 

When it comes to Iran, the Iranians -- first of all, there's a 27-year history of not engaging Iran, so this would be a major shift in policy. Of course we did talk to them about Afghanistan when that made sense. But what we're looking at, again, is an Iran that is engaging activities to try to kill our troops.

 

They know how to stop that; they know how to stop it tomorrow. They know how to stop destabilizing the young Iraqi government. And I assume that if they believe it's in their interest, they would do so.

 

But I just don't believe, for a moment, that the conversation with the Iranians is going to go in the following way: Help us stabilize Iraq and they don't want to talk about a price on their nuclear program.

 

We are, I think, dealing with Iran in the proper fashion, which is to insist with the rest of the international community that any negotiations with Iran are going to be on the basis of suspension of their nuclear program.

 

RICE: We are reaching out to the Iranian people. We've just had a group of Iranian medical doctors here in an exchange. We will have some American sports teams go there.

 

We are making it difficult for Iran to continue its policies of terrorism and WMD pursuit because we are sanctioning and designating their banks that are engaged in those activities. And it is having an effect on whether people are willing to invest in Iran, whether they are willing to take the reputational risk of handling Iranian assets.

 

That's why banks are leaving Iran. That's why they're having trouble finding a way to support their investment in their oil and gas industry.

 

We do have a pretty comprehensive way of dealing with Iran.

 

I have made the offer. If they are prepared to suspend their enrichment capability, I'm there with their people at any time that they'd like at any place that they'd like. But I think that's the proper context.

 

And finally, we do have the opportunity within the international compact to have Iran and Syria play a positive role in Iraq if they wish to do it. They've been at those meetings of the international compact, and they should play a positive role.

 

And so I don't think there's an absence of diplomacy, an absence of a policy toward Iran and Syria. It's just that direct negotiations on this matter put us in the role of supplicant. And I think that's a problem.

 

DODD: Thank you, Madam Secretary.

 

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

 

BIDEN: Senator Hagel?

 

HAGEL: Mr. Chairman, thank you.

 

Welcome, Dr. Rice.

 

Mr. Chairman, I would ask that a statement be included for the record.

 

BIDEN: Without objection.

 

HAGEL: Thank you.

 

Dr. Rice, we always appreciate you coming before this committee. And before I get to my questions, I want to...

 

PROTESTER: Lies! It's all lies! More lies! Still lying! Stop lying! Stop the war!

 

BIDEN: He wasn't referring to you, Senator.

 

HAGEL: I was concerned. That doesn't count on my -- he's not from Nebraska, Mr. Chairman.

 

BIDEN: Would you reset...

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

Would you reset the clock?

 

KERRY: Let's vote on that.

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

HAGEL: He took the train over from Delaware; that fella did.

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

Like I was saying, Dr. Rice, it was a little heavy anyway. We needed a break.

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

We are very appreciative of your trip to the Middle East tomorrow, because not only does it fit into what we are discussing today -- and I have believed for some time that it is the centerpiece of the difficulties in the Middle East, as was noted here by our co- chairman -- this issue is going to be with us for some time as it has been. And you have noted that. The president has noted that.

 

I would hope that -- and I have reviewed your travel schedule -- that we will find as a result of those meetings that we will have locked in place some very significant follow-up.

 

And I have been one, as you know, and I have discussed this with you, that I think the president and you should think very seriously about some kind of a day-to-day, high-level envoy. You do not have the time and the energy and the resources and the manpower -- I don't need to tell you -- to continue to work this, nor does the president.

 

HAGEL: But if, in fact, we're going to make progress and move this to some higher plane where we are developing some confidence and trust that we have lost in my opinion -- and I think others share that, and especially recent conversations and poll numbers -- this issue must be addressed, and that means follow-up. So thank you for your leadership.

 

I want to comment briefly on the president's speech last night as he presented his new strategy for Iraq, and then I want to ask you a couple of questions.

 

I'm going to note one of the points that the president made last night at the conclusion of his speech when the said, quote, "We mourn the loss of every fallen American. And we owe it to them to build a future worthy of their sacrifice." And I don't think there is a question that we all in this country agree with that.

 

But I would even begin with this evaluation, that we owe the military and their families a policy -- a policy -- worthy of their sacrifices. And I don't believe, Dr. Rice, that we have that policy today.

 

I think what the president said last night -- and I listened carefully and read through it again this morning -- is all about a broadened American involvement -- escalation -- in Iraq and the Middle East. I do not agree with that escalation.

 

And I would further note that when you say, as you have here this morning, that we need to address and help the Iraqis and pay attention to the fact that Iraqis are being killed, Madam Secretary, Iraqis are killing Iraqis. We are in a civil war. This is sectarian violence out of control; Iraqi on Iraqi.

 

HAGEL: Worst, it is inner-sectarian violence; Shia killing Shia.

 

To ask our young men and women to sacrifice their lives to be put in the middle of a civil war is wrong.

 

It's, first of all, in my opinion, morally wrong. It's tactically, strategically, militarily wrong.

 

We will not win a war of attrition in the Middle East. And I further note that you talk about skepticism and pessimism of the American people and some in Congress. That is not some kind of a subjective analysis; that is because, Madam Secretary, we've been there almost four years.

 

And there's a reason for that skepticism and pessimism. And that is based on the facts on the ground, the reality of the dynamics.

 

And so, I have been one, as you know, who believed that the appropriate focus is not escalate, but to try to find a broader incorporation of a framework.

 

And it will have to be, certainly, regional, as many of us have been saying for a long time.

 

That should not be new to anyone.

 

But it has to be more than regional. It is going to have to be internationally sponsored. And that's going to include Iran and Syria.

 

When you were engaging Chairman Biden on this issue on the specific question of, "Will our troops go into Iran or Syria in pursuit, based on what the president said last night?," you cannot sit here today -- not because you're dishonest or you don't understand -- but no one in our government can sit here today and tell Americans that we won't engage the Iranians and the Syrians cross-border.

 

HAGEL: Some of us remember 1970, Madam Secretary. And that was Cambodia. And when our government lied to the American people and said, "We didn't cross the border going into Cambodia," in fact we did. I happen to know something about that, as do some on this committee.

 

So, Madam Secretary, when you set in motion the kind of policy that the president is talking about here, it's very, very dangerous. As a matter of fact, I have to say, Madam Secretary, that I think this speech given last night by this president represents the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam -- if it's carried out.

 

I will resist it.

 

(APPLAUSE)

 

BIDEN: Please refrain, OK?

 

HAGEL: Now let me ask a question about the Maliki government. Is all of the Maliki government in support of America's significant escalation of troops and all the other things the president talked about? And where are our allies? Are they escalating as well?

 

It's my understanding that most of our allies have been withdrawing their troops. My understanding is that Great Britain intends to have most of their troops, if not all, out by the end of this year. Are the British escalating their troops? Are the Poles? The Italians? The South Koreans? The Australians?

 

Are we finding ourselves isolated -- going to find ourselves isolated?

 

If you would answer those two questions -- thank you.

 

RICE: Yes. Certainly, Senator.

 

First thing, I don't think we anticipate an augmentation of other coalition forces. But the number of Iraqi forces -- that should be growing over the next several months so that, in fact, by November these are really places that Iraq themself can take care of. We do expect Iraqi forces to fill the void.

 

Now secondly, in terms of the -- let me just go to the question of escalation, because I want to be...

 

HAGEL: Let me ask you to answer the second question -- actually, my first question -- a little more specifically.

 

RICE: Yes.

 

HAGEL: The coalition government of Prime Minister Maliki...

 

RICE: Yes.

 

HAGEL: ... the Sunnis...

 

RICE: Right.

 

HAGEL: ... Sadr...

 

RICE: Yes.

 

HAGEL: ... his 30 members, which leads us right into, as we put our Marines and Army in Baghdad, another 22,000 or whether that's going to be 15,000, we're going to then put them in a position to be killing -- I assume -- militia, because the militia's a problem there.

 

And so that's the position we're going to put our troops in. And they'll be killing our troops.

 

Now, are Sunni-Shia coalition members, and the Kurds -- of Maliki's government -- are they all supporting our new position?

 

RICE: Of course, Muqtada Sadr does not support coalition forces at all. But the president has talked to...

 

HAGEL: He has 30 representatives on that government.

 

RICE: Yes. He has 30 representatives.

 

HAGEL: So again, is this...

 

RICE: It's not even -- it's not...

 

HAGEL: Is this a unified support of -- go ahead.

 

RICE: Sorry. His 30 people are not even enough, if you count the two Kurdish parties, the IIP and the other Shia parties. They are, in fact, a majority. And, indeed, the president has talked to the leaders of those blocs prior to this to say that they need to support Prime Minister Maliki's plan.

 

RICE: And the augmentation of our forces, of course, is in support of that plan.

 

So I think you will find support among the people who are supporting Prime Minister Maliki in his desire to end the sectarian violence. And that is more than Prime Minister Maliki...

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

HAGEL: That's not my question.

 

RICE: Well, you asked me...

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

HAGEL: My question was the escalation of American troops in Iraq.

 

RICE: But I think you asked who was supporting it. And I said the Kurdish parties, Prime Minister Maliki and his Shia allies, and the IIP support a plan to do this. And they know that the augmentation of American forces is part of that plan.

 

Now, as to the question of escalation, I think that I don't see it, and the president doesn't see it, as an escalation. What he sees...

 

HAGEL: Putting 22,000 new troops, more troops in, is not an escalation?

 

RICE: Well, I think, Senator, escalation is not just a matter of how many numbers you put in. Escalation is also a question of, are you changing the strategic goal of what you're trying to do? Are you escalating...

 

HAGEL: Would you call it a decrease, and billions of dollars more that you need...

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

RICE: I would call it, Senator, an augmentation that allows the Iraqis to deal with this very serious problem that they have in Baghdad.

 

This is not a change in what we are trying to achieve. The Iraqi government needs to establish population security. What this argumentation does is to help them carry out their plan to get population security.

 

I just want to note, though, of course, that most of -- many of the American casualties actually are taken in places like Anbar. They're also taken really because convoys are moving back and forth in the city. They're deliberately by people who are trying to get us out of the country. They're not because we are caught in the middle of crossfire between Sunni and Shia.

 

I think it is important, again, to use the chairman's word, to have an image of what's really going on in Baghdad. It is absolutely the case that Iraqi...

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

HAGEL: Madam Secretary, your intelligence and mine is a lot different. And I know my time is up here.

 

But to sit there and say that, Madam Secretary, that's just not true.

 

RICE: Well, Senator...

 

HAGEL: That is not true.

 

RICE: Senator, if you'll allow me to finish, I think you -- there is a point I'd like to make about the Iraqis killing Iraqis and what that really is.

 

HAGEL: Well, what that really is, is pretty obvious what it really is.

 

RICE: There are death squads, Senator, that are going into neighborhoods, and they are killing Iraqis. And indeed, the death squads are Iraqis. So in that sense it's Iraqis killing Iraqis.

 

HAGEL: Thank you.

 

RICE: But I think it is wrong to give an image that somehow all Sunnis and Shia have broken into violence against one another.

 

What the Maliki government is trying to do is to re-establish civil order so that the violent groups, including militias, including death squads, are dealt with by Iraqi forces, with the aid of American forces.

 

That's different than saying that all of Iraq has fallen into civil war. And I just think it's the wrong image. Not all of Baghdad has fallen into civil war.

 

There are deliberate efforts by organized groups to go after Sunnis, if they are Shia, and Shia, if they are Sunnis.

 

What the president said to Prime Minister Maliki is, "You have got to be even-handed in how you go after these killers, whether they are Sunni or whether they are Shia." And that is the obligation that he undertook, and it is the assurance that he gave.

 

HAGEL: Thank you.

 

Mr. Chairman, thank you.

 

BIDEN: Gentlemen, these are really important exchanges, but if we're going to get the junior members being able to ask their questions, I'm going to have to start to cut them off.

 

And I'm reluctant to do it because this is something the American people should hear and understand. And so, I'm sorry, but I'm going to try to get us back into the seven minutes, OK?

 

Senator Kerry?

 

KERRY: You had to put the hammer down now, huh?

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

BIDEN: We put the hammer down now, yeah, right.

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

KERRY: Madam Secretary, welcome, and we appreciate your being here.

 

KERRY: I'm going to try and summarize a couple of comments, thoughts, quickly, and then, obviously, try to get some questions. The time is so tight.

 

With all due respect, I think you were splitting hairs a little bit in your answer to Senator Hagel. It is true that Iraq, as a whole, is not engaged broadly, as you're saying. But the trend line is increasingly moving in that direction. And in places like Basra, the British are struggling. There's increasing violence in communities where there wasn't.

 

And the level of violence, according to most people's standards -- the testimony we had yesterday in this committee -- is larger than classified civil wars in many other places historically.

 

And the violence of Sunni on Shia is clearly sectarian, and it is a civil war between them; low grade, still, but nevertheless civil war.

 

The Middle East that Senator Dodd and I saw when we were there a few weeks ago, certainly the Middle East I saw, is very different from the one that I think you've described here today.

 

Last night's speech by the president was very important. It was important for what it said and set out as a policy, but it was also important, I think, for what it didn't say and didn't do.

 

Many of us, as you know, in our own personal conversation, we've been looking for a bipartisan way to approach this. I think the president lost an enormous opportunity last night for that bipartisanship.

 

None of us want failure. There is a road to success in the judgment of some people, conceivably -- much more out of reach than it ever was at any point in time because of the failure to make the right choices and to find that consensus to date.

 

But last night the president chose, fundamentally, to ignore the foundation built by the Iraq Study Group, the foundation built on a bipartisan basis here, and knowingly and willfully has divided the country yet again, and the Congress over this issue.

 

We didn't find that bipartisanship.

 

And what was particularly lacking, in my judgment, and I don't understand it, was the political-diplomatic approach and solution here. Every general, you, yourself, the president has said there's no military solution.

 

KERRY: But last night, the president didn't offer the diplomatic and political solution.

 

And why there isn't a resolution on the oil revenue, why there isn't a resolution on the federalism, why there isn't a path to that through the summitry and the diplomacy necessary, is really beyond a lot of people's understanding at this point.

 

The Middle East we saw is a Middle East -- and if you measure a policy by what it's accomplishing -- I hate to say it, but this policy is unbelievably off the mark; a failure.

 

Hamas is stronger than at any time previously. Hezbollah is stronger than at any time previously. Iran is stronger than at any time previously. Iraq is more of a mess than at any time previously.

 

That is the measure of a failure.

 

And so, the question is -- and here, we have in the New York Times today, a story saying that promising troops where they aren't really needed. A story about how the government itself is saying, "We don't want them," and how they would like to run the war the way they want to, which I thought was the purpose of this exercise, but we're not going to let them.

 

Now, I want to get some questions. It's hard to do it in this timeframe, but the president said last night that America's commitment is not open-ended. And if they don't follow through, they will lose the support of the American people and the Iraqi people.

 

I don't want to debate with you whether or not they've already lost the support of the American people. I think it's pretty evident to most people that that's where we are.

 

But what does it mean to say it's not open-ended? What is the accountability measure here? Are you saying, if it's not open-ended, that you're prepared to terminate it? Do you agree that it's not open-ended, first of all?

 

RICE: Of course, it is not open-ended.

 

KERRY: If it's not open-ended, does that mean you're prepared if they fail to pull out, to terminate? What is the accountability mechanism?

 

RICE: Senator, I think it's best to leave the president's words as the president's words.

 

I do think that the accountability rests in two places. First of all, I think the Iraqis now know that if they don't succeeding returning security to their population, then their population is not going to support them. And...

 

KERRY: And what are we going to do? That's the big issue to the United States Congress.

 

RICE: ... it's a democratic process.

 

And, secondly, we will have an opportunity as this policy unfolds -- it's not going to happen overnight -- as it unfolds to see whether or not, in fact, the Iraqis are living up to the assurances that they gave us.

 

KERRY: And what if they don't?

 

RICE: Senator, I don't think you go to plan B. You work with plan A.

 

KERRY: But that's not a plan B. That's a very critical issue.

 

RICE: You work with plan A and you give it the possibility of success, the best possibility of success.

 

And I want to emphasize, it's not just about Baghdad. There are other elements to this policy, and I really think it's important not to underestimate the importance of relying, of course, on the Maliki government in terms Baghdad, but also relying on the local councils and the local leaders of Baghdad through the expansion of PRTs there, relaying on the local leaders in places like Anbar to do the kinds of things that they've started to do...

 

KERRY: But, Madam Secretary, with all due respect, all of that is good. I think those PRT teams are terrific, and I think the effort of those folks out there is courageous, unbelievable.

 

But they can't do this. If Abdel Aziz Hakim and SCIRI have a grand design for a nine-province state that is Shia in the south, to the exclusion of adequate support to the Sunni and Baghdad and the central government -- you know that -- they can't do it.

 

If Muqtada al-Sadr has ambitions with respect to the country and the Sunni aren't brought to the table with a sufficient stake that they feel they're sharing -- that's the fundamental struggle here.

 

RICE: I agree...

 

KERRY: The president didn't address it.

 

RICE: No, the president did address it. He talked about the need for the national oil law. And...

 

KERRY: The need for it, but now how it's going to happen. And why do we have to wait three years to have that?

 

RICE: We are very much -- well, because it's actually a very difficult thing, Senator, in a place where they've never solved their problems by politics to ask them to take one of the most fundamental issues facing the country, which is: How are they going to divide the one strong resource they have, which is oil.

 

And what's remarkable is that the oil law that they are now close to finalizing is not a sectarian oil law. It, in fact -- even though the Kurds might have been expected, as some have said they would, to insist that they will simply control all the resources themselves, that's not what the oil law does.

 

KERRY: I understand what the framework for it is. But the question is: Why is there not the political resolution on the table that assures Americans that the fundamental struggle between Sunni and Shia, and the struggle within Shia -- I mean, the president talked last night about this war as if it's sort of a single war: the green zone government struggling for democracy versus everybody else.

 

Really, there are several wars.

 

BIDEN: Senator, your time is up.

 

KERRY: There's a war Sunni on Shia, there's a war of Sunni and Shia on American occupiers, there's a war of Syria, Iran engaging with...

 

RICE: Senator, I think everybody understands that. But you asked me about the political reconciliation.

 

BIDEN: Senator, I'm sorry, your time is up. We're just not going to be able to...

 

KERRY: Well, could you just speak to the political piece please.

 

RICE: Can I answer? Yes, the political piece. It is composed of the following elements: the national oil law, which is a remarkable law in that it does not take a sectarian cast; a new de- Baathification policy which already has allowed a number of officers to return to the armed forces and pensions to be paid -- and there will be further effort on that; a commitment to provincial elections, which the Sunnis feel will be important to righting the disproportionately low share of their representation in provincial councils because they boycotted the elections early on.

 

These are the elements of a national reconciliation plan. And I don't think, Senator, it can be imposed from the outside. I do think the Iraqis themselves, with our help and with the help of others -- and, by the way, with an international compact where the international community has, indeed, said those are the obligations that you must undertake for support -- that that is how they will get to that national reconciliation plan.

 

But they're not going to get there if they're unable to provide population security in Baghdad, because that is soaking the atmosphere of sectarianism.

 

BIDEN: I realize that generates a lot of questions, but I'm going to yield now to Senator Coleman.

 

COLEMAN: Thanks, Mr. Chairman.

 

Secretary Rice, first, I do appreciate the president's candor last night in admitting mistakes. I think it was important. I share his perspective on the kind of two fronts we have here.

 

COLEMAN: We're fighting a war against Al Qaida and foreign fighters in Al Anbar. We're winning that war. I was there just three weeks ago.

 

But the problem is that we can't be successful there unless we have Sunnis in the police force and Sunnis in the army. And that gets back to the sectarian violence that we're seeing in Baghdad.

 

And my problem is, the chairman asked the question about capacity. To me the issue is not the capacity of the Iraqis to do what has to be done to deal with the sectarian violence, but the resolve.

 

I was with Dr. Rubaie, who's the prime minister's national security adviser, and I can tell you, three weeks ago he didn't think the answer was more American troops in Baghdad. I mean, the sense I got is that: We can take of this -- our problem -- the big problem is the Sunni insurgents and the foreign fighters.

 

And so you have indicated saying this time they're going to make the difficult choices. And I'm not seeing that. It is difficult to ask them to enact an oil law. It's got to be a lot more difficult, and it should be, and I know it is, to ask our sons and daughters and fathers and brothers and sisters to be on the front line in Baghdad, in the crosshairs of sectarian violence. That again I have this question about the resolve.

 

And so my question to you is: Why wouldn't it be wiser to hold the Iraqis to certain benchmarks, to tell them, "You have X number of months to pass an oil law that distributes oil throughout the region, to put money into places like Anbar province that are Sunni dominated and they've been cut off in the past, to show a real commitment to reconciliation"?

 

I just don't know if the Iraqis or if the Sunnis are done killing each other. I don't know if the bloodletting has passed.

 

So why wouldn't it be wiser for us to say, "We'll give you six months to do this, and if you do that, there are range of things that we can do"? Why put more American lives on the line now in the hope that this time they'll make the difficult choice?

 

RICE: Senator, you've come to the real crux of the matter: Is it a matter of capacity or is it a matter of resolve?

 

If you think it's just a matter of resolve, then I think that's precisely the strategy that you would pursue. You would say to them, "Show us first that you're resolved, and then we'll help you."

 

But if you think it's both a matter of resolve and capability, which our people do -- despite the somewhat bravado of Mr. Rubaie and some others, I think the Iraqi defense minister didn't think that he has the forces to do what he needs to do.

 

And so, if you think it's a matter of both resolve and capability, then you want to provide the capability up front so they don't fail. And that's really what the president is saying.

 

Then you have to have the resolve. I am absolutely of the mind and absolutely committed that they have to have the resolve. And, frankly, they haven't always shown it.

 

But they are moving on a number of fronts that show that resolve. The oil law. Some of the moves on de-Baathification.

 

RICE: But I think, again, it's important to have a view of what Baghdad really looks like.

 

First of all, they are going to be on the front lines because they understand that sectarian violence has to be ended by them, not by us. We can support them. We can't take it on.

 

But all of us remember times in our history when it was not good to be in a neighborhood when the police came in. I cam from a part of the country where that was the case.

 

Seeing the police come, in Birmingham, Alabama, when I was a kid, was not a comforting sight. That's essentially the case in places like -- in some of the neighborhoods of Baghdad.

 

And so what that government has to do is to re-establish, in that population, the confidence that the government is going to establish civil order, that they're not going to let death squads take out neighborhoods; kill the men, send the women into exile.

 

That's what we're trying to help them to do. But they've got to be on the front lines of this because, ultimately, only they can solve the sectarian problem.

 

COLEMAN: I think we agree on the end. We agree what the government has to do. You know, it's the proverbial -- you know, fooled once, shame on you; fooled twice, shame on me.

 

Look, I understand the differences before we were in Baghdad, but what I have yet to see -- and even as recently as three weeks ago -- is that level of commitment and resolve, that the Shias are going to say, we're going to take care of the Muqtada al-Sadrs; we're going to do those things that have to be done.

 

And to put the lives of Americans soldiers -- more, in the center of that, without first having something that's substantial, something we can point to, other than this sense of trust, other than looking someone in the eye, having a conversation.

 

I'm not prepared, at this time, to support that. It's -- the cost is too great. I understand -- we all went at it from the same place, but it would appear to me that, if we could get some measure of assurance that the commitment is there -- and what we have now are some promises.

 

And I think the cost is too high, based on the calculation we have to make.

 

RICE: Senator, may I just say, I understand, and we're clear- eyed, too, about the fact that the Iraqi government has to perform. And we're clear-eyed about the fact that they've not, in the past.

 

But I think it's awfully important to recognize that the violence, the sectarian violence, which was really accelerated by Samarra, is threatening to outrun their chance to do exactly the things that you want them to do.

 

Because the atmosphere of sectarianism is breaking down the very fabric of a society that, frankly, has a lot of ties between their peoples. Their tribes are mixed Sunni and Shia. They're intermarried Sunni and Shia.

 

There are a lot of fibers of this society that are actually not sectarian. But if what is going on in Baghdad continues apace, without the government capable of getting control of it and re- establishing civil order, then you are going to have the kind of breakdown in the fabric of society to support the very processes of national reconciliation that you're talking about.

 

That's why this is urgent. And that's why we don't have time to sequence it, to let them prove themselves first, and then, we will add forces to help them do what they need to do.

 

RICE: As I said, if it's a matter of just resolve, then the sequencing works.

 

But it's also capability. And that's the assessment of our military people and of our political people.

 

We have the ability, of course, to see how they're doing, in terms of living up to their obligations because not all American forces are going to go in up front.

 

Not all will be ready to go in on day one. And you can be sure that we're going to be watching very carefully, and we're going to be pressing them very hard, that their obligations are obligations that if they don't meet, this plan cannot succeed.

 

We're also going to be diversifying our efforts, making sure that we're not just dependent on the Maliki government for some successes in the country, but, rather, on local leaders of the kind that we're working with in Anbar.

 

But I just think it's extremely important to recognize that the threat right now is that that fabric of a society that is non- sectarian is being stretched to the limit by what's going on in Baghdad. And they don't have a lot of time to get on top of it, and we don't have time to sequence our help to help them get on top of it.

 

COLEMAN: Thank you, Madam Secretary.

 

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

 

BIDEN: Thank you very much.

 

Senator Feingold?

 

FEINGOLD: (OFF-MIKE) appearing before the committee today. Unfortunately, Madam Secretary, this hearing is taking place in the context of what has become a true nightmare for the United States, and quite possibly the greatest foreign policy mistake in the history of our nation.

 

We just heard Senator Hagel, I think, use similar language, and I thank him sincerely for his candor before this committee.

 

We currently have 140,000 of our bravest men and women in uniform in Iraq, stuck in what has become a civil war.

 

Over 3,000 Americans have died. And we continue to see increases in inter-ethnic attacks and bombings, and the strength of Shia militias and the strength of the insurgency in displaced persons and so on.

 

FEINGOLD: Almost four years after this war began, Iraqis are no closer to a political agreement or to resolve the underlying political, ethnic, religious and economic problems that are ripping the country apart. But the president wants to send more U.S. troops to Iraq.

 

His strategy runs counter to the needs of our strained military, counter to the testimony of our military's most senior officers, counter to the need to address the troubling developments in places like Afghanistan and Somalia, and counter to the fact that after four years of failed strategies for victory, the American people have sent a resounding message. And that message is it is time to redeploy our brave troops out of Iraq now.

 

The American people soundly rejected the president's Iraq policy in November. They sent a clear message that maintaining our troops in Iraq is not in the interests of our national security. They understand that our Iraq-centric policies are hurting our ability to defeat the enemy that attacked us on 9/11. We can't afford to continue this course.

 

I have consistently called for the redeployment of our military from Iraq. I was the first senator in August of 2005 to call for a timetable to withdraw the troops over a period of time of 15 months at that time. But that advise has not been heeded.

 

And now Congress must use its main power: the power of the purse to put an end to our involvement in this disastrous war.

 

And I'm not talking here only about the surge or escalation. It is time to use the power of the purse to bring our troops out of Iraq.

 

Over the next several weeks, I, and I hope many of my colleagues, will work together to take a hard look at exactly how we should do that, but it is time to use that power.

 

Our troops in Iraq have performed heroically, but we cannot continue to send our nation's best into a war that was started and is still maintained on false pretenses.

 

And indefinite presence of U.S. military personnel in Iraq will not fix that country's political problems. And sending more troops to Iraq will not provide the stability that can only come from a political agreement. From the beginning, this war has been a mistake. And the policies that have carried it out have been a failure.

 

We need a new national security strategy that starts with a redeployment from Iraq so we can repair and strengthen our military and focus on the global threats to our national security.

 

(APPLAUSE)

 

With that, Madam Secretary, my first question is this: Is the United States more secure now as a result of our military incursion into Iraq than we were before we entered Iraq?

 

RICE: Senator, I think that we are more secure. We are more secure, but we're not secure.

 

FEINGOLD: Are we more secure, vis-a-vis Al Qaida?

 

RICE: We have done a lot to break up Al Qaida, the forces that came against us on September the 11th. I think...

 

FEINGOLD: But are we more secure, vis-a-vis Al Qaida, than we were before we went into Iraq?

 

RICE: Well, Senator, I do think that we are more secure, vis-a- vis Al Qaida, for a lot of reasons -- not just our policies in the Middle East, the policies we've undertaken here at home...

 

FEINGOLD: I asked you whether, as a result of our Iraqi intervention, are we more secure, vis-a-vis Al Qaida?

 

RICE: Senator, the notion about Iraq has always been that to deal with the short-term problem of Al Qaida as it exists now, is not going to create long-term security.

 

You can only do that by changing the nature of the Middle East that produced Al Qaida.

 

I don't want us to confuse what we are doing in Iraq with the short-term problem.

 

The longer-term issue is how the Middle East itself evolves, and that's why Iraq is so important and it's why it's important that we succeed.

 

FEINGOLD: I understand the argument. I completely reject it, but I understand it.

 

What about Afghanistan? Are we better off in Afghanistan than we were before the invasion of Iraq?

 

RICE: I think there's no doubt that we are better off in Afghanistan. Afghanistan has made a lot of progress since 2006 -- since 2001...

 

FEINGOLD: That's not what I asked. I asked if we're better off since the intervention in Iraq?

 

RICE: Senator, not everything is related to what we have done in Iraq.

 

FEINGOLD: Simple question: Did it help or did it hurt our situation in Afghanistan?

 

RICE: Senator, I think that we have been managing what is going on in Afghanistan, as we've been managing what goes on in Iraq. I don't actually see the connection you're trying to draw. I don't understand.

 

FEINGOLD: Well, are we better off vis-a-vis Iran and North Korea than we were prior to the intervention in Iraq? Is our security situation vis-a-vis Iran and North Korea better than it was before the intervention in Iraq?

 

RICE: Well, I don't really think, Senator, that the North Korean test, nuclear test, has anything to do with Iraq.

 

FEINGOLD: I think the diversion of attention from the most important problems in the world has everything to do with this terrible mistake.

 

Let's try something that I think is more direct. What about our military, the strain on our military? Is our military better off than it was before the Iraq intervention?

 

RICE: Senator, we're at war, and when we're at war there's going to be strain on the military. I think that's what General Pace would tell you.

 

But, again, I just -- I can't agree with you that there's been a diversion of our attention from all other policy problems. If you look at the progress that we've actually made on North Korea, with North Korea under a Chapter 7 resolution and with six-party talks about to begin again; if you look at the progress that we're making on stopping an Iranian nuclear weapon that, by the way, has been in train for quite some time; if you look at the progress that we've made -- and I have to say, you know, this Middle East that somehow was so stable before we invaded Iraq is a Middle East that I didn't recognize in 2000 or 2001 either.

 

That was a Middle East where Saddam Hussein was still in power, still with the potential to invade his neighbors as he had done before, where Syria was deep into Lebanon, where the Palestinian territories were governed by a man who was stealing the Palestinians blind but couldn't take a peace deal.

 

I don't see that Middle East as having been very stable. So...

 

FEINGOLD: My time is up, but I see this problem of our security as an international problem. And I believe the diversion of attention in Iraq has been absolutely catastrophic with regard to our national security.

 

RICE: Well, Senator, I appreciate your views on that, but I'm the one who every day goes to the office and works not just on Iraq, but on North Korea, on Iran, on the problems in Somalia, in Sudan.

 

And I think if you look around you'll see that the United States has a very active policy everywhere in the world.

 

FEINGOLD: Thank you, Madam Secretary.

 

BIDEN: Thank you very much.

 

Senator Corker? And, again, welcome to the committee.

 

CORKER: Mr. Chairman, thank you. I appreciate the tremendous testimony that you've allowed us to have over the last three days.

 

And, Madam Secretary, thank you for being here.

 

RICE: I've heard a lot, it seems that people agree that in Iraq we need a political solution, that that is what needs to occur.

 

CORKER: It seems to me that what the administration has tried to put forth is a way for a political process to occur and a political solution to happen.

 

And that is by causing Iraqis to actually feel secure, to feel like they can in fact go about a political process in a way that allows people to debate and come to a solution.

 

One of the things I've realized, with the testimony over the last three days, is there is another school of thought.

 

And that is that, by some -- and I don't mean by anybody on this panel, specifically -- but that by some who wish to withdraw, they believe that the only way there's going to be a political process, a healthy political process, is for there to be an all-out civil war first, that what we've had is a measured civil war and that, by withdrawing, it actually would be an all-out civil war, and that things have got to get much worse before they get any better.

 

I'd like for you to address those two schools of thought, if you would.

 

RICE: Well, thank you, Senator. First of all, I think you've put it very well, because the risk of American withdrawal or, as it's sometimes called, redeployment -- and I think we have to recognize, redeployment's really withdrawal -- then we are dealing with a circumstance in which the Iraqis are so-called "left to their own devices" to deal with a problem that threatens to overwhelm their political process. And that is the sectarian violence in Baghdad.

 

Again, as I was saying to Senator Coleman, it really does depend on whether you think this is a matter of Iraqi resolve or a matter of capability or a matter of both. And the president and his team thinks it's a matter of both.

 

And so no amount of resolve, if they don't have the capability, is going to help them to deal with the sectarian violence in Baghdad. That's why we want to augment their capability so that they can show that resolve.

 

When analysts look at what you would be talking about if you just said to them, all right, you just go at one another and we'll go to the borders and defend the borders and we'll fight Al Qaida and we'll do a few other things, but it's really up to you to resolve this, I think it has the wrong idea of what's really going on in Baghdad.

 

It's not as if, street to street, every Sunni and every Shia is determined to kill each other. That's really not the case. You do have, stoked by Al Qaida, after the Samarra bombing, people, extremists, Sunni and Shia, death squads, Sunni and Shia, who are, in the name of sectarianism, going in to neighborhoods, killing the men -- that's where those bodies are coming from -- expelling the women.

 

RICE: That's why there are internally displaced people.

 

But it is an organized effort to perpetrate violence by Shia death squads and Sunni death squads. That means that if the Iraqi government is actually able to deal with the organized effort, then they won't be able to stem the tide of sectarian violence.

 

But if they're not able to do that and to reestablish civil order, then the fabric of this society, which has not always been just sectarian -- there's a lot of intermarriage, a lot of community between the group -- that fabric's going to break apart.

 

And so that's why the president has outlined what he has.

 

He did look, Senator, at other options. He did look at the question of whether or not the Iraqis could be told, "Go do this on your own."

 

And the assessment of the people on the ground, both our political people and our military people, is that they didn't yet have the forces to do it.

 

I think General Casey said at one point it would be the summer before they were really able to take control of operations in Iraq. Well, by the summer, if something hasn't improved in Baghdad, then they're going to be in very difficult straits.

 

So as you think about this policy and whether you decide to accept it or reject it, I think you have to think about the consequences of not going down this route. And the consequences of that is that you leave the Iraqi government without the capability to deal with their sectarian problem.

 

CORKER: Mr. Chairman, out of respect for my more senior junior members on this committee, I'm going to pass any...

 

BIDEN: I'm sure it's appreciated. Thank you very much, Senator.

 

BIDEN: Chairman Boxer?

 

BOXER: Thank you.

 

Mr. Chairman, for me, today marks the bipartisan end of a rubber- stamp Senate. And I am proud to be here on behalf of the people of California.

 

Madam Secretary, on November 7th the American people voted for a change in Congress, citing Iraq as the number one issue affecting their vote. And a week later, General Abizaid told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he checked with every single divisional commander on the ground in Iraq and to a person no one believed that more American troops would improve the situation because the Iraqis already rely on us too much.

 

And then, on December 7th, the Iraq Study Group, noting that 61 percent of the Iraqis who you say support us so much approve of attacks on U.S. troops -- they approve of shooting and killing U.S. troops -- the Iraqi Study Group, in light of that, recommended that U.S. combat troops should be redeployed out of Iraq by early '08. They also called for an immediate international meeting in the region to find a political solution to Iraq.

 

And one line that stands out in that Iraq Study report is, quote, "Absent a political solution, all the troops in the world will not provide security."

 

And on January 8th, the Military Times -- and I'd ask unanimous consent to place this into the record, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, may I place this in the record -- the Military Times?

 

BIDEN: Without objection it will be placed in...

 

BOXER: The Military Times published a poll which found that only 35 percent of military members approved of the way President Bush is handling this war. And only 38 percent thought there should be more troops.

 

So from where I sit, Madam Secretary, you are not listening to the American people, you are not listening to the military, you are not listening to the bipartisan voices from the Senate, you are not listening to the Iraq Study Group.

 

BOXER: Only you know who you are listening to.

 

And you wonder why there is a dark cloud of skepticism and pessimism over the nation. I think people are right to be skeptical after listening to some of the things that have been said by your administration.

 

For example, October 19, '05, you came before this committee to discuss, in your words, how we assure victory in Iraq. And you said the following, in answer to Senator Feingold: "I have no doubt that as the Iraqi security forces get better -- and they are getting better and are holding territory, and they are doing the things with minimal help -- we are going to be able to bring down the level of our forces. I have no doubt" -- I want to reiterate -- "I have no doubt that that's going to happen in a reasonable timeframe."

 

You had no doubt. Not a doubt. And last night, the president's announcement of an escalation is a total rebuke of your confident pronouncement.

 

Now, the issue is who pays the price. Who pays the price?

 

I'm not going to pay a personal price. My kids are too old and my grandchild is too young.

 

You're not going to pay a particular price, as I understand it, with an immediate family.

 

So who pays the price? The American military and their families.

 

And I just want to bring us back to that fact.

 

NPR has done a series of interviews with families who have lost kids. And the announcer said to one family in the Midwest, "What's changed in your lives since your son's death?"

 

The answer comes back, "Everything. You can't begin to imagine how even the little things change, how you go through the day, how you celebrate Christmas."

 

Mr. Chairman, could I please...

 

BIDEN: (OFF-MIKE)

 

BOXER: "You can't begin to imagine how you celebrate any holiday or birthday. There's an absence. It's not like the person's never been there. They always were there and now they're not and you're looking at an empty hole.

 

"He has a Purple Heart, the flag that was on his coffin, and one of the two urns that we got back. He came back in three parts: two urns and one coffin. He's buried in three places, if you count our house. He's buried in New Jersey. He's buried in Cleveland."

 

That's who's going to pay the price.

 

And then, you have the most moving thing I've ever head on a radio station, which is a visit to a burn unit and a talk with the nurse.

 

"Devin (ph) suffered burns over 93 percent of his body; three amputations, both legs, one arm; his back was broken; internal organs exposed. As the hospital staff entered the room, they would see photographs on the wall, pictures of a healthy private standing proud in his dark green Army dress uniform.

 

"It's very important, says the major, that nurses see the patient as a person, because the majority of our patients have facial burns and they're unrecognizable and they're extremely disfigured."

 

So who pays the price?

 

BOXER: Not me, not you. These are the people who pay the price.

 

So I want to ask you, since this administration has been so clear about how this has been a coalition -- a coalition -- you've already said that we don't have anybody else escalating their presence at this time; is that correct?

 

RICE: Yes.

 

BOXER: That is correct.

 

Have you seen the recent news that the British are going to be bringing home thousands of troops in the near future?

 

RICE: I have seen the stories about what the British are going to do. I'll wait for a confirmation from the British government about what they're going to do.

 

BOXER: OK, I would ask unanimous consent to place into the record the article from today that announced that that's what they're going to do, is bring home thousands of troops.

 

And I want to point out to the American people, we are all alone. We are all alone. There's no other country standing with us in this escalation.

 

And if you look at this coalition, the closest to us -- we've got about 130,000, 140,000 troops; I don't have an exact number. The Brits had 7,200. They're going to be announcing they're bringing home, as I understand it, more than 3,000 of those.

 

The next biggest coalition members is Poland with 900; and, after that, Australia with 300. No one is joining us in this surge.

 

Do you have an estimate of the number of casualties we expect from this surge?

 

RICE: No, Senator. I don't think there's any way to give you such an estimate.

 

BOXER: Has the president -- because he said, "Expect more sacrifice," he must know.

 

RICE: Senator, I don't think that any of us have a number that -- of expected casualties. I think that people understand that there is going to be violence for some time in Iraq, and that there will be more casualties.

 

RICE: And let me just say, I fully understand the sacrifice that the American people are making, and especially the sacrifice that our soldiers are making, men and women in uniform. I visit them. I know what they're going through. I talk to their families. I see it.

 

I could never and I can never do anything to replace any of those lost men and women in uniform, or the diplomats, some of whom...

 

BOXER: Madam Secretary, please, I know you feel terrible about it. That's not the point. I was making the case as to who pays the price for your decisions.

 

And the fact that this administration would move forward with this escalation with no clue as to the further price that we're going to pay militarily -- we certainly know the numbers, billions of dollars that we can't spend here in this country -- I find really appalling that there's not even enough time taken to figure out what the casualties would be.

 

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

 

RICE: Well, Senator, I think it'd be highly unlikely for the military to tell the president: We expect X number of casualties because of this augmentation of the forces.

 

And, again, let me just say, the president sees this as an effort to help the Iraqis with an urgent task so that the sectarian violence in Baghdad does not outrun the political process and make it impossible to have the kind of national reconciliation that we all want to see there.

 

But I just want to say one thing, Senator, about the placard that you held up. I have to admit, my eyesight's not what it used to be, so I couldn't actually see the date underneath, but I think it may have been '05?

 

BOXER: October. It was the end of '05, October, mid-October '05. And you had absolutely no doubt...

 

BOXER: And I think the president spoke...

 

BOXER: ... about how great it was going.

 

RICE: No, I don't think I ever said it was going great, Senator. Let's not...

 

BOXER: That our troops would be coming home...

 

RICE: Senator, let's not overstate the case. I don't think I said it was going great.

 

The point that I wanted to make...

 

BOXER: Let's just put it up again.

 

RICE: The point that I wanted to make, Senator, is that that is October '05. The president has talked repeatedly now about the changed circumstances that we faced after the Samarra bombing of February '06, because that bombing did, in fact, change the character of the conflict in Iraq.

 

Before that, we were fighting Al Qaida. Before that, we were fighting some insurgents, some Saddamists. But it was the purpose of Zarqawi to try and stoke sectarian violence. He wrote this letter to Zawahiri, told him he was going to do that.

 

Zawahiri himself was even concerned that his might be a bad policy, but it turns out to have been a very smart one, because, in fact, through the bombing of the Golden Mosque he accelerated this sectarian violence to the point that it now has presented us with a new set of circumstances.

 

BIDEN: Senator Sununu?

 

SUNUNU: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

 

Madam Secretary, in the president's remarks last night, there were some things that I was pleased to hear, such as his emphasis that the burden has shifted now to the Iraqi government, both for these political issues we've heard talked about today, but also for security, even setting a timetable for Iraqis taking full responsibility for security in the outlying provinces by November.

 

There were some areas where I have a little bit more concern, such as whether or not the use of the troops discussed will really be appropriate in dealing with sectarian violence in Baghdad; and some areas where I was a little bit more disappointed, such as the failure to talk about or establish a more formal process for engaging all of Iraq's neighbors, including those that are already very supportive and have been helpful, such as Turkey or Saudi Arabia or Jordan, in a more formal process to provide whatever support is necessary for Iraq.

 

But I want to begin with the area of political reform and change for the Iraqi government, because even here I think you've sensed a level of frustration. Because while we understand that a change in the oil law, local elections, a reconciliation process are essential to long-term success, and no matter how we succeed militarily, those gains won't be sustains unless these political reforms are undertaken, we still haven't been provided with a lot of clarity there and time frame.

 

And while I think an arbitrary date for removing all troops from Iraq doesn't make sense militarily or diplomatically, setting a very clear timetable for these reforms does make some sense, because it sends the right message to everyone involved.

 

And I would further suggest to you and the entire administration: If we don't see more specifics and even, where appropriate, a time frame that's established in concert with the Iraqi government, then Congress is probably going to step into the void and start setting a time frame for the Iraqi commitments that have been made.

 

SUNUNU: I certainly wouldn't prefer that. I would prefer the former to the latter.

 

So I offer that as a very strong suggestion, that we work to provide much more clarity and specifics in terms of timing. And I have two questions about those issues.

 

First, a very specific question with regard to the oil law: You referred to the oil law as a remarkable law. Well, it's the most remarkable law that no one has ever really seen.

 

Over the last week, I've had conversations with senior White House staff, about this issue. We had a top-secret briefing where this was raised in a very specific way. We heard from scholars yesterday.

 

And what we can gain is that there has been some agreement on investment issues, and even ownership, but not on distribution. And from where I sit, it's distribution that really matters.

 

Money is power. Money is power in Washington. Money is power anywhere around the world. And unless we have a methodology for distribution, we're not going to be successful.

 

So can you give more specifics about these different government objectives -- not just oil law -- political elections, reconciliation process, de-Baathification law. And what about the oil law, specifically?

 

When are we going to see the area of distribution resolved?

 

RICE: Well, on the first, Senator, I take your point about needing to understand the time frame in which the Iraqis are trying to do the benchmarks that are put before you.

 

It's a political process for them, just like we have political processes in the United States. And I think there have been times when we've missed deadlines on trying to get this legislative piece done or that legislative piece done.

 

But they do have a time frame for moving things forward into their parliament and getting the laws passed and so forth. They've tried to make sure that the laws that they're putting forward have enough political support so they don't have a problem in the parliament.

 

So they're going about it, I think, in the right way. But certainly, I think we can be more explicit about how they see the time frames ahead. And in the days to come, I'll try to do that.

 

As to the oil law, actually, the sticking point has been less about distribution. They understand that there needs to be some distribution on the basis of a formula that has to do with where the resource came from, the need to distribute it in a way that is equitable, and, indeed, to deal with the fact that some parts of the country are particularly underdeveloped.

 

RICE: And so, distribution has actually been less of a problem than the question of who gets to sign contracts. That's, frankly, been the one that they've been hung up on.

 

And so, I think you'll find that it's a law that in terms of distribution, in terms of some basic notion of a trust for the Iraqi people is actually quite forward leaning.

 

SUNUNU: Well, I understand the point you make, that investment may have been the sticking point. But I think it's also important that we fully recognize that while that may have been the sticking point to negotiation, that is not the issue that has the potential to fuel the sectarian violence.

 

And it's when the Sunnis do not feel that there is an equitable distribution scheme, when they're not enfranchised economically, that they're more likely to turn to sectarian organizations or sectarian groups, because they think that violence is the only way to ensure that kind of resolution.

 

So I understand, investment may have been the negotiating sticking point, but I think equitable distribution is more important to long-term enfranchisement economically and, therefore, to dealing with some of the sectarian problems.

 

The second question I want to ask is about the PRTs. There were some comments made, very positive, about the work of PRTs or their -- reconstruction teams or their potential. But it's my understanding that many of them are confined to a relatively small compound, that there are security issues.

 

And so, two issues: One, where will the funding and support come from? Two, how are we going to address the security issues that confine them when we're deploying troops elsewhere? And, third, what about recruitment? I mean it is my understanding that recruitment has been a problem, the Baker-Hamilton commission outlined, unfortunately, the tragic fact that we have so few Arab speakers in both our State and intelligence personnel in Iraq.

 

How are we going to address these two issues -- better recruitment, Arabic speakers, and security on the reconstruction teams?

 

RICE: Yes, Senator, just so I'm not (inaudible) law, it does address the question of distribution, and I think it addresses it in a way that we find hopeful.

 

SUNUNU: We had senior intelligence officials one day ago -- two days ago -- that were able to tell us nothing about the proposed distribution methodology.

 

RICE: I tell you what...

 

SUNUNU: On Friday, senior National Security Council staff was able to tell me and others in the room nothing about distribution methodology. So either the right information isn't being put into the hands of the president's national security adviser and his senior intelligence official for the Middle East or there's a refusal to share information.

 

RICE: Well, Senator, let me just say that I will tell you what we know of the draft law. I will send you a note about that.

 

In terms of the PRTs, we have now 98 percent of our PRT positions are filled. And as a matter of fact, we've already filled 68 percent of the positions that would come into rotation in the summer of 2007.

 

There was a time when we had some difficulty in recruiting. We had to make some changes in the way we recruited. I wanted to be sure that we had senior people leading these PRT teams, not people who were too junior.

 

RICE: And, in fact, I think you will find that we are doing very well in terms of getting the right people to the PRTs.

 

And so, there was a time, we changed some of the incentives, we changed the way we recruit for them and we're doing very well in filling the PRTs.

 

The absence of Arabic speakers, I'm afraid, is the result of the national underinvestment in Arabic language skills over a very long period of time. And we're doing what we can to improve that.

 

You know, at one time -- I think we don't have problems, frankly, finding Russian speakers because the United States invested in people like me to teach them Russian.

 

We really haven't done that as a nation, which is why we have a Critical Languages Initiative, which is why we're recruiting people with mid-level experience who might have those language skills. And we're going to have to better at getting Arabic speakers, not just into the PRTs and into Baghdad, but into the rest of the Middle East as well.

 

Finally -- and by the way, one of the things that we're doing is we're increasing the training of the people who go into Arabic so that they have longer in the training so that they're more capable in the language before they go out. So we're trying to address that problem.

 

Finally, as to security for the PRTs, yes, security is something that I'm very concerned about, take very seriously.

 

We are now being provided security through the brigade teams with which we are, in effect, embedded, and we think that works best.

 

Our people do move around. We just recently had for the president a briefing by four of our PRT teams. And, yes, they have sometimes some difficulty, but they get out and they go meet local leaders. One was telling me -- I'll not name the province for security reasons -- but that he's out at least three, four times a week with the local leaders.

 

And so people are getting out there, experiencing some of the same dangers that affect our military forces. And I think it's important to recognize that our civilians are on the front lines too.

 

But since we went to the structure of the PRTs, they are getting out.

 

BIDEN: Madam Secretary, let me suggest that we want to get you out by 1:00, so I appreciate your exposition, but to the extent that we all can't be shorter, we're going to be trespassing on your time.

 

Senator from Florida?

 

NELSON: Madam Secretary, I have supported you and the administration on the war and I cannot continue to support the administration's position.

 

I have not been told the truth. I have not been told the truth over and over again by administration witnesses. And the American people have not been told the truth.

 

NELSON: And I don't come to this conclusion very lightly.

 

Does General Abizaid support an increase in troops?

 

RICE: He does.

 

NELSON: Well, that's at variance, of course, as you've heard.

 

RICE: I think, Senator, first of all, if you look at his testimony and you look at the next lines in his testimony, he talks about the conditions under which troops might be useful.

 

And, in fact, everybody had hoped that this would be done with Iraqi forces. It wasn't that we didn't need more forces, it was hope that we would do it with Iraqi forces.

 

And what the Baghdad security plan of the summer showed was that that wasn't possible.

 

NELSON: Well...

 

RICE: General Abizaid and General Casey have been involved in the development of this plan. And it is, in fact, General Casey who presented this option to the president.

 

NELSON: Well, I'm looking forward to talking to General Abizaid. He is one of the few that have come before a number of the committees that I have the privilege of sitting on that I feel like has been a straight-shooter. And it's my hope that Chairman Carl Levin will call him and I will ask him directly.

 

But, of course, I was one of the ones that asked him that question very specifically when he was last here in front of the Congress. And he is someone that I think has credibility but, sad to say, that he's one of the few that I've felt like that I was getting a straight story from.

 

Let met pick up on something Senator Coleman said.

 

Three weeks ago, we were in Iraq and our mouths about dropped open when the national security adviser, Dr. Rubaie, said -- and I think it's almost his direct quote -- "This is not a sectarian war." And he went on to talk about how it's extremists, Al Qaida, and how it's the Baathists that want to come back into power.

 

NELSON: And, of course, that's part of it.

 

But the two of us -- certainly this senator got the impression that they are not coming to grips with what they have to come with, and that is that you've got Sunnis on Shiites, and Shiites on Shiites, and Sunnis on Sunnis, and until you get to that problem being solved, it's just simply not going to work.

 

Now, I'll tell you, one place that I agree with a statement of the president last night: that he was going to send additional troops in to Anbar province. I was convinced by the Marine commanders there -- as I think Senator Coleman was, as well -- that there where you have just a Sunni population and that the enemy is Al Qaida; that working with those Sunni tribal leaders with additional American troops, that you can get some progress. But not so in Baghdad.

 

And I'm sad that we've come to this point.

 

Let me just conclude by asking you -- I think it's been said by a number here, and I would like for you to amplify. Obviously, we need an intense diplomatic effort in the region.

 

One of the points of my trip was at the request of General Hayden to go and talk with the Saudi king, urging them to use their tribal contacts in Iraq to try to get people to come together.

 

Could you outline for the committee what is the intense diplomatic effort that is going to be taken? And is it being taken simultaneously with the president's plan of the additional troops?

 

RICE: Senator, it is being taken. I will go out tomorrow night.

 

The group that we are engaging, in addition to all the many bilateral engagements that we have with the Saudis, with the Kuwaitis, with others who can help, the Jordanians who can help, is through a group called the GCC-plus-2. That is really the appropriate group.

 

We work also with Turkey very closely on Iraq. We have a problem on the northern border with the PKK that General Ralston is trying to resolve.

 

RICE: But I think you would find that, first of all, there already has been diplomatic effort. We will, of course, try to intensify that effort to support what the Maliki government is now trying to do to get its sectarian problem under control.

 

Frankly, the countries of the region are also watching to see whether this will be an even-handed government in dealing with both Sunnis and Shia.

 

And so the Maliki government faces, I think, some skepticism not just from Americans and from Iraqis, but also from the region. And we've made that point to them that they really must deal with the sectarian problem in an even-handed fashion or they're not going to get support from the region.

 

That said, to the degree that we hear from the Saudis and others that their biggest strategic concern is Iran, then they have a very strong incentive to help stabilize Iraq so that Iraq is, indeed, a barrier to Iranian influence in the region, not a bridge.

 

NELSON: What do you...

 

BIDEN: I hate to do this, but if the next question's going to result in a long answer, you're going to be running out of time, Senator.

 

RICE: Thirty seconds.

 

BIDEN: So if you want, if it's a quick question, please.

 

NELSON: It's very quick.

 

We need more than engagement. We need to get these countries to act. So how do you get them to act?

 

RICE: There's an international compact that they've all negotiated. We need to finalize it.

 

BIDEN: Thank you very much.

 

Senator Voinovich?

 

VOINOVICH: Madam Secretary, I'm sorry that I wasn't here for your testimony and for the other questions, so you'll forgive me if I'm going to be redundant.

 

But I met this morning with representatives from 10 nations who are concerned about our visa waiver program. And I believe that the current program -- and I'm glad the president understands this -- needs to be changed because these people are our allies and helping us in Afghanistan and Iraq. And I think you know that the most important weapon, I think, in terms of winning the war on terror is public diplomacy. And it needs to be improved substantially.

 

And I'm hoping, Mr. Chairman, that we can get on this whole issue of visa waiver early on in this session so that we can get it done and calm down some of our allies who are really upset with us that they can't get their people here into the United States because of this unrealistic program we have.

 

I think you should know that I am skeptical that a surge of troops will bring an end to the escalation of violence and the insurgency in Iraq.

 

Many of the generals that have served there have said they don't believe additional troops will be helpful in Baghdad particularly. And, Madam Secretary, my faith in Prime Minister Maliki's ability to make the hard choices necessary to bring about political solutions has to be restored.

 

What we need is a political solution between the Sunnis and the Shiite.

 

And I've asked this question now for two years: How can you have a unity government that isn't dominated by the Shiites that will ultimately get rid of the Sunnis that are in Iraq when you have Sadr there, Muqtada al-Sadr, who, from everything I understand, pretty well tells Maliki what to do?

 

VOINOVICH: We've seen evidence where we've done certain things. He makes a telephone call and Maliki pulls the plug.

 

I think that we underestimate the hatred between Sunnis and Shiite. And we're saying that somehow they're all going to get together and everything's going to be happy.

 

The Sunnis and the Baathists kept the Shiites down for many, many years. Now the Shiites are in the majority. The issue is, are you going to end up with a unity government or are you going to have another theocracy like you have in Iran? I think that's what Sadr wants.

 

So how can you explain to us that this is all going to be worked out?

 

Probably this article was discussed already this morning, "The Fog" -- David Brooks article in the New York Times. He says that the plan that we're proposing isn't reflecting what Maliki says he wants done.

 

And I'd insist that Maliki gets up and makes it clear to the whole world that this is what he wants done, that he's for it, and this isn't the United States on our own superimposing what we think needs to be done on him. Because I think that if that's not done everyone's going to think: "Here we go again, the U.S. is in there on their own."

 

The other question's been raised here is, how much help are we getting from our Sunni friends there? What have they done to help us?

 

Countries that had been our friends are leaving. Why is it that they're leaving? Have they lost confidence that this dream that we had of a democracy there, which many of us bought into, isn't going to happen, and that it's going to break down into a civil war situation?

 

I think the question all of us have is this: We don't want any more of our young men and women in a civil war between two groups that ultimately are never going to come together.

 

I send letters out to the families and tell them about how brave their sons were and that the work they're doing there and the deaths were as important as what we had in the Second World War. But I have to rewrite the letter today.

 

We're talking now about stability. We're talking about young men and women.

 

This is a very, very important decision, and I think you're going to have to do a much better job, and so is the president, explaining this to us.

 

You've seen the testimony here among my colleagues. And I just must tell you that I've gone along with the president on this and I bought into his dream, and at this stage of the game I don't think it's going to happen.

 

RICE: Well, thank you, Senator.

 

I think that we don't have an option to fail in Iraq. The consequences are too great.

 

And I do think that it is not -- I just don't think that it is true that Iraqis, Sunnis and Shia, hate each other to the point that they can't live together. I don't believe that.

 

I do think that there are long pent-up tensions and emotions and grievances in that society that come from years of tyranny, and it's going to take some time for them to get over it.

 

RICE: And I do think they've had a very bad set of circumstances by this...

 

VOINOVICH: Yes, but what evidentiary fact do we have that he is going to make the tough political decisions that he has to make and lose his support from Maliki and the others?

 

RICE: Senator, we have from him these assurances. He's going to have to act on them. We're going to know very soon whether or not there's political interference when his forces -- and they're his forces -- want to go into a neighborhood.

 

We're going to know very soon whether or not he is carrying through with his view -- with what he told us, which is that if you are Sunni or Shia and you're outside the law and you're killing innocent Iraqis, then you have to pay a price for that, you have to be punished. And we're going to know.

 

And American forces, as they flow in over time, will only go to support a policy in which Iraqis are carrying out those obligations.

 

But I just want to emphasize again, I've heard everybody say, "We cannot fail. We cannot fail. We cannot fail." If they are unable to get a hold of the sectarian violence, to show that they can control Baghdad, to establish confidence that they're going to be even-handed, then it's going to be very difficult for them to...

 

VOINOVICH: How can we do it with Sadr? How can we do it with Sadr?

 

RICE: The Iraqis are going to have to deal with Sadr.

 

And to the degree that Sadr is outside of the political process and his death squads are engaged in violence, then they're going to have to deal with those death squads. And the prime minister said nobody and nothing is off limits.

 

We will know, Senator, whether or no they're following through. But we really better give them a chance to get a hold of this sectarian violence in their capital, where it's not Iraqis running down the streets killing other Iraqis, Sunni and Shia. It is organized death squads going into neighborhoods and killing Sunnis and Shia. That is what is going on there.

 

And they need to reestablish civil order, and we need to be able to help them do that. That's the purpose of the augmentation of our forces.

 

BIDEN: Madam Secretary, I'm sure you understand -- you've been around -- how profound this -- these inquiries are.

 

Senator Obama?

 

OBAMA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

 

Madam Secretary, I'll pursue a line of questioning that we talked about yesterday in a one-on-one meeting. I expressed these same views to the president.

 

I think, when you hear the voices of Senator Hagel, Senator Voinovich, others on this panel, I think you get a sense of how weighty and painful this process has become.

 

This administration took a gamble. It's staked American prestige and our national security on the premise that it could go in, overthrow Saddam Hussein and rebuild a functioning democracy.

 

OBAMA: And so far, each time that we've made an assessment of how that gamble has paid off, it appears that it has failed.

 

And essentially the administration repeatedly has said we're doubling down. We're going to keep on going. Maybe we lost that bet, but we're going to put a little more money in. And because now we've got a lot in the pot and we can't afford to lose what we've put in the pot.

 

And the fundamental question that the American people -- and I think every senator on this panel, Republican and Democrat, are having to face now is at what point do we say enough?

 

And so this, then raises the line of questioning that I presented to you yesterday. It seems as if a solution to the problem is always six months away.

 

I'll give you an example: Ambassador Khalilzad, he was up here before this committee in July of last year. He said, "I believe, Senator, that this government has about six months or so to bring this sectarian violence under control. And if it doesn't, then I think we would have a serious situation."

 

I pressed him on the issue. I said, "If this government has not significantly reduced sectarian violence in about six months, then we've got real problems. I mean, if I'm hearing this correctly, that Iraqi people -- at that point, the confidence in the central government will have eroded to the point where it's not clear what we do. And I guess the question becomes, what do we do then? Because you may be back here in six months, and I'm going to feel bad when I read back this transcript and say six months is up and the sectarian violence continues."

 

He said, "Well, what I'd like to say, Senator, is that we have to work with the Iraqi government in the course of the next six months to bring the sectarian violence under control," so on and so forth.

 

Six months have passed. The sectarian violence has worsened. It is now the president's position and the administration's position that despite these failures, we now have to put more young American troops at risk.

 

And so, I -- to me, this is the key question: You continually say that we've got assurances from the Maliki government that it is going to be different this time.

 

What I want to know is, number one, what are the specific benchmarks and assurances that have been received? Where are these written? How can we examine them?

 

Number two, why would we not want to explicitly condition, in whatever supplementals or appropriations or whatever it is that you are doing, that these benchmarks be met, so that the American people and legislators who are voting on them have some understanding of what it that we expect -- and it's not a backroom conversation between the president and Maliki.

 

OBAMA: Number three, what are the consequences if these benchmarks are not met?

 

What leverage do we have would provide us some assurance that, six months from now, you will not be sitting before us again, saying: Well, it didn't work; Sadr's militia has not been disarmed; we have not seen sufficient cooperation with respect to distribution of oil resources; we are still seeing political interference; we have lost an additional 100 or 200 or 300 or 400 American lives; we have spent an additional $100 billion, but we still can't afford to lose and so we're going to have to proceed in the same fashion, and maybe we'll have to send more troops in?

 

Well, what leverage do we have six months from now?

 

RICE: Well, Senator, the leverage is that we're not going to stay married to a plan that's not working in Baghdad, if the Iraqis are not living up to their part of the obligation, because it won't work, unless they're prepared to make the tough political decisions. And frankly, we know why the sectarian violence didn't come down, that all had hoped would.

 

It didn't come down because there weren't enough forces when these areas were cleared to actually hold them. Because there were not enough reliable Iraqi forces. And we know that there was too much political interference in what was going on.

 

That's been changed in this plan, both by the augmentation of the forces, with our own forces, and by bringing forces in from other parts of Iraq.

 

RICE: So we're not going to stay married to a plan that isn't working because the Iraqis aren't living up to their end of the bargain.

 

OBAMA: Madam Secretary, because I think the chairman, appropriately, is trying to keep our time restricted.

 

I want to just follow up on this and be very clear.

 

Are you telling me that if, in six months, or whatever timeframe you are suggesting, that, in fact, the Maliki government has not performed these benchmarks -- which, by the way, remain not sufficiently explicitly, I think, for a lot of us to make decisions on; but let's assume that that surfaces over the next several weeks as this is being debated -- at that point, you are going to suggest to the Maliki government that we are going to start phasing down our troop levels in Iraq?

 

RICE: Senator, I want to be not explicit about what we might do because I don't want to speculate.

 

But I will tell you this. The benchmark that I'm looking at -- the oil law is important. The political process is extraordinarily important.

 

But the most important thing that the Iraqi government has to do right now is to reestablish the confidence of its population that it's going to be even-handed in defending it.

 

That's what we need to see over the next two or three months. And I think that over the next several months, they're going to have to show that.

 

OBAMA: Or else, what?

 

RICE: Or this plan is not going to work.

 

OBAMA: The question is not whether the plan is going to work or not. The question is what are the consequences to the Iraqi government?

 

I'm out of time, but I have to ask this question. Are there any circumstances that the president or you are willing to share in which we would say to the Iraqis we are no longer maintaining combat troops -- American combat troops -- in Iraq.

 

Are there any circumstances that you can articulate in which we would say to the Maliki government that enough is enough and we are no longer committing our troops?

 

RICE: I'm not going to speculate, but I do tell you that the president made very clear that, of course, there are circumstances. That's what it means when he says our patience is not limited (sic).

 

But I do think we need to recognize that the consequences for the Iraqis are also quite dire and they are in a process in which their people are going to hold them accountable as well.

 

OBAMA: Thank you very much, Madam Secretary.

 

The Maliki government will probably be gone by then, but -- Senator Murkowski?

 

MURKOWSKI: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and thank you, Secretary Rice for your time this morning and for all that you do. I wish you well in your trip at the end of this week.

 

You've clearly heard the skepticism that has been expressed this morning. So many of my colleagues -- and for good reason -- skepticism about a lot of things.

 

The assurances that we may or may not get from Mr. Maliki, an individual that we all concede has not been able to deliver or to follow through with assurances that he has given in the past.

 

There's a great leap of faith that I think is being made here that he is going to be able to do that which he promises, in terms of delivering the number of Iraqi troops, mobilizing and really taking on those issues that, to this point and time, he has been hesitant to do so.

 

Skepticism with the fact that we are going in alone. And I will echo the concern that Senator Boxer raised. On the broadcast that I was watching last night of the president, there was a little ticker underneath him as he spoke.

 

And one of those tickers was the announcement that Britain was withdrawing 3,000 of their troops from Iraq.

 

And the visual on that was pretty compelling because it took me back to last year, the year before, the year before that when we were sitting in this Foreign Relations room, asking what the number of coalition forces were, where they were coming from. And the administration was citing, proudly so, to the number of countries that were engaged with us on this.

 

But your comment to us this morning is that you don't anticipate an augmentation of the coalition forces.

 

You also said -- and I think this is one area of the frustration of the American people -- that Iraq came to us with this plan. Maliki came to us, to the United States, with his plan.

 

And I think there are many in this country that are saying, "Well, why did they just come to us? Why is it just the United States that is shouldering this? Why is Great Britain pulling back? Why are we the only ones that are moving forward with this new plan?"

 

MURKOWSKI: So I have great concern as to where we are now in terms of the world scene and the fact that it really is the United States in the Iraq situation very much alone -- a situation that I had hoped we would not be in.

 

I want to focus my question this morning on the mission itself. I have said 00 when the idea of a surge in forces was first presented, I was one of those that said I have skepticism about it but, if there is a clear definition for the mission, I think it's something that we should look at -- look at very carefully.

 

I would agree with Senator Hagel that, given the American lives that have been lost in Iraq, we want to make sure that we have a policy that is worthy of their sacrifices. And those are his words. And I think they're very well spoken.

 

But I'm not convinced, as I look to the plan that the president presented yesterday, that what we're seeing is that much different than what we have been doing in the past.

 

You look to the victory in Iraq plan that came out in November of 2005. And I flipped through that to compare that with the highlights of the Iraq strategy review from January of 2007. And basically, the components that we're talking about for the security perspective remain the same: to clear, to hold and to build.

 

And we, in Alaska, have paid very close attention to what happens when we try to increase our forces in Baghdad.

 

MURKOWSKI: We saw that with the extension of the 172nd Stryker Brigade in August for an additional four months. The strategy at that point in time was to plus-up the forces in Baghdad so that we could deal with the security issue.

 

What we saw then didn't give me much assurance that plussing-up or a temporary surge is going to deliver us anything more than we have now.

 

So my question to you, Madam Secretary, is how is it any different, if we recognize that part of the problem, as the president has described, was the restrictions that we had in place before? Is this ramping up of the 17,500 in Baghdad -- what assurances can you give us that this is going to yield us a better result, a different result than what we have seen in the past?

 

RICE: Well, of course, Senator, there aren't any guarantees, but I can tell you why the president, his advisers, his military advisers believe that this is going to work.

 

The plan requires a very different structure for Baghdad, a military commander for Baghdad, an Iraqi military commander for Baghdad, two deputy commanders for Baghdad, the division of the city into nine military governorates that have forces deployed to those sections, Iraqi police -- I'm sorry, Iraqi army, Iraqi national police, Iraqi local police and an American battalion to help them. And so the structure is completely different.

 

But I wouldn't just run over the point that you made. The rules of engagement really were the problem. Inadequate force and rules of engagement were the problem. Those have been fixed in this new plan.

 

Now, the Maliki government -- I understand the skepticism that people have that they will follow through. But, you know, they are only nine months in office. That's not really very long. And they are dealing with an extremely difficult set of circumstances in which sectarianism broke out in February of 2006 in a very big way and it's threatening to overrun the process that they're engaged in.

 

And so I think the fact that they didn't act properly in the past does not mean that they won't act properly in the future. And I think it is something that we have to give them a chance to do.

 

MURKOWSKI: And I think the concern that you've heard today is, how long do we give them that chance? And those benchmarks are extremely important.

 

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

 

BIDEN: Thank you...

 

RICE: We're going to know very early, Senator, because they have to act very quickly. Their forces will start to come in February 1.

 

BIDEN: Senator Menendez?

 

MENENDEZ: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

 

Madam Secretary, thank you for your service to the country.

 

I didn't vote for the war in Iraq in the first place. I believe it is one of the best decisions I ever made.

 

MENENDEZ: And I simply don't believe that the president's escalation of the war will work. It seems to me that it's time for a political surge, not a military escalation.

 

And I also believe it's long past time that we transition both our efforts in Iraq, our mission in Iraq, particularly with our troops, and then ultimately the transition of our troops out of Iraq, in order for having the Iraqis to understand what you've talked about here, but haven't given us any benchmarks that one can measure by. And that is to have them understand that they have to make the hard choices, compromises, negotiations necessary for a government of national unity.

 

When I heard General Pace last year say to us that we have to get the Iraqis to love their children more than they hate their neighbors, that's a powerful truism, but that does not get achieved by military might.

 

And so it seems to me, to paraphrase Shakespeare, an escalation by any other name is an escalation. I know, out of the White House, it became a surge. But surge would mean temporary, and that's clearly not the case here.

 

And a failed strategy, however repackaged, is still a failed strategy. We tried this plan before and it didn't work when we sent 12,000 troops to Baghdad last summer.

 

And we heard a panel of witnesses yesterday, and there have been other military experts who have said that, at this point, reliable Iraqi troops aren't there simply to show up.

 

So you suggested the president has listened to a wide range of people: the Iraqi Study Group, the members of Congress, different military options, the American people. But if he listened, I don't think he's heard that wide range of views.

 

So I want to ask you, though, even in the midst of my own views, trying to understand what is really new about this effort.

 

Did the president obtain a commitment from Prime Minister Maliki specifically to use Iraqi troops against Muqtada al-Sadr's troops?

 

RICE: He obtained an assurance from Prime Minister Maliki that he will go after whoever is killing innocent Iraqis. And I think they fully understand that the Jaish al Mahdi are part of the problem.

 

MENENDEZ: Did he speak specifically about -- and obtain specific commitments about -- going against al-Sadr?

 

RICE: He said that whoever they have to go after and the military thinks they have to go after they'll go after them.

 

MENENDEZ: The reason I ask this specific question, because it's al-Sadr who's keeping his government afloat for right now.

 

RICE: Well, actually, al-Sadr and his people pulled out of the government, and the government hasn't collapsed. They pulled out, as you remember, because of the Amman meeting with President Bush. And I think that demonstrates that, in fact, they can continue to function even if the Sadr forces are not a part of the government.

 

MENENDEZ: When the president spoke to these other different -- there's a broad misgiving among Shiite leaders in the government about the Shiites having a deep-seated fear that the power they won at the polls is going to be whittled away by Americans in pursuit of Sunnis. Did he get their commitment to support Prime Minister Maliki?

 

RICE: I'm sorry, "their" being the other Shia?

 

MENENDEZ: The other Shia leaders, the other party leaders.

 

RICE: Yes. For instance, the SCIRI supports Prime Minister Maliki in this effort. There is a broad...

 

MENENDEZ: In the effort, or to support him in his position as prime minister?

 

RICE: They support him as the prime minister. They brought him to power.

 

MENENDEZ: Well, I find it really hard, unless we have a specific -- I know the general view that we will go against anyone. But isn't, in fact, part of the negotiations that the president had with Prime Minister Maliki is to give him more operational control? And in that operational control couldn't he circumvent going against al-Sadr?

 

RICE: If he circumvents going against the people who are doing the killing, then he's going to fail and this plan is going to fail. And he understands that.

 

MENENDEZ: And let's talk about that, then. Let's assume that for argument sake -- let's not think about the best, the best would be great. Let's assume he fails.

 

One of the problems is that benchmarks without timelines or consequences, even the Iraq Study Group said that as part of their recommendation -- they specifically said if the Iraqi government does not make substantial progress toward the achievement of milestones on national reconciliation, security and governance, the United States should reduce its political, military, economic support for the Iraqi government.

 

But when I heard your response to Senator Coleman, you said the Iraqis didn't have, you know -- you go with plan A, and if plan A doesn't work, then, you know, you deal with it subsequently.

 

I think that's been part of our problem here. We have a plan, but even plan A does not have contingencies, it doesn't have benchmarks.

 

How can you ask the American people and the members of Congress who represent the American people to continue to give you a blank check without benchmarks that are definable, without benchmarks that have timelines of some consequence, without consequences to the failure to meet those deadlines?

 

Because we've seen these benchmarks be repackaged from the past. They were benchmarks before. They were not met. There are no consequences. And we continue to create a dependency by the Iraqis on our forces.

 

RICE: But, Senator, first of all, I think you do one strategy at a time, but you can tell and you can adjust a strategy as you go along. This is not going to unfold all at once. We're going to know whether or not, in fact, the Iraqis are living up to their obligations, and we're going to know early on.

 

And there are opportunities for adjustment then.

 

The benchmarks are actually very clear, and the Iraqis themselves have set forward some timetables for those benchmarks, because they've got to get legislation through; they have an international compact that they're trying to respond to.

 

But I just want to speak to the word -- to the point of consequences. There are consequences in that they will lose the support of the American people, and they'll lose the support of the Iraqi people.

 

MENENDEZ: But they're there already, Madam Secretary, in terms of the support of the American people.

 

MENENDEZ: The question is, what will our government due specifically? If benchmarks are not met, what will we do? And that's where there is no answer and, therefore, very difficult to be supportive of any such...

 

RICE: Senator, I just think that it is bad policy, frankly, to speculate on what you'll do if a plan fails that you're trying to make work. I just don't think it's the way to go about it.

 

MENENDEZ: The president did it in Leave No Child Behind. There are real consequences if you, in fact, don't meet certain standards. You lose a lot of money.

 

RICE: Yes.

 

MENENDEZ: You get categorized as a failed school district. It seems to be a standard that can work here domestically. We're unwilling to give the government a standard that ultimately they would have to meet in order for us to be able to achieve -- whether or not we achieve success or therefore determine what are the consequences to failure.

 

RICE: Senator, as complicated as education policy is, I think Iraq is -- or the circumstances of the Iraqis are very complicated.

 

We're not giving -- first of all, we don't expect that anyone here is giving us a blank check. I understand the skepticism and I know that if this doesn't show some success, there isn't going to be support for this policy. I understand that.

 

And we've said this to the Iraqis in no uncertain terms. They have to start to deliver. They have to start to deliver now. And if they don't, then I think they know that we're not going to be able to continue to support them at the levels that we do.

 

BIDEN: Thank you very much.

 

Senator Isakson?

 

ISAKSON: Out of respect for Senators Cardin, Casey, Webb and Vitter, I'll be very quick.

 

In reference to the previous exchange, I would simply say this: It's been my observation in war and in diplomacy there are times you can answer questions and times you can't. I have great respect for that, and I understand the answers the secretary's given and I respect her being here today.

 

With regard to that, I hope this hearing is the most watched television event in downtown Baghdad right now, which I'm sure it is.

 

And if it is and Maliki is watching television, I think he realizes that this -- and Kenny Rogers' old song, "You got to know when to hold them and know when to fold them" -- it's time for them to deliver on the hand that they've dealt and there's no folding that's going to take place. You can't go on ad infinitum.

 

And I would say, in response to the exchange, I heard from the president last night in the right words, "This one is for all the marbles," vis a vis, the Iraqi commitment and it beginning totally across the board and there'd be no cover for Muqtada al-Sadr any more than a Sunni or anybody else that might be around. That's just -- you don't have to answer that, that's just my observation.

 

My second thing, to live up to my promise to my colleagues is to say this: Ranking Member Lugar made a very insightful statement with regard to diplomacy.

 

ISAKSON: It has not gone unnoticed, to me, that John Negroponte has joined your staff as the number two person, I believe, at State.

 

It also has not gone unnoticed, to me, that, when you answered the questions regarding Syria and regarding Iran, they were definitive into what you expected; they were not prospective in what might happen.

 

And I think there's a burden on Iran and Syria to show that there are reasons to come to the table that are in the best interests of the region.

 

The United States is not a non-negotiable nation. We may, as history has proven, been the best negotiating nation that there ever was.

 

But there's a time to negotiate, and it's after you know what the cards of the other side are going to be, or at least the first card. And I think the way you stated it was appropriate. And I encourage us to pursue negotiations, but not by giving away, at the outset, what we may have to have in the end.

 

BIDEN: Thank you very much, Senator. Your generosity is much appreciated.

 

Senator Cardin?

 

CARDIN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

 

Madam Secretary, thank you.

 

I certainly want our foreign policy to succeed, including in Iraq. Several weeks ago, when the president said that he would re- evaluate our programs in Iraq and come out with a new policy at the beginning of the year, I was encouraged by that.

 

Because I thought, at last, Congress and the president and the American people would be together on a policy in Iraq.

 

And I must tell you, I'm extremely disappointed. The Iraq Study Group, the military experts have all said that it's time to start drawing down our troops. And yet, the plan will increase the number of troops. I don't understand that.

 

They talk about engaging the international community. And I've listened to your testimony. I've listened to the president last night. And it seems like we are making a limited effort, not an all- out effort. And we certainly are not holding the Iraqis accountable to stand up to defend their own country.

 

So I have one question I want to ask about the troop numbers: how the 20,000-plus troops numbers were determined?

 

I must tell you that, if we were looking at how many troops are necessary to quell a civil war that is occurring in Iraq, I think one would pick a much larger number.

 

If we're looking at carrying out our current mission, military experts believe that we should be drawing down so that we at least give the Iraqis a message that they have to take care of their own country, and we start making it clear this is not a U.S. occupation.

 

So I am somewhat suspect that this number was determined because it's what you have available, that you don't have many more that you could bring in at this time without creating a significant problem to our military.

 

So please tell me how this particular number was arrived at.

 

RICE: Senator, Chairman Pace answered this question earlier today. And it is, of course -- the requirement was established in the field, when the mission was established.

 

And the mission was, first of all, to support the successes that are beginning to emerge in Anbar -- that's where the 4,000 came from; and secondly, to provide assistance to the Iraqis as they bring in their best forces to be able to deal with the death squads and the organized violence that is going on against Iraqi populations.

 

RICE: Yes, if you were trying to quell a civil war, you would need much larger forces. But if what you're trying to do is provide population security in relatively defined areas by augmenting Iraqi forces, then that's a much smaller number.

 

And the Joint Chiefs of Staff then resource the plan that is given to them by the military. That's how the number was determined.

 

CARDIN: All I can tell you is that the information that we've received from people that have been in command indicate that it doesn't add up that day.

 

But I tell you, I think it's going to be very transparent to the international community that these numbers are more symbolic, as far as the numbers of -- it's not symbolic to those who are going over. It's not symbolic to those who are putting their lives on the line. But it won't make a significant difference as far as the amount of violence in the country itself, but will be very much an indication that the United States is increasing its commitment in Iraq.

 

One more question very quickly. The president talked last night about talking to our allies around the world. Can you just list countries that are in support of what we're doing and whether any countries are going to come to our help as far as providing additional military personnel in Iraq?

 

RICE: I think that we don't expect additional military personnel. In fact, our surge of personnel is to support the Iraqis in this very specific mission and to leave behind an Iraqi force that can do this on its own.

 

And so, in fact, I think it's a temporary matter, from our point of view, to bridge for the absence of Iraqi forces that are capable of doing this.

 

We do have allies on the ground with us. We're not alone, Senator Murkowski. We do have, still, Australian forces there, Japanese forces, Korean forces, lots of forces from...

 

CARDIN: And they all concur with this new plan?

 

RICE: We have had -- Prime Minister Howard was out this morning saying that this is the right thing to do. We know that Prime Minister Blair agrees. I talked yesterday with foreign ministers from the region. They understand the need to deal with this and they...

 

CARDIN: We all understand the need to deal with...

 

RICE: No, and they understand what it is we're doing. Their concern is the concern that I'm hearing here: Will the Maliki government do this in an evenhanded fashion that goes both after Shia and Sunni death squads? And that is their concern, not the number of American forces that may be needed.

 

CARDIN: I'm glad to see this committee is not alone.

 

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.

 

BIDEN: Thank you very much.

 

Senator Vitter?

 

VITTER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

 

Thank you, Madam Secretary. Good luck on your upcoming trip.

 

My main reaction to this initiative and the president's speech is really to think of a number of significant questions. I want to just go directly to those.

 

I have not heard General Pace's testimony, so forgive me. I think the president precisely last night said over 20,000 troops. What is that exact numbers? Or what is the upper limit on that?

 

RICE: I think it's around 21,500 at most, but I think I'd like General Pace to speak to that because they have a way that they intend to flow the troops in that probably affects that number.

 

VITTER: OK. I know they have a very specific plan for those troops, but broad brush and to a layman, that is, what, roughly 15 percent of what we have there now. So it is a marginal increase as compared to a 50 percent increase.

 

And so that does lead to a concern of mine that we may commit the same mistake I think we clearly have in the past, which is too little, maybe too late.

 

In light of the past, why shouldn't we take that number and say we're going to increase it 50 percent, we're going to increase it 100 percent?

 

RICE: I think if that had been the assessment of the commanders as to what needed to be done, that would have been the recommendation.

 

But this is a very specific purpose. Let's leave aside Anbar, which is really to deal with the positive developments there in terms of what the sheiks are doing.

 

RICE: But in Baghdad, it is not to make Americans the center of police security or of providing population security for Iraqis in Baghdad. It is to augment Iraqi forces in the lead in doing that. Because we recognize that sending Americans in to do -- to separate people in neighborhoods or to go door to door and try to do a census makes no sense.

 

And so, while there were obviously very detailed calculations done on what that needed to be in the nine districts that are being developed -- a battalion per district and how, then, to embed people with the Iraqi forces so that they are trained up quickly, I think that's where the number comes from.

 

VITTER: I certainly understand all that, but my point about past history is, I assume it was the commanders' recommendation about numbers in the past that seemed to be, in many cases, to have been too low.

 

So does the number take account of any drawdown of British or other troops?

 

RICE: Because it is a very specific mission in Baghdad to support the Iraqis at this time, it's unaffected by any drawdown that might take place; for instance, in the south of the country.

 

VITTER: But surely, while the British mission in the south of the country is not what we're talking about particularly in Baghdad, I assume we consider it significant, so that just forgetting about it has some loss or impact.

 

RICE: Well, it's that in -- first of all, the British will continue to be there for some time. But Basra is being turned over to Iraqi control. And that, by the way, is happening throughout the country. The continuing problems are Anbar, Diyala and Baghdad.

 

In most of the country, responsibility is being turned over to Iraqis. And, as that happens, then people can withdraw their forces.

 

VITTER: OK. And a final question about troops: As I heard the president, he talked about mostly Baghdad, also some in Anbar. No increased deployment having to do with the borders.

 

And it seems to me personnel and materiel coming over the borders is maybe not the dominant problem, but a real problem. And as part of the new plan are you going to address that in any significant way?

 

RICE: Well, what the president has done, on recommendation of his commanders, is to increase our naval and air presence through the carrier presence and also to increase our -- to give a new mission in terms -- or to give an expanded mission in terms of breaking up these networks.

 

But we think it's principally an intelligence function, Senator. It's -- those borders are so long and so porous that I don't think you want to try to depend on boots on the ground to actually deal with the borders.

 

VITTER: OK.

 

I want to turn to Sadr, obviously a big topic of discussion, for obvious reasons.

 

As I understand that status of the government, he hasn't quite completely the government. They're boycotting it; it's something in between, correct?

 

RICE: Well, he pulled his people out of the government, but they've never really said they wanted to leave the government. The fact of the matter is the government is functioning without them.

 

VITTER: But no one different has, for instance, assumed leadership of those ministries, correct?

 

RICE: In fact, there are temporary ministers in a couple of those ministries.

 

VITTER: OK.

 

What different scenarios do you see playing out if, in fact, Prime Minister Maliki is serious and acts on his commitment?

 

Sadr isn't going to like that. Clearly, doesn't agree. Is going to react somehow. So how would you game out or play out that situation, because I assume we have to be prepared for that?

 

RICE: Well, the first thing is that these death squads, wherever they're coming from, and some of them are being driven by Jaish al- Mahdi, have to be dealt with. And Sadr apparently has said that if his people are doing this killing, then they ought to dealt with. We will see whether he holds to that commitment.

 

But ultimately, yes, he has, I suppose, the power to threaten the government. But the government can't be intimidated by that. And with enough forces that are reliable and capable, I think they believe they can meet any contingency.

 

But, again, it goes back to the question of whether or not you believe that this is just a problem of will, or is there a problem of both will and capability.

 

The president's reflection on his commander's recommendation believes that it's both will and capability; will and capability to be able to deal with whatever contingency they face, including contingencies they may face in Sadr City or from the Sadr forces.

 

VITTER: So in terms of that playing out, I assume you're fairly confident that the government can continue to survive without him and with and even more complete and full opposition by his forces than exist now?

 

RICE: Well, there's also the possibility that he will decide that he wants to continue to be a part of the political process. That's a possibility.

 

VITTER: Right.

 

I'm not discarding that. I'm just asking your analysis of the other possibility.

 

RICE: Well, I think it's become such a critical situation for them that they recognize they've got to take on anybody who stands in their way of bringing population security.

 

BIDEN: Thank you very much, Senator.

 

Senator Casey?

 

CASEY: Mr. Chairman, thank you. And thank you for convening this hearing: a very important hearing.

 

Madam Secretary, we appreciate your presence here and your testimony and your public service.

 

I represent the state of Pennsylvania, along with Senator Specter. We've now lost, as of last week, more than 140 in Iraq.

 

And in a state like ours, apart from the deaths in big cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, most of the deaths, most of the loss of life are soldiers and Marines from very small towns. And as you can imagine, and I know you'll appreciate this, when there is a death like that in a small town, it is like an earthquake. It's cataclysmic to the community and, obviously, to the family.

 

And I think that one of my basic obligations as a United States senator, when it comes to Iraq, one of the obligations I have when it comes to the question of what we're going to do going forward in Iraq is to support policies that, in fact, will be cognizant of those numbers, the loss of life, and to do everything I can to make sure that we reduce as much as we can -- as humanly possible -- the likelihood that another one of our sons or daughters are sacrificed for a policy that is flawed.

 

Based upon your testimony today, based upon what I heard the president say, the national security adviser, all of the public record that Americans have been reviewing the last couple of days, I have to say I'm not convinced that the escalation of troops that the president formally announced last night has support and a strategy that will work. And I don't think I can meet my obligation and support that kind of an increase in troops levels.

 

But I have to say, despite what I might think, I think it's very important -- and some of this will be redundant, I realize -- but I think it's very important that you tell us once again, in your own words but also on behalf of the president and the administration, what is the nexus -- and I have not heard this articulated well so far.

 

What is the nexus between the good news that the Iraqis have developed this plan themselves, it had its genesis or origin in their work and their leadership -- but what's the nexus between that Iraqi strategy and the need for 20,000 or so -- approximately 20,000 new troops?

 

RICE: When the Iraqis came to Jordan and they said they really have to get a hold of this Baghdad problem, and recognizing that the Baghdad security plan that had been carried out in the summer did not succeed, they wanted to do it themselves. To be very frank, they wanted to do it themselves. They believe that sectarian violence is their problem, not ours.

 

And I applaud that. I think that's the right responsibility.

 

It is true that people like Rubaie, who sometimes are very enthusiastic, say, "We can do this on our own."

 

But, in fact, when the experts, including their own defense people, looked at the capabilities that they had and when those capabilities would actually mature, which would be in the summer sometime, there is a gap between the capabilities that will mature by the summer, when we begin to really transfer operational control to them over most of their forces, and what needs to be done in Baghdad now.

 

And so, the president asked his commanders to work with the Iraqis to see what it would take to be able to undertake a population protection, get control of the capital plan now, rather than waiting until the summer when the Iraqis could do that themselves.

 

And the plan that came back was for an augmentation of American forces so that a battalion could be with each of these nine Iraqi groups that are going to be in each of these nine military districts.

 

That's where it came from.

 

And so, the link, Senator, is, again, if you believe -- and I understand that people don't believe that the Iraqis have the will, that there's great skepticism as to whether they have the will.

 

RICE: If you believe that it's a matter of will, then we should do exactly what people are saying, we should draw back and say, "Go at it. Go at it. And you'd better succeed in getting rid of this sectarian violence or you're not going to be able to continue to govern."

 

But if you believe that it's both will and capability, then telling them to do something that you don't think they've capable of doing is not good policy.

 

And so the president's policy is premised on the urgency of getting Baghdad under control and what Iraqi capabilities there are and what augmentation we need to do.

 

So that's how the -- how you would think about the relationship between the two.

 

CASEY: I appreciate your answer. But I do hope that you and other members of the administration continually, in the next couple of days especially, make the case very specifically why you and the president and others think this is necessary, because I don't think the American people are hearing that.

 

They're hearing a lot of the same rhetoric we've heard for a lot of years, in my judgment. The best efforts to make sure that every sound bite is phrased in a way that sounds like, "If we don't do this, it's going to adversely impact the war on terror," which I think the case hasn't been made with regard to this particular policy.

 

So I'll move on.

 

One more question with regard to diplomacy. We hear it all the time. This is your business. We hear it all the time. We hear about the necessity of a political strategy and a diplomatic strategy.

 

Can you very quickly -- and I'd ask you to submit -- amplify this for the record for this hearing, if you could provide that -- but just very quickly can you summarize for us specific steps you have taken personally as secretary of state when it comes to dealing with the real crisis that we now have in Iraq, at least in the last two years? Just a list...

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

RICE: On the diplomatic front?

 

CASEY: Absolutely.

 

RICE: Yes. Well, I have been constantly -- whether it's through bilateral discussions or in the multilateral forum that we've created, the GCC-plus-2 -- pressing these states to help the Iraqis, send missions to Iraq. And we've succeeded in getting some of them there. Getting the Arab League to go there in support.

 

Because one of the problems is they see, well, perhaps Iran is too influential, but these Iraqis, the Shia there are Arabs. So bringing them into the Arab fold is extremely important.

 

RICE: I have worked very hard to get European Union to go in in a major way. And, in fact, their commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner has gone several times at our urging.

 

But the most important thing that we've done is we've negotiated over the last year -- almost year now -- an international compact for Iraq, which has very specific things that the Iraqis are to do, including things like an oil law, anti-corruption measures and so forth, and a series of steps that the international community would take in response.

 

This is something that we used very effectively with Afghanistan. And we think we can use it effectively with Iraq, as well.

 

The debt relief: We've negotiated for the Iraqis 80 percent debt relief from most of the Paris Club debtors and 100 percent from ourselves and several others. We're trying to get the Gulf states to do the same. So it's been a very active agenda.

 

I do think that they've been much more active with Iraq in the last six or seven months -- really, the last year -- really engaging in trying to get Sunnis involved in the process.

 

I suspect that some of the Sunni states have been supportive of what is going on in Anbar and have had a role in helping that come abut.

 

So that's how we see the diplomacy. And it's not a question of whether -- in my mind, who you talk to. It's a question of what they're prepared to do.

 

And the states that have the same vision of the Middle East and want an Iraq that is unified, stable without undue Iranian influence, which is one of the uniting factors for all of these states, I think, is the place to be.

 

BIDEN: Thank you very much, Senator.

 

Senator Webb?

 

Your patience is commendable and your experience is extensive, so I'm...

 

WEBB: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

 

And I also realize I am the last obstacle between you and lunch...

 

BIDEN: No, no, no...

 

WEBB: ... Secretary Rice and the door...

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

... so I'll be as brief as I can.

 

Secretary Rice, I want to thank you for being here. And I want you to know my door is always open if you ever want to come by and discuss any issue or call me or whatever. I'm looking forward very much to working with you.

 

I'd like to associate myself with many of the views here that you've heard about what I believe is a necessity for us to widen the diplomatic approach in terms of reaching a solution.

 

WEBB: I want to make just a quick comment that won't require an answer from you, and then I do have a question about something that concerns me a great deal.

 

With respect to the situation in Iran and with Iran and the region, there are many, including myself, who warned that invading and occupying Iraq would, in fact, empower Iran.

 

And that has become a reality.

 

We also -- there was a great deal of notice and comment recently about the fact that Iran has more power in Iraq than it has had in a very long time, perhaps going back a couple of hundred years, and that is a reality.

 

And our options are to ignore -- to do things informally, as you've been discussing, or to more actively engage in -- when I'm looking at this, one of the things that sticks in my mind is the situation that we had with China in 1971.

 

This was a rogue nation that had nuclear weapons, it had an American war on its border. The parallels are not exact, but we went forward, without giving up any of our ideals or our national objectives, and we did a very aggressive engagement process that, over a period of time, has arguably brought China into the international community.

 

And I just hope you will pass on to the president: A, my best regards; and, B, that if he were to move in that direction, he certainly would have the strong support of me and perhaps other people.

 

The question that I have for you goes back to the presidential finding on the resolution that authorized force in '02.

 

And there is a sentence in here which basically says that this resolution does not constitute any change in the position of the executive branch with regard to its authority to use force to deter, prevent or respond to aggression or other threats to United States interests outside of Iraq.

 

This phrase went to situations outside of Iraq.

 

And this is a question that can be answered either very briefly or through written testimony, but my question is: Is it the position of this administration that it possesses the authority to take unilateral action against Iran in the absence of a direct threat without congressional approval?

 

RICE: Senator, I'm really loathe to get into questions of the president's authorities without a rather more clear understanding of what we are actually talking about.

 

So let me answer you, in fact, in writing. I think that would be the best thing to do.

 

WEBB: I would appreciate that.

 

RICE: But let me just say how we view the situation currently. We continue to believe that our struggle with Iran is a long one, it's a strategic one, it has elements of the fight in the war on terror, it has elements of trying to stabilize the Middle East in which Iran is a tremendously destabilizing force. It has, of course, an Iraq dimension. And it also has an important nuclear dimension.

 

And I think we believe we have the right policy for dealing with those matters through diplomacy.

 

Now what the president was very much referring to is, of course, every American president -- and that goes back a very, very long way -- has made very clear that we will defend our interests and those of our allies in the Persian Gulf region. And so there is nothing new in that statement that the president has made.

 

The one important new fact here is that, for force protection purposes, we have to worry about what Iran is doing. We all know their activities for these enhanced IEDs and so forth. And we are going to go after the networks that do that.

 

I believe that, when you talk to the military advisers, they believe that is something that can be done in Iraq, that it is something that is done by good intelligence and by quickness of action. And, in fact, we've had a couple of those occasions recently where we've gone after these networks.

 

WEBB: Right. Well, I think we both probably know what the elephant in the bedroom is here. And I've got a long history of experience in dealing with defense issues.

 

And there is one pretty profound change since I was in the Pentagon in the Reagan administration, and that is the notion that the executive branch has the power to conduct a preemptive war as opposed to a preemptive attack. And the situations that you're talking about really go to preemptive attack against a specific threat where people on the other side are being threatened.

 

And the concern that I and a number of people have is that this would be interpreted as something broader. So I'd appreciate if you could give us something in writing on that. Thank you very much.

 

RICE: I will. If I may, just in one other point on Senator Webb's earlier point.

 

RICE: Senator, we've gone a long way, actually, to offer the opportunity for the Iranians to talk to us. We did it in the context of the nuclear program because we believe that's a real near-term threat, and if we don't get a handle on the nuclear program we've got a real problem.

 

I want to repeat again, if they will stop enriching so that they're not improving their nuclear capability while they're talking, they'll find somebody who's willing to talk to them under any circumstances.

 

But I think short of that we send a wrong message about our resolve, and, frankly, it has a cost with nations in the region that are looking very closely at how we are conducting ourselves vis-a-vis the Iranians.

 

WEBB: Right. Well, I think that it's important, as the Baker commission was saying, a lot of people have been saying, and I've been saying, that when you have a situation with a nation that constitutes this kind of threat, it's very important to confront as well as to engage.

 

And I personally think it would be a bold act for George W. Bush to get on an airplane and go to Tehran in the same manner that President Nixon did, take a gamble, and not give up one thing that we believe in, in terms of its moving toward weapons of mass destruction, our belief that Israel needs to be recognized and interests need to be protected, but to maybe start changing the formula here.

 

Thank you.

 

BIDEN: Thank you very much.

 

WEBB: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

 

BIDEN: I thank my colleagues for their patience. And particularly I thank the secretary of state.

 

Madam Secretary, I'll conclude by just making a few very brief comments.

 

One is, one of the things that you have learned here today from hearing our colleagues is that there is an overwhelming concern that the reason why we insisted that we not accept the Maliki plan as he laid it out that they could do it is that what he would do is go in and take out the Sunnis, and we'd exacerbate the civil war.

 

That may or may not be true, but that's been one of the concerns as to why we -- one of the potential explanations as to why we insisted we go into Baghdad when he said they don't need us in Baghdad.

 

I'm not saying that's right or wrong, just be aware that that's something that's going to have to be dealt with in terms of, I suspect, people's judgments about how they feel about the administration's position.

 

Secondly, I also want to make it clear as chairman of the committee that I feel very strongly that the authorization of use of force in the provision that the senator read from it explicitly denies you the authority to go into Iran -- let me say that again -- explicitly denies you the authority to go into Iran.

 

BIDEN: We will fight that out if the president moves, but I just wanted the record to show -- and I would like to have a legal response from the State Department -- that they think they have authority to pursue networks or anything else across the border into Iran and Iraq.

 

That will generate a constitutional confrontation here in the Senate, I predict to you -- at least, I will attempt to make it a confrontation.

 

Third point I would make, Madam Secretary, is that the -- I've sat through a lot of hearings and you have too. And, God love you, you've had to do it in a very different position than I have, and I commend you for your patience.

 

But I want to say again, and I hope you'll convey to the president, because I'm sure he has not had time to watch our hearing, I think what occurred here today was fairly profound, in the sense that you heard 21 members, with one or two notable exceptions, expressing outright hostility, disagreement and/or overwhelming concern with the president's proposal.

 

And I think that he will proceed at significant political risk if there's not a much more intensive and detailed attempt to bring in the United States Senate and the Congress into his proposals.

 

As you point out, this surge is a process. This is not going to happen a day or a week or a month. And we will have time and opportunity to revisit this next month, next two months.

 

Because the president is going, as I understand it, Madam Secretary -- and my colleague from Virginia knows more about this than any of us on the committee, having served in the Pentagon -- as I understand it, the decision will come across the desk of the president of the United States, or at least through his secretary of defense next week -- three weeks, five weeks -- whether he extends 1,500, 2,000, 900, 600, 1,400 Marines, sailors, soldiers.

 

BIDEN: And so this is a decision that will be necessarily have to be revisited privately by the president once a week, once a month, from this point on. And I see my...

 

WEBB: Mr. Chairman, if I may, we saw a notice from the Marine Corps this morning about a number of units already having been extended.

 

BIDEN: Right. But my point is, a month from now, in order to keep the troop level up to accommodating this 21,500 additional forces, that decision will have to be made again.

 

WEBB: Yes, sir. This was a part of that...

 

BIDEN: Extending. So...

 

WEBB: ... his proposal or the policy that he mentioned last night.

 

BIDEN: So the point I'm making is that I don't want anybody to think -- and I hope the administration does not think -- that the president's made a decision, we're going to go forward with 21,500 people, it's a done deal, that's finished. He will have an opportunity to revisit it. We'll revisit it.

 

And you heard from my colleagues there, I don't think it's unfair to say, ranging from skepticism to intense skepticism to outright opposition to the president's proposal.

 

And I'll end where I began, Madam Secretary. And I realize this is not all on your plate. If we can't figure out how to bring along the American people on this deal, we are in real trouble. We would be making a tragic mistake that I think will mortgage the ability of this president and the next president to do what he's going to have to do -- and the next president will have to do as well -- and that is there will be a requirement to deploy force other parts of the world. We will undermine that in a way that I think will be incredibly damaging to our national interests.

 

So that's just one man's opinion. I appreciate, Madam Secretary, your perseverance, your willingness to be here, and the fact that we have cut your lunch hour by 20 minutes.

 

BIDEN: And that's not a minor point. You're going to have to go and sit down in front of the House as well. But I thank you for your courtesy...

 

(UNKNOWN): Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman...

 

BIDEN: Yes.

 

(UNKNOWN): I hope that we make it clear to the men and women that are serving our country, today, in Iraq, that this difference of opinion in regard to the president's sending in more troops...

 

BIDEN: Has got nothing to do with them.

 

(UNKNOWN): ... is that we're supportive of what they're doing and we're going to provide them the resources so they can do their job and are protected to the very best of our ability.

 

Because I wouldn't want anything said here today to be interpreted that we're just...

 

BIDEN: I think that's a valid point to raise again. And we should raise again and again. In my seven trips to Iraq -- and I'd say, collectively on this committee, there's probably been 50 trips to Iraq -- I don't know a single person, having voted for or voted against the deployment, having agreed or disagreed with the president, who hasn't been absolutely amazed by the dedication, the service and the overwhelming commitment those forces on the ground are making.

 

And if you want to see how that works, travel to Iraq with a guy who was a noncommissioned officer and watch how he relates with these folks on the streets of Baghdad and Fallujah and Basra. It is real.

 

They have our -- in my case, I believe, they have our overwhelming support. They have our admiration. And this should not be read that our disagreement, to the extent we disagree with the president, is any reflection on their abilities.

 

I would close by saying that I also want to thank the Capitol Police for having done, very skillfully and without much fanfare, a very good job in keeping order here today. I want to acknowledge that and thank them.

 

I want to thank all of you who came to listen for the orderly way in which you did. I know there are incredibly strong feelings about this issue. And as American citizens, you've conducted yourselves in a way that, I think, makes our democracy one that's the envy of the world.

 

Again, I thank you, Madam Secretary. The committee is...

 

Oh, excuse me, I'm supposed to, also -- we're supposed to begin this afternoon's hearings at two o'clock, because we continue today, but I've been informed by the United States Senate that we are going to have two votes at two o'clock, that they are, to use Senate jargon, they've been agreed to by unanimous consent, which means they will take place.

 

So, rather than convene at two, we will convene at 2:30. And the list of witnesses we have today are very prominent people who have different views on, and specific plans on how to proceed in Iraq.

 

They include Honorable Peter Galbraith, Dr. Frederick Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute and Dr. Ted Galen Carpenter of the Cato Institute.

 

So I thank you, Madam Secretary. We stand adjourned.

 

RICE: Thank you.

 

END

 

NOTES:

[????] - Indicates Speaker Unknown

-- - Indicates could not make out what was being said.off mike - Indicates could not make out what was being said.

 

LOAD-DATE: January 11, 2007

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