- The Washington Times - Monday, August 7, 2006

Two U.S. senators said an escalation of sectarian violence in Iraq could require a new congressional mandate, leading to the potential withdrawal of American forces from the country.

“This is a civil war. I think the generals, the other day, were cautious in their language. But I think they were telling us something loud and clear to anyone who wanted to listen,” said Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat. “And I, frankly, don’t believe that U.S. military people can necessarily play referee in that kind of a situation.

“I think we’re being asked to do something that is impossible for us to achieve under these circumstances,” Mr. Dodd told CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

His comments were echoed by Sen. Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican, who told CBS, “It is very wrong to put American troops in a hopeless, winless situation, just keep feeding them into what’s going on. That’s irresponsible, and that is wrong.”

On ABC’s “This Week,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice refused to say whether U.S. forces would be forced to withdraw from Iraq in the event of a civil war.

“I’m not going to deal with a hypothetical. And that’s what this is,” Miss Rice said.

On Friday, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John W. Warner said the Iraq war resolution passed by Congress in 2002 may not authorize U.S. forces to be in Iraq if civil war breaks out.

“We have to examine very carefully what the Congress authorized the president to do in the context of a situation if we’re faced with an all-out civil war and whether we have to come back to the Congress to get further indication of support,” the Virginia Republican said.

During their appearance before Mr. Warner’s committee, two top U.S. generals said that the conflict between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims has escalated but that they do not expect it to evolve into a full-scale civil war.

“I believe that the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I have seen it,” said Gen. John Abizaid, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East. “And that if not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move toward civil war.”

Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the committee, “We do have the possibility of that devolving into civil war.”

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, continued to reject his party’s growing calls for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.

“There is no clever way to surrender and pull out,” Mr. Biden told “Fox News Sunday.” “We pull out, it’s a gigantic loss.”

Mr. Hagel said there are “no good options” for U.S. forces in Iraq.

“I think where we go from here, with all the problems and inconsistencies, is a cold, hard assessment that Iraq is not going to turn out the way that we were promised it was,” Mr. Hagel said.

“We might provide some modicum of security for a while. But in the long run, this is an Iraqi issue,” Mr. Dodd said. “The Iraqi politicians, the Iraqi police and the people themselves have to assume responsibility for this. They don’t seem to be willing to do it. Therefore, I think this is, really, a civil war today, as it exists.”

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