- The Washington Times - Monday, July 16, 2007

National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley yesterday said he expects the situation on the ground in Iraq to improve by September and, therefore, rejected a proposal from two Republican senators that calls for starting to draft redeployment plans for American forces before then.

Mr. Hadley was asked on CBS‘ “Face the Nation” by host Bob Schieffer whether “the situation in Iraq is going to look any different” when Gen. David M. Petraeus delivers his progress report on the surge to Congress in September.

“I think it will,” Mr. Hadley replied. “I think we will have had two additional months of our security strategy going forward; now, since the last several weeks, with a full complement of forces.

“We think we will see progress on the security side. We hope we will see the bottom-up kind of reconciliation” among Iraqis, he said. “But the point is that Congress set a schedule, which basically said we need to do a review in September.”

The White House and some Republican lawmakers are asking for patience on Iraq until September, arguing that a surge of American forces into Baghdad and other areas has only been fully implemented for a few weeks.

However, a proposal by two Republicans — Sen. Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee, and Sen. John W. Warner of Virginia, ranking member on the Armed Services Committee — would require the administration to deliver a plan by October outlining how American forces could be moved away from a combat role in Iraq.

Although Mr. Hadley said the administration could not accept the Lugar-Warner plan, he did praise the senators and left the door open to considering their recommendations in the fall.

“They’ve done a useful service in indicating the kinds of things that we should be thinking about,” he said. “But the time to begin that process is September. The opening shot really ought to be to heard from the commanders on the ground who can make an assessment of where we are in our current strategy.”

Mr. Warner said his plan was different from various Democratic proposals because it does not call for a complete withdrawal of American forces from Iraq — a feature that has left Democrats cool to the proposal.

“This nation of ours has got to remain in that area,” Mr. Warner said during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week.” He said that America would have to remain involved in the Middle East because of oil, its relationship with Israel and other “vital security interests.”

Mr. Warner said that he thinks President Bush will be open to such recommendations after Gen. Petraeus delivers his September progress report.

“I’m confident when the reports come to the president in September, he will come forward, we ask for it in October, with his revision in strategy to comport with the situation on the ground,” he said. “The president will have to make some changes, and I’m confident the president will do so.”

During his CBS interview, Mr. Hadley was pressed by Mr. Schieffer on how much political progress Iraq’s lawmakers could deliver before the September report when they are planning to vacation for the entire month of August.

Mr. Hadley said he is trying to convince them to stay through August and noted he and others had already successfully lobbied Iraqi leaders to work through July, which they had originally scheduled for vacation as well.

House Democrats passed a bill last week that requires a withdrawal of American forces from Iraq by next April. However, that bill only attracted the support of four Republicans, falling far short of a veto-proof majority. Similarly, the Senate failed to garner the necessary 60 votes for a proposal by Sen. James H. Webb Jr., Virginia Democrat, that would give soldiers matching time off for time served in combat.

The Senate is also considering a bill sponsored by Sen. Ken Salazar, Colorado Democrat, that would declare the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations as nonbinding national goals.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee Republican and a co-sponsor of the proposal, said the bill would offer a united message to American soldiers still fighting in Iraq while also not circumventing Mr. Bush’s authority as commander in chief.

“The president has every right to wait until September, October, November to develop his strategy,” Mr. Alexander told CBS‘ “Face the Nation.” But “I can’t see today why he doesn’t borrow the prestige of the Democrats and the Republicans and write a plan based on these recommendations, which I think he would be comfortable with.”

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