- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Bush administration yesterday named a veteran diplomat to take charge of efforts to move more Iraqi refugees to the United States, acknowledging that efforts to date have been disappointing but pledging to move ahead quickly in admitting about 7,000 Iraqis.

Most of those in the first wave will be people living in neighboring countries such as Jordan or Syria and have been referred for resettlement by the United Nations, Assistant Secretary of State Ellen Sauerbrey said at a Capitol Hill hearing.

She noted that the United States has spent more than $200 million to help displaced Iraqis so far this year.

The new post of senior coordinator for Iraqi refugee issues will be filled by James Foley, a former State Department deputy spokesman, former ambassador to Haiti and current deputy commandant and international affairs adviser at the National War College.

“The UNHCR is already working with the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies to address the issue of Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons, and the appointment of Ambassador Foley as a senior coordinator should enhance those efforts,” said Tim Irwin of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, the lead agency on the issue.

But Sean Garcia, a policy analyst with Refugees International, said in a telephone interview that the appointment will not quell the problem.

“This is another attempt by the administration to deflect taking leadership on this issue,” he said.

Mr. Garcia said the 7,000 refugees the United States plans to admit “is really a drop in the bucket” compared with what needs to be done. About 4 million Iraqis have been displaced, about half of those living precariously in neighboring countries.

“Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt have so far borne the brunt of the refugee crisis,” said Sen. Gordon H. Smith, Oregon Republican, at yesterday’s hearing. Mr. Smith said Jordan, with a population of 6.1 million people, has taken in more than 750,000 Iraqi refugees, Lebanon has taken in up to 200,000, and Syria has taken in 1.2 million.

Mrs. Sauerbrey said the United States has accepted 990 Iraqi refugees this year.

“The number of refugees that Jordan has taken in … would be like the United States absorbing 50 million in the course of three years,” Mr. Garcia said, adding that that country needs upward of $1 billion in additional funds to handle all the refugees on its territory.

Mrs. Sauerbrey said the U.S. gave $10 million to Jordan in 2007 for the purpose, a figure Mr. Garcia dismissed as “peanuts.”

Mr. Garcia said that when the war started in 2003, the U.S. gave Jordan $700 million to ease an anticipated refugee burden.

“Now they are asking for help,” he said, “and we are providing them with very little.”

“The United States has not been as forthcoming as the United States should be,” said Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, at yesterday’s hearing.

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