Hill Dems to Obama: Don’t forget Iraq
More than two dozen liberal-leaning members of Congress sent a letter to President Obama Thursday calling on the administration not to lose its focus on Iraq, especially with upcoming elections there that could prove crucial to Obama’s stated timetable for withdrawal of U.S. forces. The letter, led by Massachusetts Rep. Bill Delahunt, a House Foreign ...
More than two dozen liberal-leaning members of Congress sent a letter to President Obama Thursday calling on the administration not to lose its focus on Iraq, especially with upcoming elections there that could prove crucial to Obama’s stated timetable for withdrawal of U.S. forces.
The letter, led by Massachusetts Rep. Bill Delahunt, a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee chairman, was also endorsed by committee chairman Howard Berman, D-CA, House Oversight National Security subcommittee head John Tierney, D-MA, and several leaders of the progressive caucus. The impetus for the letter was a recent dispute over the attempt by Shiites to ban hundreds of Sunni candidates from the polls and several delays that have already pushed the elections to March 7.
"What has prompted the letter has been a profound concern about the initial election ruling and continuing concerns about letting the recent gains slip away, given the realities on the ground," Delahunt told The Cable.
An Iraqi appeals court ruled this week against the ban on the Sunni candidates, but the issue is now being brought before Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council, the highest court in the land.
Vice President Joseph Biden traveled to Baghdad late last month during the height of the dispute in what was widely viewed as an effort to mediate, though rhetorically, Biden maintained the dispute was a matter for the Iraqis to work out among themselves.
Delahunt said lawmakers wanted to go on record as imploring the administration not to lose focus on Iraq as attention shifts to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"We want the administration to continue to comply with the withdrawal dates but not to lose any focus, because this is one of the most critical moments in terms of the Iraq adventure," he said, adding, "Part of the purpose of the letter too was to refocus members of Congress on this election. There’s a sense that we’ve moved on from Iraq."
Stephen Biddle, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said that continued U.S. government involvement in Iraq was crucial over the next few months as the fragile reconciliation process there continues while U.S. military forces withdraw.
"I think we still have an important role to play," said Biddle, "Iraq isn’t at war and neither is it at peace. It’s at the earliest stages at what’s typically a very long transition."
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin
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