Top Democrat urges Iraq pullout

WASHINGTON – The senior Democrat on the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee says that if ethnic and religious factions in Iraq fail to reach a genuine political settlement before the end of the year, the United States should put withdrawal on its agenda.

The comments by Sen. Carl Levin, D-MI, suggest a shift in the position of mainstream Democrats. Most members of the party’s congressional delegation have so far accused Pres. Bush and his team of failing to come up with a viable strategy to win the war, but have stopped short of calling for a pullout timetable.

But an article by Levin published last week in the Washington Post urges that the administration tell Iraqis that a timetable for withdrawal will be considered if a political settlement hasn’t been reached by year’s end. "Making that clear to them will insert a healthy dose of mind-focusing reality that is their best hope for defeating the insurgents and becoming a nation," he added.

Levin pointed out that Sunni Arab leaders are openly calling for the constitution to be defeated, while Iraqis of all ethnic backgrounds have lost faith in the transitional government’s ability to protect them from violence. He noted, however, that none of the Iraqi groups wants U.S. troops to leave the country prematurely.

"This does not mean setting a date now for departure," Levin continued. "It simply means conveying clearly and forcefully to Iraqis that the presence of our forces is not indefinite and that our staying there requires them to come together politically, since Iraqi unity offers the only hope of defeating the insurgency.”