Washington Some Senate Republicans are suddenly pushing the White House to begin withdrawing most U.S. troops from Iraq, apparently deciding that they can't wait for a September report to call for changing course.
A day after Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, bluntly declared that President Bush's Iraq plan isn't working and called for withdrawing most American forces, Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, said he was writing Bush on Tuesday to urge him to embrace a Plan E, for exit.
Sens. John Warner, R-Va., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, said Lugar's comments would carry weight with fellow Republicans.
Democratic leaders held up Lugar's speech as a political victory for their views. While most Democratic lawmakers have supported withdrawal, most Republicans have stood behind Bush - although many have indicated that they may break with him if U.S. military leaders report in September that the outlook isn't improving. The unpopular four-year-old war, its failure to achieve positive results and the nearness of 2008 elections are putting heavy pressure on Republicans to back away from Bush's war.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said that when historians look back, "I believe that Senator Lugar's words yesterday could be remembered as the turning point. But that will depend on whether more Republicans will take the courageous first step that Senator Lugar took last night."
In his speech, Lugar pointedly urged members of both parties to cool their partisan rhetoric and work with Bush to change Iraq policy.
Both Lugar and Voinovich said Bush's Iraq strategy is undermining America's larger national-security interests and that now is the time to devise a better one.
Lugar warned that time is short. Bipartisan agreement on "a rational course adjustment" would be nearly impossible if the debate takes place during the 2008 election for control of the White House and Congress, he said.
"Three factors - the political fragmentation in Iraq, the growing stress on our military and the constraints of our own domestic political process - are converging to make it almost impossible for the United States to engineer a stable, multisectarian government in Iraq in a reasonable time frame," Lugar said.
The veteran Indiana senator, who enjoys wide respect as a foreign-policy statesman who shuns partisan grandstanding, called on Bush to downsize the military's role in Iraq, moving some forces to Kuwait and other nearby countries. A smaller American force would remain in Iraq's Kurdish region or in defensible areas outside Iraqi cities. U.S. forces would continue to fight terrorists, train Iraqis and deliver economic aid, but would stop trying to end fighting among Iraqi factions.