July 25, 2006
The Honorable George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
As you know, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will be addressing a Joint Session of Congress tomorrow. I write in hopes that you will encourage Prime Minister Maliki to use this as an opportunity to address some important issues that are on the minds of many Americans.
Members of Congress strongly support Prime Minister Maliki in his efforts to end the sectarian violence and bring stability to Iraq, and we share his hope for a better future for his country. I believe that addressing the following issues will only help to build confidence in his government as they embark on the difficult tasks ahead.
1. Hezbollah and Iran. Many are very concerned about comments made by Prime Minister Maliki about the ongoing Israeli initiative against Hezbollah, a terrorist organization which started the current conflict by mounting an attack against Israel. Specifically, Prime Minister Maliki described the Israeli operations in Lebanon and Gaza as "criminal" and called "on the world to take quick stands to stop the Israeli aggression." This is in notable contrast to comments from other key regional powers, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, which criticized Hezbollah for "unexpected, inappropriate and irresponsible acts." Given that it is essential to send a clear message that terrorism is never acceptable, and that ending support for terrorist organizations like Hezbollah by countries including Iran is key to winning the war on terror, Prime Minister Maliki should clarify that he condemns Hezbollah for its attack on Israel, and that he believes that Iran should not continue to provide weapons to Hezbollah.
2. Civil War. Prime Minister Maliki acknowledged on Monday that approximately one hundred Iraqis were being killed every day in sectarian violence, yet he maintains that there is no civil war; in fact he said that "Civil war will not happen to Iraq." Many in Iraq and here in America believe that a civil war is already under way, and would appreciate hearing from Prime Minister Maliki what conditions he believes would rise to the level of a civil war, what exactly his plan is for ending the sectarian violence, and what role he envisions for U.S. troops if the sectarian violence continues to get worse.
3. U.S. Forces in Iraq. Ambassador Khalilzad recently said that he and General Casey had been discussing with the Iraqi government the formation of a joint commission to outline terms and conditions for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, and that they planned to sit down with Prime Minister Maliki to establish this joint commission as soon as Ambassador Khalilzad returned to Iraq. When asked Monday how long he thought Iraq would need the assistance of foreign troops, Prime Minister Maliki said "It is definitely not decades, not even years." Prime Minister Maliki should provide an update on the status of negotiations with this joint commission, and give us his best estimate on when U.S. troop withdrawals could begin, and when he expects this process to be complete.
4. Militias. Prime Minister Maliki was quoted on Monday as saying that "We have reached an agreement in the government that we will have to confront them (the militias) and deal with them." Given the importance of disbanding these militias, Prime Minister Maliki should let us know exactly what this agreement is, what specifically his plan is for disbanding these militias, including whether it is part of his reconciliation plan, and state definitively that there will be no amnesty for Iraqis who kill U.S. soldiers.
Addressing these issues will help to ensure that the Prime Minister's visit is as successful and productive as possible. Thank you for your attention to this request.