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No fast U.S. shift on Iraq if Democrats win: Dean


Reuters October 29, 2006
By Philip Barbara

Even if Democrats win control of Congress in elections next week, an immediate change of course in Iraq policy is unlikely, the party's chairman said on Sunday.

Countering Republican campaign charges that Democrats would "cut and run" from Iraq, chairman Howard Dean said the party did not believe there should be a sudden pullout of all U.S. troops.

"The president will still be in charge of foreign policy and the military ... I don't imagine we're going to be able to force the president to reverse his course," he told the CBS "Face the Nation" program.

"But we will put some pressure on him to have some benchmarks, some timetables and a real plan other than stay the course," he added.

With control of the U.S. Congress at stake in the November 7 elections and sectarian violence raging in Iraq, Democrats and some Republicans have urged President Bush to change his strategy on the war.

Some Democrats have called for a withdrawal timetable, which Bush rejects.

Congress will have some influence on Iraq policy after establishing the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, with Bush's approval. The commission, co-chaired by former secretary of state James Baker, is assessing the war and will release its policy recommendations after election day.

Dean said a small U.S. force should be left somewhere near Iraq to help prevent the establishment of a terrorist haven in the region.

"We will need to leave a force of special-operations folks in the Middle East, not in Iraq but on the periphery of Iraq, so we can deal with terrorism in a timely manner.

"We don't believe now we should suddenly pull everybody out...," he said.

UNWANTED MILESTONE

So far, 99 U.S. troops have died in Iraq in October, the worse monthly total in nearly two years. If the death toll reaches 100, it will be an unwanted, headline-making milestone just before election day.

Many Americans have soured on the war. But Republicans charge that if U.S. pulled out before Iraq is stabilized, the country will become a breeding ground for terrorists who will eventually attack Americans at home.

U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, a California Republican and chairman of the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, said U.S. troops should remain in Iraq until the new government is functioning and the people are safe.

"Now, we did that in Germany, we did that in Japan, we did that in the Philippines," after World War Two, Hunter told Fox. He accused Democrats of fearing a Vietnam-like quagmire, which he said was unrealistic.

Democratic Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, a former Marine who had supported the war but who drew Bush's ire a year ago by calling for a troop withdrawal, disagreed that Iraq would become a terrorists haven if U.S. forces leave.

"I think it is the opposite. I think there is more terrorism throughout the world, and all of the polls indicate this," Murtha said on the Fox program. "The Iraqis believe this, the people in the periphery of Iraq believe that and the American public believes the same thing."

 
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