January 23, 2007
Voinovich to oppose surge in soldiers going to Iraq
By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service
WASHINGTON Republican Sen. George Voinovich plans to oppose
President Bush's surge of troops into Iraq unless Bush
demonstrates in tonight's State of the Union address that the
United States will hold the Iraqi government's feet to the fire.
While the maverick lawmaker vowed not to deprive troops of
funding, he left the door open to voting for a congressional
resolution opposing increases in U.S. troops sent to the
Voinovich, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,
insisted during a meeting with reporters Monday that Bush
present a list of benchmarks that the Iraqi government must meet
to merit additional U.S. support.
Bush went on national television Jan. 10 to announce his plan to
send more than 20,000 additional troops to Baghdad as part of a
fresh effort to bring order to the country.
WAITING ON STATE OF UNION
Voinovich said, when Bush revisits the subject in the State of
the Union, "I would hope that he might talk about some
benchmarks he would put in place prior to sending in the rest of
The former Ohio governor and Cleveland mayor is skeptical that
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a member of the Shia sect
of Islam, is willing to crack down on powerful Shia militia
leader Moqtada al-Sadr.
If the president fails to convince Voinovich in the speech, the
senator said he will oppose the surge.
The Democratic-controlled Senate is set to consider at least two
resolutions this week opposing the surge, including one authored
by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden, D-Del.
Voinovich said he is likely to vote for one of those resolutions
unless he is persuaded by the president's address.
Bush has blamed the failure to establish order in Iraq on not
having enough U.S. and Iraqi troops to secure and hold violent
neighborhoods after they have been cleared of insurgents and
The president said the additional troops will work with Iraqi
soldiers to help them protect the local population.
"It's really important that the word goes out in the Muslim
community that this is not just more of the infidels occupying
the place," Voinovich said. "We are looked upon as occupiers and
infidels by the people that are there. And most of them would
like to see us leave."
Voinovich said he would like to see al-Maliki stand up in public
and say, "This is what I want the United States to do. This is
not the United States telling me what to do."
He said al-Maliki "tells some of our people that go over there
that have talked to him (that) we don't want the United States.
We want you out of here."
Voinovich was not specific about what benchmarks he expects from
But he said they should demonstrate "that there's some sincerity
here (from the Iraqi government).
And that our guys are not going to end up - being in the middle
of a civil war or having it interpreted that we're in there
helping the Shia get rid of the Sunnis."
In his speech, Bush laid out what he said were benchmarks the
Iraqi government has promised to meet.
These include deploying 18 Iraqi army and national police
brigades in Baghdad and giving them a "green light" to enter
neighborhoods where Shia militias are fomenting violence.