The new strategy for Iraq that President Bush will unveil this week contains a series of goals or "benchmarks" that Iraq must meet in order to assure continued U.S. commitment and support.
"The new plan is not a 'blank check' as some have said in the past," a White House official told Peace and Freedom late Sunday night. "The Congress will find this to be a very satisfying plan."
The lead of today's story on Iraq from Agence France Press (AFP) begins: "US President George W. Bush's new Iraq policy will establish a series of goals that the Iraqi government will be expected to meet to try to stabilize the country politically and economically."
The New York Times broke the story over night in editions of the newspaper and on its web site.
Reporters Michael R. Gordon and Jeff Zeleny were responsible for The New York Times story but they could not be immediately reached for comment.
"Among these "benchmarks" are steps that would draw more Sunnis into the political process, finalize a long-delayed measure on the distribution of oil revenue and ease the government's policy toward former Baath Party members," The New York Times reported.
On Sunday several Democrat leaders of the House and the Senate again expressed concern that the president's initiatives on Iraq would not be enough to satisfy the Congress.
The first woman Speaker of the House of Representatives wants closer oversight for the White House's Iraq war budget requests. The object of Mrs. Pelosi's initiative would be to bring more "transparency" to the budget.
"If the president wants to add to this mission, he is going to have to justify it," Mrs. Pelosi said on the CBS News program "Face the Nation." "And this is new for him because up until now the Republican Congress has given him a blank check with no oversight, no standards, no conditions."
Mrs. Pelosi said she was comfortable and confident providing additional funding to support the U.S. troops already in Iraq but if the president wanted to add troops to Iraq, the funding support for those troops would have to be voted on separately.
"If the president chooses to escalate the war, in his budget request we want to see a distinction between what is there to support the troops who are there now," she said.
Senator Joseph Biden, himself a candidate for the democrat nomination for the presidency, said he did not think the Congress would just stop funding for the war in Iraq. A guest on Tim Russert's top rated Sunday news and information show on NBC, Senator Biden (D-DE) said, "As a practical matter there is no way to say, 'Mr. President, stop.' "
Senators backing the President's idea to send additional troops to Iraq included Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Con.).
"'I believe there is still a compelling reason to have an increase in troops here in Baghdad and in Anbar Province in order to bring the sectarian violence under control,' Mr. McCain said after his visit [to Iraq recently]. Mr. Lieberman said the idea of sending another 30,000 troops to Iraq is "exactly" the course of action he hopes to see from the president."
But several well respected columnists express doubt in the president's "surge" plan of troops in the last several days.
Colonel Oliver North, former United States Marine and currently Fox News Channel correspondent (no liberal legacy in that gene pool) doesn't pull any punches about his opposition to the "surge" plan.. "Messrs. McCain and Lieberman talked to many of the same officers and senior noncommissioned officers I covered for Fox News during my most recent trip to Iraq. Not one of the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Guardsmen or Marines I interviewed told me they wanted more 'U.S. boots on the ground.' In fact, nearly all expressed just the opposite: 'We don't need more American troops, we need more Iraqi troops,'" said McCain.
Syndicated conservative columnist George F. Will focused upon why the president has decided to bring home his senior Iraq war general, General George Casey, early.
Writing for Sunday, January 7, 2007, Will said, "Today, Gen. George Casey, U.S. commander in Baghdad, is in hot water with administration proponents of a 'surge' because he believes what he recently told The New York Times: 'The longer we in the U.S. forces continue to bear the main burden of Iraq's security, it lengthens the time that the government of Iraq has to take the hard decisions about reconciliation and dealing with the militias. And the other thing is that they can continue to blame us for all of Iraq's problems, which are at base their problems."
It sound to us that "You accept the surge or you're in the purge."