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McCain: More Troops Needed in Iraq

By Kenneth R. Timmerman

Dec. 5, 2006 - Following his pointed questioning of Pentagon nominee Robert Gates at a confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Senator John McCain (R, Az) told a prominent pro-Israel think tank that the U.S. must commit more troops to Iraq, or lose the war.

"The situation in Iraq is dire,‚" he told the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) in Washington, DC. "I believe victory is still attainable. But we will not succeed if we no longer have the will to win."

McCain said that Americans had tired of the war in Iraq because they were not convinced we can still win without an intolerable loss of additional lives and resources. "But in no other time are we more morally obliged to speak the truth to our country, as we best see it, than in a time of war."

That truth, McCain said, was simple. "Without additional combat forces we will not win this war."

History will hold the Bush administration accountable for its mistakes in Iraq, he said.

But taking a swipe at the Iraq Study Group, which is widely expected to recommend some form of gradual withdrawal from Iraq when it releases its conclusions on Wednesday, McCain said that "precipitous American troop withdrawal would make the violence there much worse, not better."

Iraq's U.S.-trained security forces "are today incapable of handling operations on their own," he said. "If U.S. forces begin a pullout, we risk all-out civil war and the potential for region-wide conflict.."

He mentioned several tasks that only U.S. troops can accomplish: clearing and holding insurgent strongholds; providing security for reconstruction; disarming Sunni and Shia militias; training the Iraqi army, and embedding American personnel in weak and often corrupt Iraqi police units.

"We need to do all these things if we are to succeed," McCain said. "And we will need more troops to do them."

McCain spoke at a ceremony honoring six U.S. soldiers for their service in Iraq, and was given JINSA' signature award named after Sen. Henry M. ("Scoop") Jackson, (D, Wa).

Perhaps best known as the father of the "Reagan Democrats,"Jackson co-authored the Jackson-Vanik amendment in 1975 that helped convince the Soviet Union to allow Soviet Jews to emigrate during the Cold War.

McCain also touched on U.S. policy throughout the Middle East, in a sweeping speech that established foreign policy guidelines for a potential McCain 2008 presidential run.

• On Iran, McCain said that the United States must back "immediate UN Security Council action"to impose political and economic sanctions.

"Military action isn’t our preference"and was "the last option."But "there is only one thing worse than a military solution, and that is a nuclear-armed Iran,"McCain said.

The United States needed to "reassure reformers and the millions of Iranians who aspire to self-determination that we support their longing for freedom and democracy,"he added.

• The United States should continue its boycott of the Hamas-led government in the Palestinian Authority, because of its ongoing support for terrorism.

• At the same time, U.S. support for Israel "should intensify‚Ķ No American leaders should be expected to sell a false peace to our democratic ally, consider Israel' right to self-defense less legitimate than ours, or insist that Israel negotiate a political settlement while terrorism remains its adversaries‚Äô favorite bargaining tool,"he said.

Americans should not be shy in reaffirming the historic "moral bond"between the United States and Israel. "We are two democracies whose alliance is forged in our common values,"he said. "To be proudly pro-American and pro-Israeli is not to hold conflicting loyalties.”

• In Lebanon, McCain warned that the current ceasefire was "a mere pause in the fighting, rather than its end,"and called for the disarmament of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia.

Introducing McCain to a packed ball room of pro-Israel business executives, defense contractors, and Washington insiders was Senator Joseph Lieberman, fresh from being re-elected as an Independent after losing the Democratic party primary in Connecticut.

Lieberman' glowing tribute to his Republican colleague did not go unnoticed.

"McCain-Lieberman? There's something to that,"JINSA board member Morris J. Amitay told the crowd.