US senators: Iraq needs international force

A United States senator said on Sunday an international force of up to 60,000 troops is needed in Iraq, warning attacks on occupation troops will escalate if left unchecked. 

Appearing on the “Fox News Sunday” program, the influential Democrat Senator Joseph Biden said: “I want to see French, German, I want to see Turkish patches on people’s arms sitting on the street corners, standing there in Iraq.”

Biden, who sits on the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, added: “We’ve got to get over this ideological fixation on the part of Mr. [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld and [Vice President Dick] Cheney of not letting the Europeans and NATO come in.”

Rising death toll

Biden returned recently from a trip to Iraq, where steady attacks have targeted US and UK occupying forces since President George Bush declared major combat over on 1 May.

But at least 63 US troops have been killed in Iraq since the 1 May declaration. The military has confirmed the identities of 138 soldiers killed before that date, for a total of 201 so far, while the names of several other casualties have not yet been made available.

Senator Chris Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, also told CBS “Face the Nation” extra troops were urgently needed to deal with resistance.

“I don’t think we have months. I think we’ve got weeks to turn this around,” Dodd said. “And the people on the ground know it. Our military people are exhausted.”

Rumsfeld and Cheney are not 
keen to have other nationalities in

“We need to get that second army in place over there. We need to invite others around the region as well as the world to help us do that. We’re not doing that and the longer we wait, the greater risk is going to be posed by Iraq,” Dodd said.

The lawmakers spoke after a week of particularly intense ambushes and hit-and-run attacks. Another explosion in Baghdad on Sunday targeted a US convoy. Biden said the status of US troops there was “in peril. The war is still on.”

Other US allies
He said he had been assured NATO was ready to join the US and British occupation forces in Iraq and that “NATO should be in”.

The Delaware Democrat said the US troops he spoke with felt short-changed by Washington’s failure “to expand this responsibility internationally. They all understand it”.

Unlilke Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, who on Friday continued to blame the resistance on “scattered, disorganized remnants of the ousted Saddam Hussein government”, Biden said the attacks were clearly being organized by “serious military people”.

“It is increasingly becoming bolder and increasingly becoming more coordinated,” he asserted. “…To the extent that we continue to try to own this all ourselves, I think, this will increase.”

On ABC’s “This Week,” US Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, said he also “would like to see a lot of other nations” included in ending resistance.