As of today, you can add Sen. Olympia Snowe’s (R-ME) name to the growing list of Republican Senators who are calling for a change in course in Iraq. Sen. Snowe made her support known when she added her name as a co-sponsor along with fellow Republican Gordon Smith (R-OR) on the bill proposed by Democrat Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI). Levin’s bill would require U.S. troops to start leaving Iraq within 120 days after the bill becomes law, and combat to cease by April 2008. During the political battle over the most recent war funding bill, Snowe had opposed a similar measure.

Snowe said the reason for her change in position is the inability of the Iraqi government to meet their benchmarks and make progress in the country. “Frankly, given the fact that the Iraqi government isn’t prepared to change its own political direction, we should be prepared to change course with respect to our strategy,” she said. Snowe’s position is different from many of her fellow Republicans because she has supports the current legislation being proposed to end the war. Other Republican senators like Luger and Domenici have only gone as far as to call for a change in strategy. The change in position of the Senator from Maine now brings the total of Republicans who have called for a change in strategy to 11.

If Senator Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) stands by the comments she made yesterday, the number of disgruntled Republicans could soon grow to 12. “Simply put, our troops have been doing a great job, but the Iraqi government has not. Our commitment in Iraq is not indefinite, nor should the Iraqi government perceive it to be. It is my firm hope and belief that we can start bringing our troops home in 2008,” Dole said. Despite the pleas from within their own party, the White House seems determined not to change a single detail of their Iraq strategy.

The Bush administration is saying that they already changed direction back in January with the troop surge, and it appears that they see no reason to change things now. Speaking on their way to Cleveland yesterday, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said, “The shift in strategy occurred with the new way forward, which is now two weeks underway. And that was a dramatic shift in strategy, based on the input that the President received from commanders on the ground and leaders in Washington. That operation is now just two weeks underway in its full array of troops. So the President believes that this June — or, July 15th report will be an opportunity for an initial snapshot of how that is going; just an initial snapshot after a few weeks.”

Beyond the politics of their being an election in 2008, I think Senate Republicans have finally reached their breaking point on the war in Iraq. They put a lot on the line to stick with the president during the last war funding battle few months ago, and they have been continually promised that things will get better in Iraq. With a report due to be released soon that will say that the Iraq government has missed all their major benchmarks for progress, it seems that this was the last straw for some Senate Republicans. The difference in the positions among the Senators on Iraq is narrowing. The main point of contention is that Republicans favor phased withdrawal, while some Democrats want an immediate withdrawal. If a few more Republicans defect and both sides can agree on a mechanism for withdrawal, this war will be over.

White House quote

Snowe and Dole quotes

Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at 411mania.com.  His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at www.411mania.com/politics 

Jason can also be heard every Sunday at 7:00 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thepoliticaluniverse blog radio 

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