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Reid Critiques Foreign Policy

Asks Party to Help Find ‘Right Course’

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) expressed concern about U.S. ties to Kuwait and sharply criticized the Bush administration’s foreign policy decisions in an extensive analysis delivered to Democratic Senators and key advisers last week.

The May 27 memo is Reid’s most comprehensive statement on U.S. foreign policy matters since he was elected Minority Leader by his colleagues in January. The Nevadan expressed opinions on the White House’s preparations for the Iraq war; Iran’s effort to acquire nuclear weapons; U.S. relations with France; the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; and the need to nurture budding democracies as well as several other issues.

Reid used a recent official Congressional trip to the Middle East, Iraq, Georgia, Ukraine and France to support his conclusions, and asked his colleagues for input on how to strengthen U.S. foreign policy, according to the memo.

“Many of the foreign policy and security challenges confronting our nation and our allies require a more in-depth analysis and discussion,” Reid wrote in his memo. “Your thoughts and views are critical to ensuring we find the right course.”

Reid’s 12-page foreign policy missive comes roughly three weeks after he called Bush a “loser,” just as the president was landing in Latvia. Reid immediately apologized, and in his memo noted, “That despite the many policy differences I have with the administration, it is true that partisan politics stops at the water’s edge.”

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who joined Reid on the trip, said he was “impressed” with Reid for “never undercutting” the president’s foreign policy either in public or private while on the CODEL.

“When he comes back, for him to express differences he has with the president’s policy, that is perfectly appropriate,” said Alexander, who noted he hasn’t seen the memo.

With regards to Kuwait, Reid said he is troubled by the nation’s treatment of women and suggested the U.S. must be careful not to appear to support such a policy.

“While we should be appreciative of the Kuwaiti government’s hospitality to our military forces, our presence in Kuwait must never be viewed as an endorsement of Kuwait’s historically regressive policies toward women,” Reid told his Democratic colleagues.

The Nevadan chastised the Bush administration for its approach to the Iraq war, alleging that the White House failed to adequately plan for the country’s post-war reconstruction efforts.

Reid describes Iraq’s “political and economic situation [as] teetering on the brink” and questioned why a new U.S. ambassador has not been named to replace John Negroponte, who left the post earlier this year to become the new U.S. national intelligence chief.

“The administration needs to develop a more comprehensive strategy for success that focuses not only on the security situation and the training of Iraqi security services, but also on the political legitimacy and capacity of the new government, the dismal economic picture, and the reconstruction process, which desperately needs to be put back on track,” Reid wrote. “In short, success requires a multifaceted, multinational approach, which thus far, the administration has proven incapable of handling.”

The Minority Leader made no mention regarding the current controversy surrounding John Bolton to be the next ambassador to the United Nations.

In a statement released by his office, Reid said he chose to write this report because “the security challenges facing the country require a more in-depth analysis and broader public discussion.

“I wanted to ensure Democrats were helping to lead and shape this discussion,” Reid said. “We need to find the right course.”

While in Israel, Reid told his Democratic colleagues that the Senate delegation viewed the controversial security fence constructed by Israel to prevent attacks, and the Nevadan expressed tepid support for it.

“No matter how one might feel about the fence, it is hard to dispute the fact that terrorist incidents are down sharply where the fence has been fully constructed (up to 80 percent decline in terrorist incidents in some areas),” Reid stated.

He also noted that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon “described Iran as the most significant threat confronting Israel.”

Iran “must not acquire the capacity to develop a nuclear weapon, the prime minister indicated,” Reid stated. “For then it would be too late.”

The Minority Leader also said he was “concerned and disappointed by the lack of direct involvement with the negotiations” to try and convince Iran to abandon a nuclear weapons program.

“No other country in the world can employ the same level of leadership and force of persuasion,” Reid said in the memo. “Although the Europeans are trying to work towards a meaningful solution, the U.S. absence has clearly called into question the ultimate effectiveness and end-product of the negotiations, as well as when/whether a case will be referred to the Security Council.

“We have too much at stake to be a passive, outside observer in the dispute with Iran,” he added.

Even though Reid acknowledged relations between the U.S. and France are strained, he advised it is in the U.S.’ interest to mend the rift.

“As difficult as it is to understand France’s position on several issues in recent years, we must remind ourselves that there [are] other critical national security issues where France has been and can still be helpful,” Reid wrote.

Reid pledged to make sure Democrats have a voice in future U.S. foreign policy decisions. Earlier this year, Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) assembled a group of experts to advise them on national security affairs.

On Friday, the two Democratic Congressional leaders announced that the group would investigate the “proliferation of weapons of mass destruction” focusing specifically on the efforts of Iran and North Korea to acquire them.

“Democrats don’t intend to sit on the sidelines on matters of national security,” Reid sad in the statement. “We will support the President when he’s right, but we will also point out where he’s gone wrong and offer our vision for a stronger and more secure America.

“Unfortunately, more has gone wrong, than right, under the President’s stewardship,” he added.

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