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Editorial | Iraq War Funding

Act in troops' interest

The political fight over Iraq is going to be some showdown at the Not-OK Corral. Both sides need to make sure U.S. troops are not worse off for it.

The White House and Democratic leaders in Congress also need to move quickly and aggressively on regional diplomacy to stabilize Iraq.

The drama should happen this week when the $124 billion Iraq supplemental spending bill reaches President Bush. The Senate last week followed the House by approving a compromise version of the two chambers' legislation.

The White House says it is "dead before arrival," because it includes a suggested deadline for pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq - no later than March 2008. Bush also is critical of the pork projects attached to the bill to gain legislative support.

Bush is right in saying it's wrong to use the supplemental bill to fund nonmilitary projects. However, Republicans used the same tactic to win passage of legislation when they were in charge of Capitol Hill.

Both Bush and Democratic leaders could be doing harm to U.S. troops with their rigidity.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Senate President Harry Reid (D., Nev.) would best support our troops by writing a new funding bill without a withdrawal timeline. Put the timeline in a separate bill.

There's time for them to do that, despite the Republicans' zeal to pass a measure right away. The Army has funding to last until August. That's enough time for Congress to make sure our brave troops in Iraq and Afghanistan will have all the resources they need to do their job.

Bush would best support the troops by changing course on an endless endeavor with a tweaked strategy.

Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, said last week that sectarian violence was down in Baghdad, but remained at the same level in the country overall despite more boots on the ground.

He noted that the mission was tough; that it could get worse before it gets better; that patience was needed.

The problem is that the American public has run out of patience, after more than four years of fighting with so little progress to show for it. An end game is needed.

Part of that end game has to be an aggressive policy to conduct tough diplomacy with Iraq's neighbors, including Iran and Syria.

Everyone agrees Iraq can be stabilized only if Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds take full responsibility for their country. That is less likely to happen if Iran and Syria keep meddling.

The Iraq Study Group urged regional diplomacy months ago. The White House has made some moves in that direction, but they have been too few, too small, too hesitant.

Some Democrats, including Pelosi, seem to naively think that simply showing Iranian and Syrian leaders that Congress is more open to talks will be enough to extract cooperation. They would be foolish to give away too much and get little in return.

Bush and Democrats need to hold their own talks and figure out how to support the troops by funding them and not leaving them in an endless mission in a misbegotten war.