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Iraq

Mirroring last week's NBC/WSJ poll, a new Gallup survey finds that 57% support a timetable for withdrawal, versus 39% who believe that US troops should stay in Iraq as long as necessary.

With the president's expected veto of the war-funding bill that sets timelines for troop withdrawal, NBC's Ken Strickland says that Senate action moves to closed-door strategy sessions and negotiations for a new bill. Those talks start Wednesday when Bush meets with congressional leaders at the White House. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell have already started talks on how to move forward and were scheduled to meet yesterday. 

Strick points out that the growing consensus building within the Senate leadership would be a new bill void of timeless and heavy on benchmarks for the Iraqi government. But the contention resurfaces as negotiators decided whether those benchmarks are binding with consequences or nonbinding. The Administration has suggested benchmarks that "tie the hands" of the military would also be subject to a veto.

The Washington Post: "Brushing aside White House opposition, Republican leaders in Congress said yesterday that negotiations on a second war spending bill should begin with benchmarks of success for the Iraqi government, and possible consequences if those benchmarks are not met… The administration dispatched Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Sunday to try to slam shut bipartisan talk of punishing the Iraqi government for not meeting benchmarks. Bush took the same uncompromising tone yesterday when he reiterated his veto promise."

Speaking of Rice and her effort to slow down any talk of benchmarks, the Democratic oppo-research blog Think Progress reminds us of her January 2007 testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in which she said that the US will not "stay married" to its Baghdad security plan if the Iraqis don't live up to their own obligations.

RICE: [T]he most important thing that the Iraqi government has to do right now is to reestablish the confidence of its population that it's going to be even-handed in defending it. That's what we need to see over the next two or three months, and I think that over the next several months they're going to have to show that.
OBAMA: Or else what? Mr. Chairman –
RICE: Or this plan — or this plan is not — this plan is not going to work.