MIDDLETOWN, R.I. – Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee (search) criticized the Bush administration on Tuesday for a "host of mistakes" in its postwar reconstruction of Iraq (search), saying the country is less secure than before and that basic infrastructure is still not working.
The senator, who was the only Republican to vote against the White House war resolution in October 2002 leading up to the invasion of Iraq, said the U.S. effort will fail if the White House does not work more closely with other countries in the region and re-engage itself in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"I don't think we can be successful if we're not working regionally," he told The Associated Press.
Chafee said he favored recruiting more allies, and feared that demagogues in the Middle East and terrorists would exploit a U.S. invasion. He did vote to authorize reconstruction money.
"No one questions that it has been tough, but the U.S. and the world are much safer now that the new Iraq is taking on terrorism and marching toward democracy," White House spokesman Trent Duffy said in response to Chafee's comments.
Chafee took issue with Bush's "harsh words" for Iran in recent weeks, and said the administration needs to work more closely with that country, Jordan and Syria.
The United States believes Tehran is developing nuclear weapons (search), a view reinforced by Iran's recent decision to resume construction of centrifuges — a key step in the development of a uranium-based bomb. Iran said its nuclear program has nothing to do with weaponry and is meant to meet domestic electricity needs.
"I feel there's been a whole host of mistakes," said Chafee, a moderate in the GOP. Among them, he said, was insufficient troop levels.
Washington is spending $1 billion a week in Iraq, according to Chafee. Yet the senator said he has heard electricity does not work in some places, some schools are not open, and water treatment plants remain out of commission. The senator said the country is more dangerous now than when he visited in October.
"The question is if this investment is going to pay off," he continued. "We're at a key moment here. The task is enormous."