WASHINGTON – France and Germany came under strong criticism Sunday by senators who say more international help, including the support of NATO, will be needed to provide security in Iraq after the transfer of political control at month's end.
"If we don't hand over the capacity for this sovereign government to be secure within its own borders and to be at peace with itself, then we're going to inherit a circumstance in Iraq that is equally as dangerous to us" as having ousted President Saddam Hussein in power, said Sen. Joseph Biden (search), D-Del.
"It's time for NATO, and particularly the French and the Germans, to act more responsibly now, notwithstanding their frustration with President Bush," said Biden, one of three senators who met with Iraq's interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi (search), in Baghdad on Saturday.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (search), asked about the refusal so far by France and Germany to make new troops available and help resolve Iraq's large foreign debt, said: "It's really time that they do step up."
Sen. Lindsey Graham, who joined Biden on the trip to Iraq, said he agreed with Biden's call for more involvement by France and Germany and an active role for the military alliance.
Such sentiments do not sit well in Berlin and Paris.
"The chancellor has always said clearly that we will send no soldiers to Iraq," said a German government spokesman, speaking on the customary condition of anonymity. Germany trains Iraqi police officers in the United Arab Emirates, which Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder offered to do as a conciliatory gesture last year before a meeting with Bush.
In Paris, the foreign ministry said France's position on the issue of NATO involvement remains unchanged. French President Jacques Chirac said this month that direct alliance involvement in Iraq would be fraught with risk, but he did not rule out NATO training for Iraqi troops. Chirac has said that any request for NATO help must come from Iraqi authorities after the Iraqis are handed political power in less than two weeks.
"The one thing you learn when you go to Iraq (is) that this is a world problem if we fail. It could be a world success if we succeed. But the international community has a chance to be helpful at a time when Iraq needs it the most," said Graham, R-S.C., who appeared with Biden on ABC's "This Week."
Graham said the U.S.-led coalition made mistakes after the war that deposed Saddam, among them underestimating the number of people needed on the ground and the difficulty of securing international aid.
"We have made it difficult at times to get international cooperation. But that's in the past. It is now time for NATO to help where NATO can," Graham said. "We need so many services, the Iraqi people do, that could turn this thing on a dime."
Frist, who also visited Iraq recently, told "Fox News Sunday" that it was time for other countries "to step up and to aggressively, I think, come to the table in Iraq. I'd like to see NATO come forward somewhat more aggressively."
Bush, at an economic summit this month on Sea Island, Ga., discussed the possibility of an expanded role for NATO in Iraq, and the issue is to resurface at an alliance summit June 28-29 in Turkey.
Sixteen of the 26 NATO members have troops in Iraq and the alliance provides logistical help for a Polish-led division in the country.
The Bush administration would like the alliance to take on additional duties, such as training Iraq's new army and sending more troops.
Biden, top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he thinks U.S. forces will have to stay in Iraq "well through" December 2005. American military commanders, he said, "are aware that there is going to have to be a surge of forces" as January's elections approach.
He said it is going to take more time, energy and money to get allies to help train Iraqi forces.
"The idea that we're going to have an Iraqi police force that's competent and an Iraqi military that's competent to take care of their own security in the next six months to a year is totally unrealistic," Biden said.
The coalition should reach out to the major world powers to entice them "to participate in various ways into the deal here," Biden said.
As for the U.S. presence, Biden said, "We cannot have additional American troops. But we're not going to be in a position where we have fewer American troops."