U.S. News

Giuliani says U.S. will need long presence in Iraq

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. troops will likely be fighting in Iraq when the next president takes office in 2009 and some U.S. forces will need to stay there to deter regional threats, Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani said on Tuesday.

Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani during a debate in Des Moines, August 5, 2007. U.S. troops will likely be fighting in Iraq when the next president takes office in 2009 and some U.S. forces will need to stay there to deter regional threats, Giuliani said on Tuesday. REUTERS/Joshua Lott

Like President George W. Bush, Giuliani cautioned against a precipitous U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, saying Washington must avoid what happened in Vietnam when the U.S. pullout led to “the killing fields of Cambodia, a newly energized and expansionist Soviet Union and a weaker America.”

“The consequences of abandoning Iraq would be worse,” the former New York mayor wrote in an article for Foreign Affairs magazine laying out the broad contours of his foreign policy.

He called for broadening NATO membership beyond Europe to confront global threats from territorial aggression to terrorism.

“We should open the organization’s membership to any state that meets basic standards of good governance, military readiness and global responsibility, regardless of its location,” he wrote.

Giuliani named no prospective new members, but under his description any number of democratic countries could qualify, such as Australia, Japan and India.

He singled out for specific criticism the Bush administration’s push for Palestinians to hold elections in the Palestinian territories. The elections were won by the anti-Israel Islamic militant group Hamas.

At a time when the Bush administration is trying to resuscitate Israeli-Palestinian negotiations aimed at creating a peaceful Palestinian state, Giuliani said, “Too much emphasis has been placed on brokering negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians -- negotiations that bring up the same issues again and again.”

“It is not in the interest of the United States, at a time when it is being threatened by Islamic terrorists, to assist the creation of another state that will support terrorism,” he said.

Giuliani’s comments on Iraq come during a presidential campaign dominated by how to extract the United States from a conflict that has wearied most Americans. Some Democrats would like troops pulled out by next March.

“It is almost certain that U.S. troops will still be fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan when the next president takes office,” Giuliani said, referring to the inauguration of the next president in January 2009.

More responsibility should be turned over to Iraqi and Afghan security forces as violence decreases and security improves, “but some U.S. forces will need to remain for some time in order to deter external threats,” he said.

Giuliani also expressed more of a willingness for U.S. talks with hostile nations, while not going so far as a Democratic rival, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, who caused a stir by saying he would be willing to meet leaders of Iran, Syria, North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela in his first year.

Giuliani’s article was written before Obama made his position known.

“Holding serious talks may be advisable even with our adversaries, but not with those bent on our destruction or those who cannot deliver on their agreements,” he said.

He cited Iran as an example, saying Tehran has been determined to attack “the international system” since its 1979 revolution.

“This is not to say that talks with Iran cannot possibly work. They could -- but only if we came to the table in a position of strength, knowing what we wanted,” he said.