Petraeus and Crocker in the Senate

The Briefing Room will liveblog today's Senate hearings featuring Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Amb. Ryan Crocker. Starting around 9:30 a.m., the two will give a report on the military surge to the Armed Services Committee. They go before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at 2:30 p.m.

Both Democrats, who are seeking a troop withdrawal, and Republicans, most of whom warn of the consequences of an immediate pullout, will question Petraeus and Crocker over what to expect in coming months, as J. Taylor Rushing reported in today's Hill.


Today's focus will also be on the presidential candidates. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) are on the Armed Services Committee, while Sen. Barack Obama is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.


Andy Barr, Chris Good and Walter Alarkon will start liveblogging as soon as Petraeus and Crocker's testimony begins.


Petraeus-Crocker Image


Photo courtesy of Getty images


6:54 p.m.: The Foreign Relations committee is wrapping up its hearing. Petraeus and Crocker are done with the Senate but will face two house committees tomorrow. As Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) told Petraeus and Cocker "good luck."


Biden took one last shot at Crocker before adjourning, "no one thinks there is a diplomatic surge, no one, and we need to be surging."


That concludes the Briefing Room's coverage of the Petraeus-Crocker hearing. Check back at the Briefing Room for coverage of the Iraq debate and any other issue on Capitol Hill or the campaign trail. - A.B.


5:30 p.m.: Breaking from the slower question and answer pace conducted be previous Senators, Obama got through five exchanges with Petraeus and Crocker on topics ranging from al Qaeda in Iraq and increase Iranian influence. Obama attempted to get a clearer view of what Petraeus and Crocker would consider a "end game."


"If the definition for success is so high," Obama said "then that portends the possiblity of us staying for 20 or 30 years."


"If on the other hand we have a messy status quo" that does not "pose a threat," Obama asked "what is an achievable time frame?" - A.B.


5:23 p.m.: Hillary Clinton supporter Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) allowed Barack Obama to jump his place in line in order question Petraeus and Crocker ahead of Nelson because of an Obama scheduling issue. - A.B.


5:10 p.m.: Sen. Barbara Boxer's (D-Calif.) question for Petraeus was interrupted by a Code Pink protesters. When the protesters were not immediately silenced by capitol police Boxer yelled at the protesters to "hush up." - A.B.


4:40 p.m.: Talking about the Iranian Quds force, Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) says the group's killing of coalition forces would normally be considered "an act of war." Coleman asked Petraeus what needs to be done to "send the message" that the actions were unacceptable.


Petraeus told Coleman his focus is on Iraq. - A.B.


3:10 p.m.: Ranking Member on the Foreign Relations Committee Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) says the "surge" has had "marginal" impact but that "Iraq will be an unstable country for the foreseeable future, and if some type of political settlement can be reached, it will be inherently fragile." - A.B.


 


2:49 p.m. Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Joe Biden (D-Del.) opened his committee's hearing with concerns about troop readiness, cost, and lost focus on Afghanistan.


We must acknowledge, Biden said, what the president refuses to acknowledge: the "increasingly intolerable cost" of occupying Iraq.


Biden also cautioned that "the notion that we are in Iraq to stay" with permanent military bases "is a propaganda tool." -C.G.


1:53 p.m.: The last exchange of the hearing sums up the main themes of the morning


Petraeus reminded Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) said that Osama bin Laden and his deputy in al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, view Iraq as their central front in the war on terror. "That is where we must roll them back," said Petraeus, echoing Republican arguments for maintaining a U.S. combat presence in Iraq.


But when Petraeus reiterated his call for "conditions-based reductions," Bayh, like other Democrats, was skeptical.


"And we don't know when that will be?" Bayh said.


"When the conditions are met," the general responded.


Petraeus and Crocker now go over to the Foreign Relations Committee, where Chairman Joe Biden (D-Del) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) await. The hearing starts at 2:30 p.m. The liveblog will resume then.


1:40 p.m.: Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) turned the discussion back to national security.


"Our troops not only want to know we appreciate them, their families and they want to understand how their sacrifice is directly connected with our safety and security here at home," Cornyn said. "Sometimes I think that gets lost in the debates on Capitol Hill. Traveling to Afghanistan, I of course was reminded of what happened in that failed state after the Soviet Union left."


Cornyn and other Republican supporters of the surge have used their questions today to stress the role of the surge in snuffing out al Qaeda in Iraq. -W.A.


12:49 p.m.: Clinton uses her time to get into the details of Petraeus