Iraqi Benchmarks Are a Solid Compromise (Sen. Ben Nelson)

For two years, I have pushed for benchmarks - or 'conditions for staying' - in Iraq. The American people and Congress need a way to determine whether our strategies are working and if the Iraqi government is taking appropriate action to stabilize their country. It was reassuring to see benchmarks that I worked for, with my colleagues Senators Warner and Collins, included in the final passage of the emergency supplemental bill. If progress is not made, this bill will give us the groundwork to evaluate what our next steps will be. I'm pleased that Congressional leaders and the Administration agree that this is the right course of action.

The benchmarks would measure the progress of the Iraqi government on goals such as building internal security forces, distributing oil revenue equitably and recognizing the rights of minority parties in Parliament. The President will be required to report to Congress this summer and in September on the Iraqi government's success in meeting these benchmarks. General Petraeus would also be required to be available to testify before Congress prior to the September progress report. Should these standards not be met, then $1.6 billion in economic support funding shall be withheld from the Iraqi government, subject to presidential waiver.

This agreement was difficult to reach, but it is a good compromise. It will ensure that the troops have the resources they need to do their jobs, critical domestic needs are met and the Iraqi government is accountable for progress in Iraq.