GOP opposition to Obama's pick for Iraq ambassador fails to materialize at hearing

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“Throughout that process, I have learned and seen and been involved in what it takes to lead in Iraq,” he said. “And to lead in Iraqi you need an ... understanding of the operational tempo in Iraq, of what it's like day to day, of knowing when something's a crisis and when it's not.

“One of the reasons I have been called back into public service to come back to Iraq over the past few years is due to my unique relationship with the Iraqis,” he said. “I have worked with these individuals since I first got to Iraq in January 2004 ... and I've dealt with a lot of the same issues we're dealing with now and a lot of the same individuals we're dealing with now.”

He said one of his main tasks would be “making sure [we work] in a seamless way with the Iraqis, so that we can run an effective mission ... and that's something I've done in Iraq for a number of years.”

Risch pointed out, however, that the $4 billion budget for the embassy next year is more than his entire state budget when he was governor of Idaho.

“I will have to say you're going to be challenged, I think, [by] the size and complexity of this operation that confronts you, having never been an ambassador before,” Risch said. “Certainly the administration recognized your … abilities to pick you for the ambassador [post] there but as ambassador, obviously, your responsibilities obviously will be substantially larger and much broader than what you've done there before. So I wish you well.”

McCain has lambasted McGurk for his failure to secure a deal for U.S. troops to stay in Iraq past 2011 and told Foreign Policy's blog The Cable that he has “very significant questions about [McGurk's] qualifications and his positions on the issues” and that he's “not my choice.”

But McGurk testified Wednesday that cutting back the U.S. presence in the country 25 percent by next fall would help the U.S. mission.

“Quite frankly, our presence in Iraq right now is too large,” he said. “There is no proportionality also between our size and our influence. In fact, we spend a lot of diplomatic capital simply to sustain our presence.”