At a hearing last week, Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member John McCain (R-AZ) expressed “concern about the movements of radical Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr in and out of Iran and Iraq ahead of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq later this year,” Talking Points Memo reports.
"I’m very concerned about Sadr’s activity — and his followers…I’ll be pretty blunt," McCain said Thursday at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
Sadr’s return to Iraq on January 5 after nearly four years of self-imposed exile in Iran sent shockwaves through the the U.S. diplomatic and military communities and sparked fears about his intentions after the U.S. withdraws its military forces. During his two-week visit, he gave a speech at a rally for thousands of his supporters held in Najaf and visited with political and religious leaders.
Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) “echoed McCain’s sentiments.”
"If we don’t sustain this effort we’ve invested a lot of blood and lives and material in…that would be a tragedy," said Reed. "It could become one of those Charlie Wilson moments when we look back and say, ‘Goodness gracious, what were we thinking?"
Reed was referring to former Rep. Charlie Wilson (D-Texas) and his unsuccessful urgings to continue supporting Afghanistan after clandestine U.S. support helped the Afghans defeat the former Soviet Union there. The vacuum that was created after the U.S. departed left an opening for the rise of the Taliban.
The size and scope of the U.S. footprint in Iraq after the withdrawal is up for debate, and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) argued that the Iraqi people should determine it.