1st District candidates tackle questions on Mideast

CONCORD – Candidates for New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District agree that U.S. troops have made progress in Iraq, yet they have different ideas on what realistic goals can be accomplished there in the short term.

“Iraqis and the Iraqi government must make realistic progress on reconciliation,” said U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, responding to an Associated Press candidate questionnaire on military issues. “Oil revenue sharing cannot be an ad hoc provincial process. Job programs need formal codification. Iraqi security forces must fill the space between peace and anarchy.”

Shea-Porter, a Democrat seeking a second term in office, is running unopposed in New Hampshire’s primary election Sept. 9. She will face one of four Republicans running for the seat:

Jeb Bradley, of Wolfeboro, who represented the district for two terms before he lost to Shea-Porter in 2006.

John Stephen, of Manchester, the former state Health and Human Services commissioner making his second bid for the office.

David Jarvis, of Hooksett, a telecommunications engineer also running a second time for the seat.

Geoff Michael, of Merrimack, a private business consultant.

“While the situation remains difficult, our military commanders cite that al-Qaida in Iraq is increasingly isolated and on the defensive,” Bradley responded. “Attacks have been reduced, fatalities have been reduced, Iraqi citizens who left the country are returning and Iraqi security forces are increasingly assuming more day-to-day control over areas of their country.

“Political reconciliation is also occurring through power-sharing arrangements and the government confronting militias.”

Bradley said Congress “should listen carefully to the recommendations of our military leaders rather than make politically motivated decisions. Congress should also ensure that our troops have the resources they need to succeed.”

Jarvis said a great deal more can be done in the area of diplomacy.

“With a strong military presence and a strong diplomatic agenda,” he said, “we reduce the risks to our armed services serving in the region and we increase the chances for greater political success in the region, and especially with respect to the Iraqi government itself.

“We need to reassert ourselves as the primary broker of peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. We need to show the leaders of the Middle East that the American people are committed to peace, although prepared for conflict.”

Michael said, “The progress that should receive primary focus consists of turning over security responsibility to the Iraqi government and away from the U.S. military. This is ongoing, and the effort should be ramped up as much as possible.”

Stephen said what’s critical to remember is that al-Qaida “declared that Iraq would be the top battlefield in their efforts to assault America, and they are losing. We need to do a better job of articulating this message and counteracting the hatred unleashed by bin Laden and his followers.”

He said that as Iraqi forces bring stability to their country, “American forces should be transitioned out of Iraq and can be redeployed to areas like Afghanistan in order to bring the war on terror to the terrorists.”

On the subject of Afghanistan, Stephen said Congress must continue to support the troops there.

“We must also make clear to our allies in NATO that the war on terror is a global war, and these terrorists are poised to strike member nations, as they have in the U.S., Spain, Turkey and England, and have planned in Italy and other countries,” he said.

Jarvis said with trust regained among U.S. allies, it may be possible to find momentum toward a renewed combined effort to bring peace and security to Afghanistan.

Michael said President Bush “should explain why our military is in Afghanistan to begin with. There are terrorists all over the world, yet the U.S. seems to be pursuing them only in Iraq and Afghanistan. If this is truly a ‘global war on terror,’ as the president describes it, why is it limited to two countries?”

Bradley noted that Congress recently passed legislation that gives national security officials the intelligence-gathering tools they need to monitor foreign terror suspects overseas while protecting Americans’ civil liberties. He also recommended that people read the novels “The Kite Runner” and “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini for a better understanding of what life was like in Afghanistan under the Taliban.

Shea-Porter said the British have sent more combat troops to Afghanistan, the Canadians have also boosted their commitment and the French are providing air support.

“I am hopeful that such a trend will continue as our partner nations realize the importance of this effort,” she said. “We must continue our support for NATO.”

In answering a question about another possible Middle Eastern conflict – with Iran – Bradley, Jarvis, Michael and Stephen didn’t rule out a possible military strike to stop Iran from expanding its nuclear program. All candidates mentioned tougher sanctions against Iran if it refuses to negotiate with the United States and its allies. Iranian officials have said its uranium enrichment program is being used for power production, not weapons development.

“Intensive and ongoing diplomacy is required,” Shea-Porter wrote.