Sen. Ken Salazar is doing it again. Casting himself as the voice of moderation and reason, he’s stepped into the fray on how and when we should exit from Iraq. Salazar is cosponsor of an Amendment that will be taken up in the Senate this week on the Iraq funding bill. Salazar says it will implement the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group.

The amendment setting those recommendations into law would: establish a goal of removing most soldiers from Iraq by spring 2008; set benchmarks for the Iraqi government as conditions for continued U.S. military support; and engage Iraq’s neighboring countries in an “Iraq International Support Group.”

While he is garnering a lot of support among Republicans, his proposal also has its share of critics who call the proposed amendment “toothless.”

Salazar’s Amendment is called the “Iraq Study Group Recommendations Implementation Act” (S 1545). Its cosponsors senators include Bob Bennett (R-UT), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Judd Gregg (R-NH), Robert Casey (D-PA), John Sununu (R-NH), Susan Collins (R-ME), Pete Domenici (R-NM), Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR).

What’s not getting enough attention is the Amendment’s pre-conditions for withdrawing troops from Iraq. According to blogger John Aravosis, who points to Page 18 of the Amendment, the pre-conditions include:

1. A massive list of suggested policies need to first be accomplished before the US withdraws. These include transferring the Iraqi National Police to the Ministry of Defense, reorganizing the Iraqi security forces, upgrading Iraq’s police communications equipment, establishing courts, training judges, prosecutors and investigators, drafting oil legislation, implementing metering at the oil pipelines, reorganizing the entire Iraqi oil industry, and more. But that’s not all that has to happen before our troops are permitted to withdraw from Iraq. Oh no. Read on.

2. Additional Iraqi brigades need to deployed. Meaning, the exact same policy we have now under George Bush. No withdraw until the Iraqi security forces are up to par. And our military people on the ground in Iraq say this could take 40 to 50 years, if ever.

3. The eventual withdrawal of US forces is “subject to unexpected development in the security situation on the ground.” Meaning, if things don’t get better, we don’t leave. That’s the current policy. And things aren’t getting better.

Aravosis adds this analysis:

The legislation then says that if ALL of those things I listed above are met, THEN we can possibly consider to maybe redeploy some of the troops next spring, 2008.

The legislation also says that the Iraq Study Group never ever said that we should actually withdraw from Iraq by next year. And put aside the fact that the entire legislation is written as a “sense of the Congress” – meaning, it has the same legal weight as National Ice Cream Day.

….[T]he legislation specifically says that we should not leave Iraq until the security situation improves and the Iraqi Army and police forces are fully trained (some time next century).

Progressive blogger Luis at Square State defends Salazar’s plan.

What are the alternatives? For one, there is an Amendment proposed by Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR) that just received the support of Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-MN).

Sen. Olympia Snowe on Wednesday became the second Republican to embrace a bill ordering troops out of Iraq as President Bush’s national security adviser tried to stop defections from the White House war policy.

Snowe, R-Maine, joined Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., in co-sponsoring a bill that would require troops to start leaving in 120 days. The bill also would end combat by April 30, 2008.

It’s clear that Americans want out of Iraq.

Opposition to the Iraq war has reached a record high, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, a development likely to complicate President Bush’s efforts to hold together Republican support as the Senate begins debate this week on Pentagon priorities.

….More than seven in 10 favor removing nearly all U.S. troops from Iraq by April.

I don’t have any great wisdom to share on how to exit from Iraq but my sense is that Sen. Salazar’s proposed Amendment, like his previous bi-partisan efforts on judicial confirmations and filibusters, falls far short of what we need.