Porter ties U.S. withdrawal from Iraq to $9 gasoline

WASHINGTON — Gasoline prices could rise to about $9 per gallon if the United States withdraws troops from Iraq prematurely, Rep. Jon Porter said he was told on a trip to Iraq that ended this week.

The Nevada Republican, who returned Tuesday from his fourth trip to Iraq, met with U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus, U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, Iraqi Deputy President Tariq al-Hashimi and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh.

"To a person, they said there would be genocide, gas prices in the U.S. would rise to eight or nine dollars a gallon, al-Qaida would continue its expansion, and Iran would take over that portion of the world if we leave," Porter said Wednesday in a phone interview from Las Vegas.

Porter did not elaborate on the assessment that gasoline prices could spike. His spokesman, Matt Leffingwell, said afterward that the scenario "makes sense if Iran moves into Iraq."

Porter "can’t speculate directly on what is going to happen with gas prices, but the market prices for oil reflect the stability in that region," Leffingwell said.

Petraeus and Crocker offered a "blunt" assessment of the situation, Porter said.

Although Petraeus did not discuss the much anticipated Iraq status report he plans to release in September, Porter said the general told him the U.S. troop surge was working.

But Porter stopped short of saying he would support Petraeus’ report.

"This was not unlike my trip there in January. I saw a lot of successes, and I noticed substantial improvement in Baghdad," said Porter, who has traveled to Iraq three times in the past 18 months.

As lawmakers warm up for a renewal of the Iraq war debate in the fall, Porter accused Democrats of failing to offer solutions to the war and avoiding a debate on the ramifications of withdrawal.

He said that some Democratic organizations, including the Searchlight Leadership Fund operated by Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., have funded anti-war groups. The Searchlight Leadership Fund made $5,000 donations to VoteVets.Org in 2006 and again earlier this year, according to federal records.

"They’re entitled to their opinion, but they ought to be honest with Nevadans about where they’re getting their money," Porter said of the anti-war organizations.

Reid spokesman Jon Summers said Porter is not "fully up to speed" with the Senate’s actions on Iraq.

"Democrats have put forward a number of solutions to change course in Iraq, but Republican obstructionists continue to throw up roadblocks," Summers said. As for Democrats funding anti-war groups, "did (Porter) happen to mention the Republican organizations that are funding pro-war groups?"

Democrats claim that organizations defending President Bush’s war strategy, such as Vets for Freedom or the newly formed Freedom’s Watch, are fronts linked to the Bush administration whose aim is to attack Democrats and boost GOP fortunes in Congress.

Reps. Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif., and Jim Moran, D-Va., joined Porter on the taxpayer-funded trip, which began Aug. 23 and included stops in Kuwait and Baghdad.

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