Skip to comments.Elite panel ready to map plan on Iraq
Posted on 11/12/2006 9:07:03 AM PST by TexKat
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top commander in Iraq, voiced confidence Saturday that the United States would not abandon its mission in this violence-racked country amid a post-election re-evaluation of Iraq strategy. "The weeks and months ahead will require courage and determination," Casey said at a Veterans Day naturalization ceremony for 75 U.S. troops at Baghdad's Camp Victory. "But succeed we will."
His comments were among his first public statements since the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld last week.
Washington political insiders have speculated that Casey and U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, who was also at the ceremony, could leave their posts following the Republican Party's defeat Tuesday at the polls. Both men quickly left Saturday's ceremony after reading prepared statements.
In Washington, meanwhile, the re-evaluation will begin in earnest Monday. On that day, a panel of prestigious Americans will begin deliberations to chart a new course on Iraq, with the goal of trying to stabilize the country with a different U.S. strategy and possibly begin withdrawing more than 140,000 troops.
Tuesday's dramatic election results, widely seen as a repudiation of the Bush Iraq policy, have thrust the 10-member, bipartisan Iraq Study Group into an unusual position, similar to that played by the 9/11 commission.
This panel, led by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and former Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana, may play a decisive role in reshaping the U.S. position in Iraq, according to lawmakers and administration officials.
Those familiar with the panel's work predict the ultimate recommendations will not appear novel and that the country has few, if any, good options remaining. Many of the ideas reportedly being considered - more aggressive regional diplomacy with Syria and Iran, greater emphasis on training Iraqi troops or focusing on a new political deal between warring Shiite and Sunni factions - have been tried or have limited chances of success, in the view of many experts on Iraq.
Baker is also exploring whether a broader U.S. initiative in tackling the Arab-Israeli conflict is needed to help stabilize the region.
Given the grave predicament the group faces, its focus is now as much on finding a political solution for the United States as a plan that would bring peace to Iraq. With Republicans and Democrats so bitterly divided over the war, Baker and Hamilton consider a consensus plan of key importance, according to those who have spoken with them.
That could appeal to both parties. Democrats would have something to support after a campaign in which they criticized Bush's Iraq policy without offering many specifics of their own. With support for its Iraq policy fast evaporating even within its own party, the White House might find in the group's plan a politically acceptable exit strategy or cover for a continued effort to prop up the new democratically elected government in Baghdad.
"Baker's objectives for the Iraq Study Group are grounded in his conviction that Iraq is the central foreign policy issue confronting the United States and that the only way to address that issue successfully is to first build a bipartisan consensus," said Arnold Kanter, who served as undersecretary of state under Baker during the first Bush administration.
But the election may have made the job even tougher by emboldening the panel's Democrats, said people familiar with the panel's deliberations. The election "sent a huge signal," said one of these sources, who added that the panel is trying to come to grips with whether the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki can solve Iraq's problems.
While Baker has been testing the waters for some time to determine how much change in Iraq policy the White House will tolerate, Hamilton faces the perhaps now even-more-difficult challenge of cajoling Democrats like Leon Panetta, White House chief of staff during the Clinton administration, and power broker Vernon Jordan to sign on to a plan that falls short of a phased troop withdrawal, the position of many congressional Democrats.
In a brief interview, Hamilton conceded the obstacles ahead and emphasized that no decisions had been made. "We need to get [the report] drafted, number one," Hamilton said. "We need to reach agreement, and that may not be possible."
When formed last spring by Congress, the Iraq Study Group was little known beyond elite circles of the U.S. foreign policy world. Now its work has become perhaps the most eagerly awaited Washington report in many years - recommendations are now expected early next month - with many lawmakers of both parties saying they are looking for answers to the troubled U.S. mission in Iraq.
Indeed, the White House, which had been skeptical the group will have much new to say, has been notably more receptive since the election.
"If these recommendations help bring greater consensus for Republicans and Democrats, I think that could be very helpful," said Dan Bartlett, counselor to Bush, though he added, "If there were a rifle-shot solution we would have already pulled the trigger."
Bush, Vice President Cheney and Stephen Hadley, the president's national security adviser, will meet with members of the commission Monday.
During three days of deliberations, the panel also will hear by video link from British Prime Minister Tony Blair - who sources said has been anxious to talk to the group - as well as consult with the Democratic shadow foreign policy Cabinet, including former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, U.N. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke and Sandy Berger, national security adviser.
Iraq goal same but Bush open to tweaking course
Sun Nov 12, 2006 11:54am ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is ready to make "course adjustments" in Iraq, and will reach out to both parties in Congress, but it has not changed its overarching goal of democracy and stability, the White House said on Sunday.
"The president has always been interested in tactical adjustments, but the ultimate goal is the same, which is success in Iraq," White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten told CNN's Wolf Blitzer.
Bush has "always been ready to make course adjustments. Nobody can be happy with the situation in Iraq right now. ... It's clearly time to put fresh eyes on the problem," he said.
Robert Gates, Bush's pick to replace Donald Rumsfeld heading the Pentagon, will provide that perspective, Bolten said.
Days after Democrats took control of Congress in midterm elections, the increasingly unpopular leader faces a radically different political landscape.
Bolten said the Bush administration was looking forward to recommendations from the Iraq Study Group and from top general Peter Pace.
Bolten was cool to the idea of dividing a more and more fractious Iraq into separately governed areas, but said some degree of federal power-sharing could be helpful.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Bolten added, would continue to be a source of tension in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. But the Bush administration would not put forward any new peace initiatives until the time was right, he said.
Bolten also said the administration was still hoping to overcome Democratic opposition to United Nations envoy John Bolton. Some lawmakers were reconsidering their opposition to him, and the White House hoped Congress would confirm him before his temporary appointment expired, said Bolten.
"We're going to be making the case to the members," he said.
It might be out of his hands if the People's Party of surrender monkeys have their way. Don't look the to GOP to stand up and put up much of a fight either.
Two and a half years of hard work and sacrifice right down the shitter.
Hague issues warning over Iraq
Nov 12 2006
Hopes of involving Iran and Syria in developing a new policy for ending the violence in Iraq could prove "naive", shadow foreign secretary William Hague warned.
The option of opening talks with the neighbouring states is expected to be discussed by Prime Minister Tony Blair when he gives evidence to a US inquiry on Tuesday.
It is one of two options believed to be under consideration by the Iraq Survey Group being led by former US Secretary of State James Baker.
Mr Hague welcomed the Prime Minister's engagement with the panel, stressing the need for "heavy British involvement" in the reassessment of current thinking. But warned that the involvement of "axis of evil" states was not a short-term option at a time when Iraq was "tipping in the wrong direction".
"There should be a reassessment going on because Iraq at the moment, which could still tip either way, is tipping in the wrong direction," he told BBC1's Politics Show. "It is very important that there is heavy British involvement in that reassessment, that it is not just an American process."
He added "I think we have to make the most of our friendships and build on our friendships with the moderate Arab nations of the Middle East. Syria and Iran are a more difficult proposition. Of course it would be excellent if they cold be involved at some stage in the future in guaranteeing what happens in Iraq. It may naive to think that that could happen in the coming weeks and months."
Mr Blair will talk via video link to the Iraq Study Group a day after President George Bush holds discussions with the bi-partisan panel. The war has been blamed as a key factor in the self-confessed "thumping" Mr Bush's Republicans took in this week's mid-term elections.
The resignation of Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld - and replacement by former CIA chief Robert Gates - has intensified speculation a change of policy may be imminent. Mr Gates is a member of the Iraq Survey Group.
Downing Street has said Mr Blair would ensure Mr Baker and his colleagues were "fully briefed on UK ideas" when he spoke to them but would not reveal what he would tell them in advance.
Mr Hague called for an open debate on the future strategy options as part of discussions of the Queen's Speech, beginning in the Commons on Wednesday.
It's actually three and a half years. I've been here for three of 'em.
Bush had better get ready to use the VETO stamp. The rats don't have the 2/3 majority they need to override.
The rats did NOT get a mandate on Tuesday.
U.S. Democrats say will push for Iraq withdrawal
12 Nov 2006 16:26:39 GMT
By Tabassum Zakaria
WASHINGTON, Nov 12 (Reuters) - Democrats, who won control of the U.S. Congress, said on Sunday they will push for a phased withdrawal of American troops from Iraq to begin in four to six months, but the White House cautioned against fixing timetables.
"First order of business is to change the direction of Iraq policy," said Sen. Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat who is expected to be chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee in the new Congress.
Democrats will press President George W. Bush's administration to tell the Iraqi government that U.S. presence was "not open-ended, and that, as a matter of fact, we need to begin a phased redeployment of forces from Iraq in four to six months," Levin said on ABC's "This Week" program.
Bush has insisted that U.S. troops would not leave until Iraqis were able to take over security for their country, and has repeatedly rejected setting a timetable for withdrawal because, he says, that would only embolden the insurgents.
The White House said, however, that Bush is open to new ideas. Bush will meet on Monday with the bipartisan Iraq Study Group that is expected to recommend alternative policies in its final report.
A suicide bomber killed 35 people at a police recruiting center in Iraq on Sunday in the bloodiest attack in months against recruits.
More than 2,800 American troops have been killed in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and the unpopular war was a key factor in last week's elections in which Bush's Republican Party lost majorities in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten said it was important that any action be taken in a way to ensure that Iraq can succeed and have a democratic government that can sustain and defend itself.
'OPEN TO FRESH IDEAS'
"It's hard for me to see how that can be done on a fixed timetable," Bolten said on ABC's "This Week" program. "But the president's open to fresh ideas here. Everybody's reviewing the situation."
Bush has asked Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the military Joint Chiefs of Staff, to conduct a review at the Pentagon of Iraq strategy, and other national security agencies to do similar reviews, Bolten said.
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada said "we need to redeploy," but that the decision should be made by military officers in Iraq.
He said on "Face The Nation" program on CBS that he would not insist on a specific date for drawing down troops, but that a withdrawal should start within the next few months.
The White House says Bush is not to receive final recommendations from the Iraq Study Group -- led by James Baker, a former secretary of state with close ties to the Bush family -- in the Monday meeting.
Bush chose a member of that panel, former CIA Director Robert Gates, to replace Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, whose resignation was announced the day after elections gave control of Congress to Democrats for the first time since 1994.
Sen. Joseph Biden, a Delaware Democrat who is expected to head the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he was inclined to support Gates, whose nomination requires Senate approval.
"I know some of his views on Iraq. I know he wasn't of the Rumsfeld school. And to put it very, very bluntly, as long as he's not there, Rumsfeld is there," Biden said on ABC.
Biden called for an international conference on Iraq, that would include Iran, Syria and Turkey. (Additional reporting by Missy Ryan)
Why would the GOP pols stand up?
The GOP/Conservative voters just surrendered Iraq to OBL.
Aide: Bush open to commission's ideas for Iraq
Created: 11/12/2006 11:15:53 AM
Updated: 11/12/2006 11:16:35 AM
WASHINGTON - President Bush's chief of staff said Sunday "nobody can be happy with the situation" now in Iraq and the White House would consider the idea of U.S. talks with Syria and Iran if a blue-ribbon commission recommended that.
President Bush and his national security team planned to meet Monday with the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, which is trying to develop a new course for the war.
"We're looking forward to the recommendations," said Josh Bolten, Bush's top aide. With Democrats seizing majorities in the House and Senate in last week's elections and urging a change in Iraq policy, Bolten said the White House is "looking forward to a dialogue with bipartisan leaders in Congress."
Christian news and commentary at: sacredscoop.com ...
White House hopes Gates can heal government rift
By David E. Sanger and Scott Shane / The New York Times
Published: November 12, 2006
WASHINGTON: President George W. Bush selected Robert Gates as his new defense secretary in part to close a long-running rift between the Defense Department and the State Department, which has hobbled progress on Iraq, keeping the two agencies at odds on issues ranging from reconstruction to detaining terrorism suspects, White House officials and members of Gates's inner circle said.
While Gates, a former director of the CIA, had long been considered for a variety of roles, over the past two months Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, quietly steered the White House toward replacing Donald Rumsfeld with Gates, who worked closely with Rice under President George H.W. Bush. One senior participant in those discussions, who declined to be identified, said "everyone realizes that we don't have much time to get this right" and the first step is to get "everyone driving on the same track."
White House officials said that goal may be difficult to accomplish in the seventh year of an administration. Rice and Rumsfeld never managed to resolve their differences, especially after their arguments over the handling of the occupation broke into public view in the late summer of 2003. As national security adviser during Bush's first term, Rice was unable to halt a war between the State Department and the Pentagon that put senior officials in the two departments in a state of constant conflict.
The question is whether it is too late to achieve Bush's goal of a stable and democratic Iraq, even if Gates and Rice are able to work together as smoothly in altering policy as they did 15 years ago on a very different kind of problem, managing the American response to the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Today in Americas
Incoming Democrats put populism before ideology
Democrats aim to save power of Iraq agency
Letter From Washington: After Republican rout, who is to take the lead?A few members of the Iraq Study Group - the commission created in March at the urging of members of Congress, from which Gates stepped down Friday - have wondered aloud in recent days whether the insurgency and sectarian conflict may be too far advanced to reverse. The group will consult with the British prime minister, Tony Blair, by video Tuesday and is due to present recommendations to the White House and Congress in December.
And while Gates, who faces Senate confirmation hearings at roughly the same time, is considered far less combative and contrarian than Rumsfeld, he has a long-ago history of clashing with secretaries of state, most notably George Shultz, who objected to Gates's hawkish views of the Soviet Union and once tried to have him fired.
He is being thrust into the job at a moment when Democrats, newly empowered by their control of the House and the Senate, are promising investigations into the conduct of the war in Iraq and demanding a bigger voice in policy.
spellcheck is our friend! :)
You're right, my bad. My unit crossed the berm with 3ID at 0700 on the first day of the war. My how time flies. Been back once and will probably go back next year for a three-peat if the surrender monkeys have not already pulled us out and handed the country back to the enemy.
We are waiting, counting down the time here as well.