Recomendations by Iraq study group being prepared
WASHINGTON -- President Bush met Monday with members of a high-level panel that's seeking solutions to the war in Iraq, and he afterward reiterated his view that conditions on the ground rather than timetables should determine when the United Sta...
WASHINGTON -- President Bush met Monday with members of a high-level panel that's seeking solutions to the war in Iraq, and he afterward reiterated his view that conditions on the ground rather than timetables should determine when the United States withdraws its troops.
Bush's remarks conflicted with renewed calls by some Democratic leaders to begin U.S. troop withdrawals within six months and raised questions about whether a bipartisan approach to Iraq is possible after last week's midterm elections.
Members of the Iraq Study Group, led by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Indiana Democratic congressman Lee Hamilton, conferred with Bush and his aides at the White House and held separate meetings with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, top intelligence officials and the senior U.S. civilian and military officials in Iraq.
The congressionally mandated, 10-member panel is considering a host of proposals to extricate the United States from Iraq, including a phased troop withdrawal, a last-ditch effort to stabilize the country, and reaching out to U.S. adversaries in the region, including Iran and Syria.
It's expected to issue its recommendations, which are being prepared in secrecy, sometime next month.
Proposals for a broader Middle East strategy to reverse the deteriorating situation in Iraq got a boost Monday from British Prime Minister Tony Blair. In a London speech, Blair called on Syria and Iran to help stabilize Iraq and repeated his long-standing proposal for a renewed effort to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Democrats, who took control of the House of Representatives and Senate in last week's elections, signaled that they'll move ahead with plans to pressure the White House into starting to withdraw the 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the expected new chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that while he'll await the Baker-Hamilton recommendations, he plans to round up a bipartisan majority to support a non-binding resolution calling on Bush to begin withdrawing U.S. troops within six months.
"If we're able to do that, if we're able to put together that bipartisan resolution in both houses, I think it would have immense power on events and on the president," Levin said.
While the president acknowledged the need for "a fresh perspective" on Iraq last week, on Monday he reiterated his view on troop withdrawals.
"I believe it is very important ... for people making suggestions to recognize that the best military options depend upon the conditions on the ground," Bush said at an appearance with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.