Study Group: Iraq Situation 'Grave and Deteriorating'

The United States "must not make open-ended commitments to keep large numbers of troops deployed in Iraq," the Iraq Study Group warned in a report received by President Bush early this morning.

Flanked by the commission's co-chairs -- former Secretary of State James Baker and former Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind. -- Bush praised the bipartisan panel's efforts, though the report concluded his administration's policy had led Iraq to chaos.

The president called the report "a very tough assessment of the situation in Iraq" and pledged to treat each proposal seriously and in a "timely fashion."

Bush also urged Congress to do the same.

"While they won't agree with every proposal, and we probably won't agree with every proposal, it nevertheless is an opportunity to come together and to work together on this important issue," he said.

'The Way Forward'

A portion of the group's 142-page report is titled "The Way Forward: A New Approach."

Among the 79 recommendations offered in the report's "way forward" is a change in the central mission of U.S. troops in Iraq and a renewed diplomatic effort in the Middle East.

"The primary mission of U.S. forces should evolve to one of supporting the Iraqi army," the report reads. "It's clear [the] Iraqi government will need U.S. assistance for some time to come, especially in carrying out new security responsibilities. Yet the United States must not make open-ended commitments to keep large numbers of troops deployed in Iraq."

"The most important questions about Iraq's future are now the responsibility of Iraqis," the report says. "The United States must adjust its role to encourage the Iraqi people to take control."

U.S. Troops Not Involved With Iraq Security Could Leave by 2008

The report recommends an initial increase in the number of U.S. troops dedicated to training and supporting the Iraqi security forces, but calls for the gradual withdrawal of all other U.S. forces.

All U.S. troops not involved in this training and support mission, the report says, could leave Iraq by "the first quarter of 2008."

The five Democrats and five Republicans on the commission unanimously approved "every word" of the report, according to one of the commissioners.

"What we recommend demands a tremendous amount of political will and cooperation between executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government," the report says. "Foreign policy is doomed to failure -- as is any action in Iraq -- if not supported by broad sustained consensus. The aim of our report is to move our country towards such a consensus."

As expected, the Iraq Study Group recommends that the United States deal directly with Syria and Iran, something the Bush administration has resisted.

The report also calls for an aggressive and comprehensive diplomatic initiative to deal with instability in the Middle East.

"The United States cannot achieve its goals in the Middle East unless it deals with the Israeli-Arab conflict and regional instability," the report says.

Talks should include Israel, Lebanon and Palestinian leaders who recognize Israel's right to exist.

Courses of Action

The report rules out four frequently mentioned courses of action:

Precipitate Withdrawal (Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa.) "A premature American departure from Iraq would almost certainly produce greater sectarian violence … greater human suffering, regional destabilization. … And could eventually require the United States to return."

Staying the Course (President Bush) "We will win in Iraq so long as we stay the course."

More Troops for Iraq (Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.) "Sustained increases in U.S. troop levels would not solve the fundamental cause of violence in Iraq."

Dividing the Country Into Three Regions (Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del.) "The costs associated with devolving Iraq into three semi-autonomous regions with loose central control would be too high."

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