Will Iraq Study Group Come Up With New Ideas?

It may be the most exclusive group in Washington: a who's who of political heavyweights, tasked with the Herculean challenge of coming up with a solution in Iraq.

The bipartisan Iraq Study Group has been meeting secretly ever since it was established by Congress in March. The group has conducted hundreds of interviews and even visited Iraq.

Now comes the hard part: agreeing on a recommendation.

Some experts argue that the group is unlikely to come up with any sort of silver bullet -- or even any fresh ideas.

"It's a great group, but what they're doing is essentially regurgitating and re-debating ideas that have largely been in the public mix for the last four years already," said Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, on ABC News Now's "Politics Live." "I would be very surprised ... if we all of a sudden heard radically big new ideas that hadn't been expressed or considered previously."

Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., a member of the Armed Services Committee, was even more blunt about the difficulty of the task.

"If they can articulate a policy that works, I'm going to be the first to nominate them for a Nobel Peace Prize," he said.

The report -- to be released next month -- is expected to recommend talks with Syria and Iran, a policy that the group's co-chair, former Secretary of State James Baker, has publicly advocated.

More controversial is the question of whether to set a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops. Leading Democrats on Capitol Hill are urging for a speedy withdrawal: Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the next chairman of the Armed Services Committee, is pushing for a phased redeployment, beginning in the next four to six months.

But Baker has argued against such a strategy.

"I think if we picked up and left right now, that you would see the biggest civil war you've ever seen," he said last month in an interview on ABC's "This Week."

Still, many in both parties are placing their hopes for a workable solution on the brainpower -- and political clout -- of the players themselves.

The group's luminaries on the right include former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, former Attorney General Edwin Meese and former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson. Former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger recently replaced former CIA director Robert Gates, who has been tapped to succeed Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Elder statesmen on the left include former Defense Secretary William Perry and former Virginia Sen. Chuck Robb, along with Bill Clinton's former chief of staff, Leon Panetta and Clinton adviser Vernon Jordan.

Consensus may ultimately come down to the two chairmen. Democratic wise man Lee Hamilton is a no-nonsense Midwesterner -- a former Indiana congressman who co-chaired the 9/11 commission.

Baker is a consummate dealmaker with a huge Rolodex throughout the Middle East. He's also a trusted ally of the Bush family, and has made clear that his involvement with the study group was green-lighted by the president.

"I wasn't going to do it unless I knew ... that it was something the president would either want me to do or not disapprove of my doing," he said on "This Week."

Many believe Baker's reputation within the Republican Party could give President Bush political cover to change course in Iraq. But it may also make Baker's advice -- and the advice of the group as a whole -- very difficult to reject.

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