Bush reacts to the Iraq Study Report

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Friday, December 8, 2006

When introducing the Iraq Study Group Report to a Senate Committee, former Secretary of State James Baker emphasized that all the 79 recommendations in the report complemented each other and had to be taken together. This was not a “fruit salad" from which one could pick and choose. Despite this, President Bush is giving indications that he is going to do just that. While agreeing that the Report had some good points to make, he said that he had also asked the Pentagon, the State Department and other government agencies to reflect on the Iraq situation and report their conclusions to him.

The report proposes progressive changes to the role of the troops deployed in Iraq, from combat to the training of Iraqi forces and the withdrawal of all combat troops by early 2008, depending on local conditions. The President made it clear that matters concerning the deployment of troops were for the military to determine. A change of strategy is expected to be announced within the next few weeks.

Bush has said that he will not talk with Syria or Iran unless they meet certain conditions. Syria would have to "stop destabilizing" the government of the Lebanon. Iran must “verifiably suspend their nuclear enrichment program." In declaring these conditions, Bush and Tony Blair, prime movers in the invasion of Iraq, are in agreement.

Tony Blair reflected that the report’s recommendations that settling the Arab/Israeli disputes in the area should be given priority. He has said that the key to solving the problems in Iraq, Lebanon, and elsewhere lay in settling the two-state disputes in Palestine. He announced that he would be visiting the region shortly. He would bring his experience in Northern Ireland to bear on the problem, indicating that persistence was needed to achieve reconciliation. President Bush said he supported this initiative.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, flatly rejected the notion that there was any connection between the problems in Palestine and the situation in Iraq. He stated that the time may not be right for Israel to be negotiating with Syria and he reiterated Israel’s absolute opposition to Iran’s development of nuclear weapons. Robert Gates, the new candidate US Secretary of Defense, asserted that Iran is surrounded by nuclear powers, including Israel. Shimon Peres, Israel’s deputy prime minister, refused to affirm or deny whether Israel had a nuclear weapons capability, saying that such uncertainty was a defense in itself.

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