‘Grave and deteriorating’

first_imgAdministration officials said they expected President Bush to announce his own “way forward” this month. They were careful not to take issue with the report’s findings in public, and said Bush had yet to make firm decisions. But some suggested that the diplomatic strategy suggested better fit the Middle East of 15 years ago, when Baker served as secretary of state. What played out Wednesday morning, from the White House to Capitol Hill, was a remarkable condemnation of U.S. policy drift in the most divisive military conflict to involve U.S. forces since Vietnam. It was all the more unusual because Baker was secretary of state to Bush’s father, and because the bipartisan group managed to formulate unanimous recommendations. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! • PDF: Iraq Study Group Report WASHINGTON – A bipartisan commission warned Wednesday that “the situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating,” and it handed President Bush both a rebuke for his current strategy and a detailed blueprint for a fundamentally different approach, including the pullback of all U.S. combat brigades over the next 15 months. In unusually sweeping and blunt language, the panel of five Republicans and five Democrats issued 79 specific recommendations. These included a call for direct engagement with Syria and Iran as part of a “new diplomatic offensive,” jump-starting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and a clear declaration that the United States would reduce its support to Iraq unless Baghdad made “substantial progress” on reconciliation and security. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORESurfer attacked by shark near Channel Islands calls rescue a ‘Christmas miracle’Bush has refused to deal with Syria and Iran, and as recently as last week, he assured Prime Minister Nouri Kamal al-Maliki that the U.S. commitment to Iraq would be undiminished until victory is achieved. But the commission, led by James A. Baker III and Lee H. Hamilton, argued that while Americans might be in Iraq for years, the Iraqis must understand that the U.S. military commitment was not “open ended.” It is time, the panel said, for the United States to “begin to move its combat forces out of Iraq responsibly.” The detailed prescription called for much more aggressive diplomatic efforts in the Middle East than the Bush administration has been willing to embrace. Its calls for reconciliation and reform in Iraq and an overhaul of the U.S. military role would also mark major departures in the American strategy. Members of the commission said they believed their recommendations would improve prospects for success in Iraq, but they said there was no guarantee against failure. “The current approach is not working, and the ability of the United States to influence events is diminishing,” Hamilton said at a news conference on Capitol Hill. “Our ship of state has hit rough waters. It must now chart a new way forward.” last_img read more

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