Leaders of the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan panel working to assess the situation in Iraq and make recommendations to lawmakers and the Bush administration, say the next three months will be critical in determining the country's future.
Over the past six months the Iraq Study Group has met with more than 100 U.S. and Iraqi military and civilian officials to come up with an independent assessment of progress in the war.
Members of the group recently visited Baghdad and representatives in the U.S. Congress have asked them to make recommendations on how to move Iraq toward a stable and peaceful future.
The co-chairman of the group, former Congressman Lee Hamilton, told reporters at a news conference in Washington, the newly formed government in Baghdad faces daunting problems and has only a limited amount of time to improve people's lives.
"The government of Iraq must show its own citizens soon and the citizens of the United States that it is deserving of continued support," said Lee Hamilton. "The next three months are critical. Before the end of this year this government needs to show progress in securing Baghdad, pursuing national reconciliation, and delivering basic services."
Hamilton says the Iraqi government has limited options and there is no magic formula to reverse the violent situation in Iraq.
But he says Iraqis are clear about their hopes for the future.
"Iraqis want a safer Baghdad and safer communities," he said. "They want an end to sectarian killings. They want electricity, water and a government that fights corruption. No one can expect miracles, but the people of Iraq have the right to expect immediate action."
Hamilton and the other co-chair of the Iraq Study Group, former Secretary of State James Baker, declined to preview their upcoming recommendations. Baker said the 10-member panel wants to be in complete agreement when it does unveil its recommendations.
"Our report will not be particularly meaningful if it has dissenting views," said James Baker. "We are working very, very hard to achieve a consensus report. We are hopeful that we can do that."
Baker says the group's recommendations will not be given to the government or made public until after the November midterm elections so they will not become part of the current political debate in the United States.