The White House has not provided details of President Bush's meeting on Monday with members of the Iraq Study Group, which is preparing a set of recommendations for America's Iraq policy. But as VOA's Peter Fedynsky reports, senior members of the Democratic Party are advancing a proposal, which Mr. Bush has always opposed.
The Iraq Study group arrived at the White House for a morning meeting with President Bush, who says he was impressed by the questions posed by group members. Their recommendations for Iraq policy are expected in a report to be issued in December. "I'm not sure what the report is going to say. I'm looking forward to seeing it. I believe this: I believe that it's important for us to succeed in Iraq, not only for our security but for the security of the Middle East, and that I'm looking forward to interesting ideas."
Key members of the Democratic Party, which won control of both houses of Congress in last week's general election, are advancing the idea of a phased withdrawal.
Michigan Senator Carl Levin, who likely will chair the Senate's Armed Services Committee beginning in January, elaborates. "It is less likely that the Iraqis will take the important steps to reach political compromise if they believe that we are simply there in an open-ended way and that we would stay there as long as they want us to stay there. That does not press them, if they have that view, to make the decisions, the compromises relative to Iraqi resources and Iraqi power-sharing that only they can make."
However, the Iraq Study Group is not expected to suggest a withdrawal timetable and President Bush has said he does not favor pulling out troops without a victory in Iraq. The White House defines victory as an Iraq that can sustain, govern and defend itself and also be an ally in America's war on terror.
Among the suggestions reportedly being considered by the Study Group is a regional summit, which could include talks with Iran and Syria.
In the Syrian capital, Damascus, people had a mixed reaction to such talks.
One man says, "Syria may help Iraq because it is standing with Iraqi people and all the forces there. I think Syria is the key to peace in the Middle East."
Another man, "I think that Syria has helped Iraq more than any other country but that doesn't solve the problem. Only America can solve the problem, not Syria or Jordan or anyone, only America."
The Iraq Study Group is a bipartisan panel headed by former Secretary of State James Baker. The ten-member panel has conducted eight months of research, more than 150 interviews and made several trips to Iraq.