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Situation in Iraq Deemed Grave and Deteriorating


The bipartisan Iraq Study Group has issued its long-awaited series of strategic recommendations on ways to stabilize the situation in Iraq. As VOA's Peter Fedynsky reports, the panel's assessment is blunt, but not without hope.

"The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating," said Lee Hamilton, Iraq Study Group co-chair.

Added James Baker, the other co-chair: "Ladies and gentlemen, there is no magic formula that will solve the problems of Iraq."

These are the blunt assessments of former congressman Lee Hamilton, a Democrat, and former Secretary of State James Baker, a Republican.

The report released by the 10-member panel includes 79 recommendations to stabilize Iraq. The first -- an urgent new diplomatic initiative that includes talks with Syria and Iran. The last -- increased support for Iraqi intelligence to combat terrorism. In between, the panel recommends steps toward Iraqi national reconciliation, training and equipping Iraqi security forces, developing Iraq's oil fields, and overcoming "profound" problems in the criminal justice system to deal with crime and corruption. .

"If the Iraqi government does not make substantial progress toward the achievement of milestones, the United States then should reduce its political, military or economic support to the Iraqi government," said Mr. Hamilton.

The panel is recommending the U.S. military change its primary mission from combat to support of Iraqi forces. All combat troops not needed for force protection would be out by the first quarter of 2008.

At the same time, Secretary Baker cautioned that precipitous withdrawal could invite a wider regional war. "And because Iraq's major cities are peopled by a mixture of warring groups, a disorderly devolution would likely result in a humanitarian disaster or a broad-based civil war."

The Iraq Study Group presented the report to President Bush in an early morning meeting at the White House. Mr. Bush said he takes every proposal seriously and will act in a timely fashion on them. He also said, "While they won't agree with every proposal, and we probably won't agree with every proposal, it nevertheless is an opportunity to come together and to work together on this important issue."

The White House says the report is not a repudiation of Mr. Bush's Iraq policy, though the incoming Speaker of the House, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, said it is. And just as the President called for bi-partisanship on the issue, so too did Speaker-elect Pelosi.

"I hope the initiative today will move the president if not to accept the specifics, and it remains to be seen if they all should be accepted, but to move to bipartisanship and how we go forward in relationship to Iraq."

Secretary Baker said panel members were pleased when President Bush indicated the report presents to the American people a common opportunity to deal with the problems in Iraq. Baker said if that kind of attitude prevails, there can be a bipartisan solution to the Iraq problem.