Bipartisan group says Iraq must deliver on promises
The two prominent cochairs of a task force created by Congress to make recommendations on U.S. policy in Iraq warned today that the next three months will be a critical period for Iraq's government to deliver on its promises.
James Baker, secretary of state under the first President Bush, and Lee Hamilton, the former Democratic congressman who cochaired the 9/11 commission, said that although the bipartisan Iraq Study Group believes that the Iraqi government must make urgent progress on security, reconciliation, and government services, it would still hold off on issuing their formal report or any recommendations until after the midterm elections.
Baker said the panel wanted its conclusions to be "taken out of domestic politics." Still, with Iraq suffering a prolonged wave of sectarian violence, as well as continuing insurgent attacks, the pair called on the Iraqi government to act quickly.
"The government of Iraq needs to show its own citizens soonand the citizens of the United Statesthat it is deserving of continued support," Hamilton said. "There is no magical solution for the many problems in Iraq."
Baker and Hamilton said that the Iraq Study Group, organized in part by the U.S. Institute of Peace, will report its finding first to President Bush and Congress before releasing them to the public. They would not offer a specific timetable, except to say that it would be after the November election and sometime before next March. Since they began work last March, they have been meeting with a wide variety of experts on Iraq and the region, as well as U.S. and Iraqi officials.
Their fact-finding efforts included a recent four-day trip to Iraq. But most of the panel's 10 members never left the Green Zone, the sealed-off section of central Baghdad where the U.S. Embassy and much of the Iraqi government are housed.
"We didn't want someone to write a story that we were cowboying it in Iraq," Baker said. One exception was former Sen. Charles Robb of Virginia, a panel member who did take a trip to the embattled Anbar province, which is home to the heart of the Sunni insurgency.