By MARA LEE
Scripps Howard News Service
December 07, 2006
"We do not know if it can be turned around," said co-chairman Lee Hamilton, who was vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission. "But we think we have an obligation to try. And if the recommendations that we have made are effectively implemented, there is at least a chance that you can see established a stable government in Iraq and stability in the region."
The group of five Democrats and five Republicans released 79 recommendations Wednesday. The report's highlights:
- Shift the military mission from fighting to training. Quadruple the number of trainers to about 15,000 to 20,000, and start sending most other soldiers home. By March 2008, there should be only trainers and logistical, intelligence, special forces and rapid-response teams left. Move some of the money and soldiers from Iraq to Afghanistan.
- Concentrate on regional diplomacy. Ask Iran and Syria to stop sending money and weapons to fighters in Iraq. Ask all the Middle Eastern countries to encourage compromise among Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds in Iraq. Push again for Arab-Israeli peace, with the return of the Golan Heights, captured from Syria, and the creation of an independent Palestine.
- Tell Iraq the United States is pulling out, even if its army and police are still inadequate a year from now.
As Hamilton told reporters, "The United States must not make an open-ended commitment to keep large numbers of troops deployed in Iraq."
The report is blunt, with lines like: "Iraqi police cannot control crime, and they routinely engage in sectarian violence."
The leaders were, too.
"The current approach is not working," said Hamilton, a Democratic former congressman from Indiana. "And the ability of the United States to influence events is diminishing."
Former Secretary of State James Baker, the other co-chairman and a Republican, said Iraqis "have been liberated from the nightmare of a tyrannical order only to face the nightmare of brutal violence."
Group members hope the American public gets behind their ideas. The war cannot be won with a divided populace, they said.
But poll numbers suggest the panel's ideas may face a hostile audience. A Harris interactive poll released Monday said 63 percent of Americans have no confidence American policies in Iraq will be successful.
Former Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., said, "Everybody'll say it can't work. Well, we're just sincere enough to believe that it will...."
Scripps Howard News Service, http://www.shns.com
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