Thursday, December 07, 2006

Bush Discusses the ISG Proposals

In a joint press conference with PM Blair, President Bush discussed the findings of the Iraq Study Group.
"The thing I liked about the Baker-Hamilton report is it discussed the way forward in Iraq. And I believe we need a new approach. And that's why I've tasked the Pentagon to analyze a way forward. That's why Prime Minister Blair is here to talk about the way forward, so we can achieve the objective, which is an Iraq which can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself and be an ally in the war on terror."
In other words: thanks, but no thanks. He goes on to say:
"The Congress is not going to accept every recommendation in the report, and neither will the administration. But there's a lot of, you know, very important things in the report that we ought to seriously consider."
Regardless of whether the proposals suggested by the ISG have merit, one thing is clear: the study is meant to be taken as a whole. It addresses issues that are inextricably tied together and as such a strategy that favored only select recommendations is liable to fail.

It's not really news at this point, but Bush went on the record again to reject the idea of negotiating with Iran and Syria. On Iran specifically, Bush declared that he would not even begin to consider entering discussions with Iran as long as it pursues its nuclear enrichment program. While it is certainly true that negotiations with Iran are likely to go nowhere at this time, success in Iraq must involve its neighbors, and the U.S. cannot afford to slam the door on Iraq's most influential neighbor. I intend on posting more about the difficulties of negotiating with Iran and Syria later.

addendum: Many newspapers have been reporting that Bush has also rejected the report's other main recommendation, namely the pullout of troops in early 2008. The thing is, the report doesn't actually recomend that the U.S. redeploy its troops in Iraq at this time. It only states that it would be nice if the U.S. "could" do so.
"By the first quarter of 2008 … all combat brigades not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq. At that time, U.S. combat forces in Iraq could be deployed only in units embedded with Iraqi forces."
Certainly all of their proposals seem geared towards achieving a responsible withdrawal in the near future; however, they never give a timetable for when the U.S. "should" withdraw its combat troops from Iraq.

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