Iraq Study Group Report Special Earlier today on Capitol Hill, the co-chairs of the Iraq Study Group presented their highly-anticipated recommendations for the war in Iraq. Join us for an NPR News Special.
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Iraq Study Group Report Special

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Iraq Study Group Report Special

Iraq Study Group Report Special

Iraq Study Group Report Special

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Earlier today on Capitol Hill, the co-chairs of the Iraq Study Group presented their highly-anticipated recommendations for the war in Iraq. In this hour-long NPR News Special, Neal Conan talks with ISG members Sandra Day O'Connor and Charles Robb about what is in the report. We'll also hear reaction from Congress.


Sandra Day O'Connor, Associate Justice, U.S. Supreme Court (retired); Member of the Iraq Study Group

Charles Robb, Former Governor of Virginia; Former U.S. Senator; Distinguished Professor of Law & Public Policy, George Mason University School of Law; Member of the Iraq Study Group

George Packer, Author of The Assasins' Gate: America in Iraq (October 2005; Farrar Straus Giroux); Writer for The New Yorker

Rep. Christopher Shays, Republican from Connecticut

Sen. Dick Durbin, Democrat from Illinois; Senate Minority Whip (incoming Majority Whip, joins us by phone from his office in Washington)

Iraq Report Well Received in Washington

Audio Highlights

President Bush: 'We will take every proposal seriously, and we will act in a timely fashion'

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Sen.Bill Frist (R-TN), Sen. Harry Reid, and Iraq Study Group Co-Chairman James Baker and Lee Hamilton Talk to Reporters on the Hill

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Reaction to the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group was generally positive in Washington, D.C., Wednesday. President Bush promised to "take every proposal very seriously." Most congressional leaders praised the commission's blunt assessment of the shortcomings of current U.S. policy and its bipartisan approach to a way forward in Iraq. Read a sampling of reactions:

—- "This report gives a very tough assessment of the situation in Iraq. It is a report that brings some really very interesting proposals, and we will take every proposal seriously and we will act in a timely fashion… this report will give us all an opportunity to find common ground, for the good of the country — not for the good of the Republican Party or the Democratic Party, but for the good of the country." - President Bush

—- "We do not recommend a stay-the-course solution; in our opinion, that approach is no longer viable." - James A. Baker III, co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group

—- "The current approach is not working. And the ability of the United States to influence events is diminishing… Many Americans are understandably dissatisfied. Our ship of state has hit rough waters. It must now chart a new way forward." - Lee Hamilton, co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group.

—- "We acknowledge that this is a tremendous step forward, and it will change course in Iraq. It's up to the president to fulfill his obligation, in my opinion, to the country, and follow the recommendations of this study group." - Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., Democratic leader.

—- "Let's use this as a tool to advise the president, as all these recommendations that are coming to him from the Pentagon, from the Congress and from this study group. And let's speak with one voice as we move forward on Iraqi policy. I think that's the most important lesson and the most important track that the country could take right now." - Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., House Armed Services Committee chairman.

—- "If the president is serious about the need for change in Iraq, he will find Democrats ready to work with him in a bipartisan fashion to find a way to end the war as quickly as possible." - House Speaker-elect Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

—- "We will not accomplish victory by setting arbitrary deadlines or negotiating with hostile governments." - Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, House Republican leader.

—- "The report represents another blow at the policy of stay the course that this administration has followed. Hopefully, this will be the end of that stay-the-course policy… It is clearly strongly supporting changing the course in a number of ways." - Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

—- "Congress and the administration must carefully review the recommendations and implement those that offer the best opportunity to improve U.S. engagement in the Middle East." - House Intelligence Chairman Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich.

—- "Because these recommendations have bipartisan support from the ISG, I am encouraged that bipartisan consensus might be achieved within Congress and with the Administration, as well." - Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., incoming chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

—- "The report is an acknowledgment that there will be no military solution in Iraq. It will require a political solution arrived at through sustained Iraqi and region-wide diplomacy and engagement." - Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb.

—- "We're going to hold extensive hearings… we're going to bring in every reasonable person we can find left, right and center, military, civilian and government to discuss elements of this report." - Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's incoming chairman.

—- "I feel encouraged, and I feel the stay-the-course strategy is officially dead." - Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif.

—- "Particularly in light of the advance billing given to the Iraq Study Group work, I found their report to be a little disappointing. Their recommendations range from the blindingly obvious, to the naive and simplistic, to the interesting but underdeveloped. I was expecting a steak dinner and we got hors d'oeuvres."- Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., chair of the House Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence.

—- "Today there is near consensus that there is no U.S. military solution and we must disengage our military from Iraq." - Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa.

—- "It's clear now that there is no one in America, perhaps save perhaps the president, who believes that staying the course is a viable option." - Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the incoming House majority leader.

—- "I commend the commission for its recommendation that we engage all regional players. I firmly believe in conducting dialogue even with people with whom we disagree." - Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., incoming chair of the House International Relations Committee.

—- "The verdict is in. There can no longer be any doubt that the violence and chaos in Iraq are getting worse, that our current strategy is failing, and that we need to work together on a new strategy that will make it possible for us to bring our troops home. The only question is whether the White House will heed this clarion call and agree to change the perilous course we have been on in Iraq since Saddam Hussein fell and the chaos began." - Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.

—- "I think we all know there is no quick or easy way to complete the important mission in Iraq, and those who hoped this report would provide a get-done-quick solution will be disappointed. And though we won't reach agreement overnight, this is an opportunity for us to work in a bipartisan way with Democrats and the White House and reach consensus on one of the most critical issues before the Congress." - Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Republican Whip.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Iraq Study Group Report: Executive Summary

Below is the executive summary of the Iraq Study Group's report, which was released Wednesday.

The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating. There is no path that can guarantee success, but the prospects can be improved. In this report, we make a number of recommendations for actions to be taken in Iraq, the United States, and the region. Our most important recommendations call for new and enhanced diplomatic and political efforts in Iraq and the region, and a change in the primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq that will enable the United States to begin to move its combat forces out of Iraq responsibly. We believe that these two recommendations are equally important and reinforce one another.

If they are effectively implemented, and if the Iraqi government moves forward with national reconciliation, Iraqis will have an opportunity for a better future, terrorism will be dealt a blow, stability will be enhanced in an important part of the world, and America's credibility, interests, and values will be protected. The challenges in Iraq are complex. Violence is increasing in scope and lethality. It is fed by a Sunni Arab insurgency, Shiite militias and death squads, al Qaeda, and widespread criminality. Sectarian conflict is the principal challenge to stability.

The Iraqi people have a democratically elected government, yet it is not adequately advancing national reconciliation, providing basic security, or delivering essential services. Pessimism is pervasive. If the situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences could be severe. A slide toward chaos could trigger the collapse of Iraq's government and a humanitarian catastrophe. Neighboring countries could intervene. Sunni-Shia clashes could spread. Al Qaeda could win a propaganda victory and expand its base of operations. The global standing of the United States could be diminished. Americans could become more polarized. During the past nine months we have considered a full range of approaches for moving forward. All have flaws. Our recommended course has shortcomings, but we firmly believe that it includes the best strategies and tactics to positively influence the outcome in Iraq and the region.

External Approach

The policies and actions of Iraq's neighbors greatly affect its stability and prosperity. No country in the region will benefit in the long term from a chaotic Iraq. Yet Iraq's neighbors are not doing enough to help Iraq achieve stability. Some are undercutting stability.

The United States should immediately launch a new diplomatic offensive to build an international consensus for stability in Iraq and the region. This diplomatic effort should include every country that has an interest in avoiding a chaotic Iraq, including all of Iraq's neighbors. Iraq's neighbors and key states in and outside the region should form a support group to reinforce security and national reconciliation within Iraq, neither of which Iraq can achieve on its own.

Given the ability of Iran and Syria to influence events within Iraq and their interest in avoiding chaos in Iraq, the United States should try to engage them constructively. In seeking to influence the behavior of both countries, the United States has disincentives and incentives available. Iran should stem the flow of arms and training to Iraq, respect Iraq's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and use its influence over Iraqi Shia groups to encourage national reconciliation. The issue of Iran's nuclear programs should continue to be dealt with by the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany. Syria should control its border with Iraq to stem the flow of funding, insurgents, and terrorists in and out of Iraq.

The United States cannot achieve its goals in the Middle East unless it deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict and regional instability. There must be a renewed and sustained commitment by the United States to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace on all fronts: Lebanon, Syria, and President Bush's June 2002 commitment to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. This commitment must include direct talks with, by, and between Israel, Lebanon, Palestinians (those who accept Israel's right to exist), and Syria.

As the United States develops its approach toward Iraq and the Middle East, the United States should provide additional political, economic, and military support for Afghanistan, including resources that might become available as combat forces are moved out of Iraq.

Internal Approach

The most important questions about Iraq's future are now the responsibility of Iraqis. The United States must adjust its role in Iraq to encourage the Iraqi people to take control of their own destiny.

The Iraqi government should accelerate assuming responsibility for Iraqi security by increasing the number and quality of Iraqi Army brigades. While this process is under way, and to facilitate it, the United States should significantly increase the number of U.S. military personnel, including combat troops, imbedded in and supporting Iraqi Army units. As these actions proceed, U.S. combat forces could begin to move out of Iraq.

The primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq should evolve to one of supporting the Iraqi army, which would take over primary responsibility for combat operations. By the first quarter of 2008, subject to unexpected developments in the security situation on the ground, 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, in rapid-reaction and special operations teams, and in training, equipping, advising, force protection, and search and rescue. Intelligence and support efforts would continue. A vital mission of those rapid reaction and special operations forces would be to undertake strikes against al Qaeda in Iraq.

It is clear that the Iraqi government will need assistance from the United States for some time to come, especially in carrying out security responsibilities. Yet the United States must make it clear to the Iraqi government that the United States could carry out its plans, including planned redeployments, even if the Iraqi government did not implement their

planned changes. The United States must not make an openended commitment to keep large numbers of American troops deployed in Iraq.

As redeployment proceeds, military leaders should emphasize training and education of forces that have returned to the United States in order to restore the force to full combat capability. As equipment returns to the United States, Congress should appropriate sufficient funds to restore the equipment over the next five years.

The United States should work closely with Iraq's leaders to support the achievement of specific objectives—or milestones—on national reconciliation, security, and governance. Miracles cannot be expected, but the people of Iraq have the right to expect action and progress. The Iraqi government needs to show its own citizens—and the citizens of the United States and other countries—that it deserves continued support. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, in consultation with the United States, has put forward a set of milestones critical for Iraq. His list is a good start, but it must be expanded to include milestones that can strengthen the government and benefit the Iraqi people. President Bush and his national security team should remain in close and frequent contact with the Iraqi leadership to convey a clear message: there must be prompt action by the Iraqi government to make substantial progress toward the achievement of these milestones.

If the Iraqi government demonstrates political will and makes substantial progress toward the achievement of milestones on national reconciliation, security, and governance, the United States should make clear its willingness to continue training, assistance, and support for Iraq's security forces and to continue political, military, and economic support. If the Iraqi government does not make substantial progress toward the achievement of milestones on national reconciliation, security, and governance, the United States should reduce its political, military, or economic support for the Iraqi government.

Our report makes recommendations in several other areas. They include improvements to the Iraqi criminal justice system, the Iraqi oil sector, the U.S. reconstruction efforts in Iraq, the U.S. budget process, the training of U.S. government personnel, and U.S. intelligence capabilities.


It is the unanimous view of the Iraq Study Group that these recommendations offer a new way forward for the United States in Iraq and the region. They are comprehensive and need to be implemented in a coordinated fashion. They should not be separated or carried out in isolation. The dynamics of the region are as important to Iraq as events within Iraq. The challenges are daunting. There will be difficult days ahead. But by pursuing this new way forward, Iraq, the region, and the United States of America can emerge stronger.