Compromise Required With the Iraq Study Group

William Perry

hide captionIraq Study Group member and former defense secretary William Perry listens during a Washington, D.C., news conference after the group released its recommendations, Dec. 6, 2006.

Mike Theiler/AFP/Getty Images
Alan Simpson

hide captionGroup member and former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY) makes remarks during the news conference.

Mike Theiler/AFP/Getty Images

Alan Simpson and William Perry were members of the Iraq Study Group and helped write the panel's report. Perry served as Bill Clinton's secretary of defense and Republican Simpson served in the Senate from 1979 to 1997. The two tell Deborah Amos about the compromises reached to write the report.

One example centered on the bipartisan panel's proposal to withdraw most U.S. combat troops from Iraq by early 2008.

"There was a serious question about how explicit we could be about the need to begin a phased withdrawal of our troops," Perry says. The former defense secretary strongly believed that the United States should remove virtually all of its combat brigades by the first quarter of 2008. "I was not at all clear that we were going to be able to get agreement on that point," Perry says.

After a two-hour meeting with panel co-chairman James Baker, the two men "walked out... with an agreement on how to make our recommendation," Perry says. "The way we finally worded it was not the way we started out, but it did have the substance of what I wanted to have..."

Perry says the three basic recommendations are intertwined. "There is no military solution in Iraq. It can only be done jointly with getting the reconciliation program going in Iraq — that's a political solution — and with bringing the regional powers in to help. They all three tie together."

Diplomacy to resolve the Middle East's other problems is key to a solution in Iraq, the study group said.

"We think that's critical," Simpson says. "If you can get resolved the Israeli-Palestinian issues — at least with Palestinians who recognize Israel's right to exist — and then draw Syria in, which Jim Baker thinks that we can get them to talk to Hamas, and all sorts of things could work unless people just want to suck their thumb and look off into the east and say, 'Well, I don't think anything will work.'"

Simpson says the region's problems may seem intractable, but there's a hopeful precedent for an eventual solution.

"I guess, to me, at the age of 75, I would say to people, 'Would you like to see something work? There's so much cynicism, so much, 'These guys are crazy. Well, what have they got here? My God, I can't believe it.' Talk with Iran? Yeah, talk with Iran. We talked with the Soviet Union. We had a phone next to each other for 40 years. Anybody forgotten that? We didn't blow each other up. That's what you do with Iran. It's what you do with Syria. It's what you do with North Korea. You start talking. It's a sick idea, I know, but..."

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