DEBORAH AMOS, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Deborah Amos in for Renee Montagne.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.
President Bush today received the long-anticipated report of the Iraq Study Group.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: This report gives a very tough assessment of the situation in Iraq. It is a report that brings some really very interesting proposals.
INSKEEP: And those proposals are believed to matter more than some because they come from a bipartisan commission led by James Baker, who's a long time adviser to the Bush family, and because the report comes in the middle of a difficult time in Iraq. They've been analyzing possible strategies to help stabilize Iraq.
NPR national security correspondent Jackie Northam is covering this story. Jackie, good morning once again.
JACKIE NORTHAM: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: So, what have you learned so far?
NORTHAM: Well, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow came out and gave some details about a meeting this morning between the 10 members of the Iraq Study Group and President Bush. There's - just to run through a few things. We're just getting information in now.
The president was right in calling this a tough assessment. The group said that the situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating, and that the violence there's increasing in both scope and lethality. It said the situation could provoke a slide towards chaos, and that it could trigger the collapse of Iraq's government and a humanitarian catastrophe. So very, very tough words from this group.
The thrust of the report, though, is essentially a new push for a diplomatic and a political resolution, and also a change, a shift, in how U.S. military troops are being used. There's 79 recommendations and, you know, as I said, everything's coming out right now.
INSKEEP: One of those recommendations was believed to be a gradual drawdown of U.S. troops, a gradual reduction, we should say, of combat troops in Iraq. How would that work?
NORTHAM: Well, essentially what they're going to do is there's going to be a shift, as I said, from combat - a gradual shift from combat to advising. In other words, so we're going to take combat troops and make them advisers, embed them with the Iraqis themselves. And their talking about doing a surge in this; in other words, bringing 10,000 to 20,000 troops in. And instead of taking to the field, the battlefield, they'll be working with Iraqis.
INSKEEP: So you could actually end up with more troops, at least in the short term in Iraq, not fewer?
NORTHAM: That's right. And the thing is that at the beginning they were talking about a surge. You know, we were getting information that the military was interested in a surge, and that was to come in as combat troops. In other words, come into Baghdad, help stabilize the situation. This group, the Iraq Study Group, is saying a surge but make them advisers to help the Iraqis - help the Iraqi army, the military, security forces stand up.
INSKEEP: Now, Jackie Northam, there's been enormous attention and enormous anticipation about this reports. Tony Snow, the press secretary at the White House, blamed the media for that. If you were going to point fingers, you could also indicate the innumerable officials in both parties who have urged that the people wait for this report. Is it reasonable to put so much store in this report?
NORTHAM: Well, you're right, Steve. There's just been so much hope placed with this group, and certainly anticipation and expectation. And the problem is I think it runs the risk of disappointing somehow. Because everybody has a very different idea of how we should handle Iraq. In other words, for example, this study group is saying there has a diplomatic push. Let's talk to Iran. Let's talk to Syria. In fact, they're saying let's get Syria talking to Israel. Now these are things that the Bush administration has been absolutely dead-set against. They said we can't, you know, reward bad behavior and that type of thing. So, in other words, what I'm saying is that it's bound to disappoint the Bush administration, you know, that sort of thing.
It's hard to say how this will be read, but there are three other reports coming in at the same time. And the president is bound to look at - he said he's going to look at all those.
INSKEEP: So, just to summarize here what we know about this report's recommendations so far. More trainers, maybe fewer combat troops, and a lot more diplomacy in places where the Bush administration might not like to have diplomacy.
NORTHAM: That's right. And there's also a sense of urgency encapsulated in this report that you have to get in there now because the situation is so bad; it's deteriorating and it could slide the whole region into chaos.
INSKEEP: OK. Jackie, thanks very much.
NORTHAM: Thank you, Steve.
INSKEEP: We mentioned that the chairman of that commission is James Baker. His Democratic counterpart is Lee Hamilton. And you can hear both of them talk about their recommendations later today on NPR's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.
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