Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Iraq report sees "grave and deteriorating" crisis

The Iraq Study Group

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States should begin to withdraw its forces from combat in Iraq and launch a diplomatic push, including Iran and Syria, to prevent "a slide toward chaos" in the country, a high-level panel recommended on Wednesday.

The bipartisan Iraq Study Group also pushed Washington to reduce its political, military or economic support for Iraq if its government fails to advance security and national reconciliation in the country, where sectarian violence kills scores of people every day.

It also called for the Bush administration to engage with Iran and Syria, whom U.S. officials accuse of fomenting the insurgency in Iraq, and to press for a "comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace" to settle the festering conflict.

President Bush said he would take the much-anticipated report "very seriously" after he met the group but the White House has made clear he will not be bound by its ideas and has begun its own review of Iraq policy.

"The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating," the five Republicans and five Democrats in the group said of the war, in which more than 2,900 U.S. troops have died. "There is no magic formula to solve the problems."

"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," the report said.

"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," it added.

While it set no hard timetable for the transition, the report said that by the first quarter of 2008 U.S. combat troops not needed for "force protection" could be out of Iraq, depending on security conditions in the country.

Read the rest at Reuters

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