|President Bush meets with Iraq Study Group|
The message was loud and clear: the situation in Iraq is bad and only getting worse. After nine months of work, the Iraq Study Group gave its report this week, calling for major changes in United States policy.
The report says no one can guarantee that any action in Iraq at this point will stop the growing violence. But it gives seventy-nine suggestions for a new way forward in Iraq and the Middle East.
Among them, it calls for an urgent new diplomatic plan that would include talks with Syria and Iran -- and more pressure on Iraqi leaders.
The study group says the main job of United States forces in Iraq should be to support the Iraqi Army. The report calls for an increase in American military trainers from four thousand to about twenty thousand. And it says Iraqi forces need better equipment.
But the report says most American fighting troops could be out of Iraq by early two thousand eight -- unless there are unexpected security developments.
President Bush says all of the proposals will be considered. But he also said he did not think the study group meant for the administration to accept every one of them.
The Bush administration is completing its own study of its Iraq policy. That review involves the State Department, National Security Council, Defense Department and other agencies. The president's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, has said the plan is to have a new Iraq policy in place within weeks.
The report also calls for a renewed effort by the United States for Arab-Israeli peace. But the prime minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert, rejected attempts to link the Iraq issue and the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
The five Democrats and five Republicans on the Iraq Study Group all supported the recommendations. The group led by former secretary of state James Baker and former congressman Lee Hamilton was created in March. It was launched at a meeting held by Senator John Warner of Virginia and attended by congressional leaders.
Democratic Representative Nancy Pelosi said many of the proposals are things her party has suggested for a long time. She will lead the House of Representatives when the new Democratic-controlled Congress opens in January.
More than two thousand nine hundred Americans have died since the Iraq war began in March of two thousand three. The report says the United States has spent roughly four hundred thousand million dollars on the war. And it says estimates for the final cost of the United States involvement in Iraq run as high as two million million dollars.
The report came out Wednesday, the same day the Senate confirmed Robert Gates as the next secretary of defense. He is to be sworn into office on December eighteenth, replacing Donald Rumsfeld who recently resigned.
IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English was written by Brianna Blake. For more news about the Iraq Study Group Report, go to voaspecialenglish.com. I'm Steve Ember.