- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 10, 2006

The co-chairmen of the Iraq Study Group, James A. Baker III and Lee H. Hamilton, yesterday defended their policy recommendations, including a call for diplomacy with Iran and Syria, even as President Bush appeared to reject significant proposals in their report.

“We’re not arguing that we give up anything, or concessions, but they’re big players,” Mr. Baker said of Iran during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Let’s bring them into the action. How do you solve problems with people unless you talk to them?”

The former secretary of state acknowledged that the Iranian government has rejected such suggestions.

Many leading lawmakers from both parties have embraced the report since its release last week.

Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, said Mr. Bush should accept at least some of the findings.

“I think he’d be wise to listen very carefully to what the Baker-Hamilton report suggested,” Mr. Dodd said during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.” “You don’t have to buy into all 79 of them, but the major thrust here — that we move from a combat mission, a military mission of achieving success, to more of a political-diplomatic one — makes a lot of sense to me.”

Sen. Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, appeared to endorse the idea of talks with Iran and Syria and said he favors pressuring the Iraqi government with specific benchmarks for progress.

“We should use every diplomatic lever we can,” the Senate’s No. 2 Republican said during an appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “The Iraqis have to do better.”

Sen. Sam Brownback, who is considering a 2008 White House bid, appeared to support the report’s findings as well. “I think it is really time for us to engage a new strategy. I hope the president is going to lay that out,” the Kansas Republican told “Fox News Sunday.” “And I think he’s got somewhat of a blueprint here in this Baker-Hamilton report.”

The Senate’s incoming Foreign Relations Committee chairman said he doesn’t expect Mr. Bush to embrace the report’s more high-profile recommendations.

“I don’t believe he has the capacity to change, because, in fairness to him, he had a fundamental view,” Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, said on ABC’s “This Week.”

The conservative Republican base has largely rejected the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations.

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, said the policy proposals don’t help create the conditions for a U.S. victory. He said the United States should temporarily increase troop levels to quell the violence in Iraq.

“We indicate we just don’t have those troops to put there,” Mr. Hamilton said in response to NBC’s “Meet the Press” moderator Tim Russert. “If you put them in, the Iraqis are going to let us carry all the burden.”

Mr. Baker agreed, saying it would be counterproductive for the group to endorse multiple proposals for Iraq. “The minute we did that, if we issued an alternative approach, everybody would discount the approach we think ought to be taken.”

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