A bipartisan group of Senators announced their intention to offer as an amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization bill, legislation that would make the Iraq Study Group recommendations the basis for future U.S. strategy in Iraq.
The amendment currently has twelve cosponsors- six Republicans and six Democrats- including Senators Ken Salazar (D-CO), Lamar Alexander (R-TN) Mark Pryor (D-AR), Robert Bennett (R-UT), Robert Casey (D-PA), Judd Gregg (R-NH), Blanche Lincoln, (D-AR), John Sununu (R-NH), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Pete Domenici (R-NM), and Bill Nelson (D-FL).
Former Secretary of State James A. Baker, III and former Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Lee H. Hamilton co-chaired the December report that seeks to bring a responsible conclusion to the Iraq War. In a July 9 letter praising the legislation, Mr. Hamilton said the report’s findings if implemented would:
1.) Shift the primary mission of U.S. forces from combat to training, with the goal of removing all combat brigades not necessary for training, force protection and counter-terrorism by the first quarter of 2008;
2.) Make U.S. political, economic or military support for the Iraqi government conditional on Iraq’s progress in meeting specific benchmarks;
3.) And launch a new diplomatic offensive in the region, including all of Iraq’s neighbors in an Iraq International Support Group, on behalf of stability.
The Senators’ amendment sets a ‘new way forward’ by establishing these principles as United States policy. The text of the amendment is the same as their “Iraq Study Group (ISG) Recommendations Implementation Act of 2007,” S.1545.
Today, Iraq Study Group co-chair Lee H. Hamilton said, “The recommendations of the Iraq Study Group are as timely and urgent today as they were in December."
Senator Ken Salazar (D-CO) – “We have gained a lot of momentum over the past several weeks on our bipartisan effort to implement the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group,” said Salazar. “The principles laid out in our amendment provide a diplomatic, economic and military roadmap to end American combat operations in Iraq. The American people expect Congress to work together to solve our Nation’s biggest problems, and I am hopeful we will pass it and take an important step toward a new way forward in Iraq. ”
Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) – “We need a political solution in Washington as much as we need one in Baghdad,” said Alexander. “The failure of the Iraqi government to meet benchmarks for political and economic reforms is one more reason that the time has come to change our strategy in Iraq. The Iraq Study Group report provides a bipartisan framework to get us out of the combat business and into the support, training, and equipping business as soon as we honorably can.”
Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) – “President Bush is failing as Commander-in-Chief to provide our troops with a plan to turn over responsibility to the Iraqi people and bring them home,” Pryor said. “Our legislation – based on recommendations by a panel of unparalleled expertise and bipartisanship – fills this leadership vacuum with a comprehensive plan forward.”
Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) – This bipartisan Iraq Study Group legislation, and the underlying recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, provide a clear and concise blueprint for drawing down our troops in Iraq in a responsible and organized way, while attempting to protect our troops and our national security and establish a stable government in Iraq,” said Gregg. “I am pleased that more colleagues on both sides of the aisle are joining us in supporting this legislation that was crafted through serious, thoughtful policy discussions rather than dissolving into partisan rhetoric, which distracts from the important issues at hand of protecting our troops and protecting our national security.”
Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) – “It is of paramount importance to transition the mission in Iraq and to send a clear signal to the White House that their Iraq policy is not working,” said Casey. “The President should have adopted the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations when they were released last December. Instead, he ignored the report’s call to withdraw combat troops by April 2008 and announced six months ago today his intention to escalate the war in Iraq.”
Senator Robert Bennett (R-UT) – “My support for this amendment has been misinterpreted as a break with the president. That is not the case. I believe the goals of the Iraq Study Group are consistent with the president’s goals,” said Sen. Bob Bennett. “For me the most attractive recommendation of the ISG is shifting from a combat mission to one of training and support, enabling an orderly drawdown of American forces. Another is the call for a new diplomatic offensive involving all of Iraq’s neighbors. I fully support the work of General Petraeus and look forward to his September report to see whether these goals can be achieved.”
Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) – "The status quo in Iraq, which is an increase in violence in recent months and a lack of progress from the Iraqi government, is unacceptable,” Lincoln said. “We have learned after several attempts this year in the Senate that one party by itself cannot change the direction in Iraq. It will take the cooperation of both parties working together to produce meaningful change, and the Iraq Study Group’s proposals offer us a starting point.”
Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) – "I have made it clear that I do not support an open-ended and unconditional commitment of U.S. troops in Iraq,” Collins said. “Ultimately, resolving the sectarian violence in Iraq requires a political, not a military, solution. I oppose the President's current strategy in Iraq and believe it is time to redefine our mission and implement a gradual but significant withdrawal of our troops next year. The time for partisan politics to determine the direction of our policy in Iraq is long over. I believe that the unanimous recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group should be adopted as we chart a new way forward in Iraq."
Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) – “The best solution for fixing Iraq came from the nonpartisan Iraq Study Group, which said we need to redeploy our troops away from the civil strife to focus on strikes against Al Qaeda and on training of Iraqi security forces.”
Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) – “It is time to rethink our military policy in Iraq, and force the Iraqis to do more for themselves. Our plan would transition American forces from combat to a supportive role in Iraq—including focusing on counterterrorism and special operations. By transforming our military mission from combat to support, we should be able to begin bringing some U.S. troops home and out of harm’s way sooner. This plan does not call for the removal of all forces by an arbitrary date certain. I believe that is key to getting broad bipartisan support,” Domenici said.
Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) – “It is time for a sensible strategy in Iraq, and implementing the bipartisan Iraq Study Group recommendations is a positive step toward getting us detangled from this long, weary war. Our troops deserve to have smart strategy driving the rest of the mission. The Iraq Study Group engaged some of the best minds in national security policy from both parties. It is high time we embraced their pragmatic approach to the crisis. At the end of the day, only a strategy that empowers Iraqis to stand up Iraq will bring our fighting men and women home.”
Senator John Sununu (R-NH) – “No American soldier should remain in Iraq a day longer than is absolutely necessary. These recommendations address the security measures, diplomacy, and political reforms needed to stabilize the situation in Iraq and begin withdrawing combat troops. I encouraged the administration to act on these proposals when they were first presented seven months ago by making them the official policy of our government. I hope that by enacting them into law, we will make their implementation a priority at all levels of government.”
Complete text of Mr. Hamilton’s letter below:
In December 2006, it was the view of the Iraq Study Group that the United States needed to initiate a responsible transition out of Iraq. To achieve that goal, the Study Group made 79 recommendations, including three core principles for moving forward:
• Shift the primary mission of U.S. forces from combat to training, with the goal of removing all combat brigades not necessary for training, force protection and counter-terrorism by the first quarter of 2008;
• Make U.S. political, economic or military support for the Iraqi government conditional on Iraq’s progress in meeting specific benchmarks;
• And launch a new diplomatic offensive in the region, including all of Iraq’s neighbors in an Iraq International Support Group, on behalf of stability.
The Administration has made some positive statements – and taken some interim steps – toward implementing our recommended approach. But our core recommendations have yet to be implemented. We have yet to shift the primary mission from combat to training. We have set benchmarks but not enforced conditionality. We have not launched a robust, sustained, high-level diplomatic offensive, as detailed in the ISG Report. We have not initiated a responsible transition out of Iraq.
The legislation that you and your co-sponsors have introduced represents – in spirit and in substance – the Iraq Study Group approach. It offers a clear shift in policy. It outlines the best chance of salvaging a measure of stability in Iraq and the region. It provides a bi-partisan way forward on a problem that cannot be solved unless we come together to address this singular national challenge.
With best wishes,
Lee H. Hamilton
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