WASHINGTON — James Baker, the co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group, on Tuesday endorsed President Bush's troop surge in Iraq, urging the Senate to "give it a chance."
"The president's plan ought to be given a chance," Baker told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "Just give it a chance."
Baker, a former secretary of state under President George H.W. Bush, said it was wrong for the Senate to confirm Army Gen. David Petreaus to lead the new Iraq mission at the same time it was moving to pass non-binding resolutions opposing the deployment of at least 21,500 U.S. forces to improve security in Baghdad and Al Anbar Province. Some of those forces have already been deployed.
Baker also deflected criticism from Democratic senators that the president's new Iraq strategy lacked sufficient emphasis on diplomatic talks with Iran and Syria. Baker said the new plan envisions new diplomatic initiatives, though it does not include one of the ISG's chief recommendations: direct talks with Iran and Syria.
Baker's endorsement could well alter the political dynamic dealing with Senate debate on the president's new Iraq plan. Many critics have cited the ISG, which in November published 79 recommendations for getting the United States of Iraq successfully, as the basis for opposing the troop surge. References to the ISG's military and diplomatic recommendations are cited in both leading resolutions opposing the new Iraq plan.
With Baker's endorsement, opponents of non-binding resolutions may have new ammunition to argue against the Senate sending any signal of opposition to the new plan.
The ISG's other co-chairman, former Indiana Rep. Lee Hamilton, did not endorse the troop surge directly, but said the group did conditionally recommend a short-term troop surge and said the president's new plan and the overall recommendations depend on improvements pursued by the Iraqi government.
"If we can put this together there is a chance we can reasonably succeed. But we realize that is a very, very daunting challenge," Hamilton said. "There isn't any doubt that in the president's proposals and in ours that we are depending on, very heavily, an improvement in the performance of the Iraqi government. Will it happen? I don't know. It does make you uneasy, when you have to put your dependence on this government. What other alternative do you have? You can't go out on the street of Baghdad and pick 10 people and put your confidence in them."
I do not hold much hope that anything Hamilton OR Baker says will stop the politicians from their games, considering they are more than willing to completely ignore General David Petraeus's words when he affirmed that any resolutions would be "encouraging the enemy".
They confirmed him unanimously in one breath, then in the next breath they try to deny him the troops HE TESTIFIED HE NEEDED.
More about how the president's new plan is working already from Amy Proctor.