Middle East
Q&A: Iraq Study Group
The facts behind the influential panel on the role of the US military in Iraq.
Last Modified: 06 Dec 2006 17:15 GMT

An influential US panel has recommended that the role of the US military in Iraq should shift from combat operations to focusing on training Iraqi forces. Al Jazeera looks at the background and significance of the Iraq Study Group.

The report is expected to set
goals for improving security

What is the Iraq Study Group likely to say?

The Iraq Study Group has released a report, offering president George Bush the outlines of an exit strategy from the war.

It stopped short off recommending a specific timetable for the withdrawal of troops, but did say all combat troops not embedded with the Iraqi army could be withdrawn by the first quarter of 2008 if conditions were met.

It stressed that military efforts should focus on training Iraqis to take over security responsibilities.

It called for a broader regional approach to stabilising Iraq, and that Iran and Syria should be involved.

The commission recommended the Iraqi government be given specific goals for improving security - or face a cut in economic and military support from the US.

Why is the group more significant than previous reports?

The Iraq Study Group's task was fresh thinking on Iraq's problems. The world paid attention from the outset because the ten principle members were appointed by the US Congress and not the White House.
Though it is expected both US political parties will try to use the recommendations to their own advantage.
So who are the main players on the ten-member strong panel?
James Baker: The Republican joint chairman was Secretary of State under former president George Bush in the late 1980s and early 1990s. 

Baker was involved in the Florida recount that sealed the presidency for George Bush in 2000.
Lee Hamilton: The Democrat joint chairman is Lee Hamilton who served in Congress for 34 years and was a vice chairman of the US inquiry into September 11th 2001 the 9/11 Commission.
Sandra Day O’Conner: Day O’Conner served for 24 years as a justice of the US Supreme Court.

James Baker is the Republican
chair of the panel
She became the Court's crucial "Swing Vote" meaning she sided with the four right-wing judges as well as the four left leaning ones.
Lawrence Eagleburger: Eagleburger served as Secretary of State under the first president Bush. He also worked for former president's Nixon, Carter and Reagan.
Ed Meese: Meese was the US attorney general form 1985-1988.
William Perry: Perry was the US secretary of Defence under Bill Clinton from 1994-1997.
Leon Panetta: A former White House chief of staff during Bill Clinton’s presidency.
Why were these ten appointed to consider the future of the US mission in Iraq?
Dr James Carafano of the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC says the panel members were chosen for both their experience and their patriotism.

"These are very well known people from both parties, Republican and Democrat," he says. "But on the other hand they have a longstanding reputation for really putting the interests of the country ahead of their party and themselves."

"They also have a diverse set of backgrounds and a long period of service, not only a long period of service to the country but a long period of success."

Your views

Will the Iraq Study Group Report make a difference to US policy in Iraq?

What can the panel of ten know about Iraq given they were there for only a short time and just one was said to have ventured outside the Green Zone?

Rend al-Rahim, the executive director of the Iraq Foundation says: "I don't think you need to spend six months touring Iraqi cities and getting into neighbourhoods to get a pretty good assessment of what is going on."

"I think of one seeks facts and realities one can find them."
So what does the panel really represent?

The Iraq Study Group report signals a return to old style American diplomacy with its talk of the need for dialogue between the US, Iran and Syria.
Indeed James Baker, the joint chair, has often publicly mocked the idea of creating a US style democracy on the banks of the Euphrates River in Iraq.
But, despite the hype, president Bush has the results of similar probes on his desk from the Pentagon, US State Department and the White House which means there's no guarantee he'll act on today's recommendations.

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