Friday, December 15, 2006

Administration Rejects Overtures to Iran and Syria, Bush's Response to Report Alarms Panelist

The Washington Post is reporting today that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has rejected the Iraq Study Group's recommendation that the U.S. seek the help of Syria and Iran in Iraq, saying the "compensation" required by any deal might be too high.
"If [Iran and Syria] have an interest in a stable Iraq, they will do it anyway," Rice said in a wide-ranging interview with Washington Post reporters and editors. She said she did not want to trade away Lebanese sovereignty to Syria or allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon as a price for peace in Iraq.

Rice also said there would be no retreat from the administration's push to promote democracy in the Middle East, a goal that was de-emphasized by the Iraq Study Group in its report last week but that Rice insisted was a "matter of strategic interest." She reiterated her commitment to pursuing peace between Palestinians and Israelis -- a new effort that President Bush announced in September but that has yielded little so far.

"Get ready. We are going to the Middle East a lot," Rice said. More here.

Meanwhile, Iraq Study Group panelist Leon Panetta is expressing alarm that the Bush administration is signalling that it may reject the panel's suggestions about diplomacy and withdrawing most US troops from Iraq by 2008.
Bush has even criticized the idea that the group was providing a "graceful exit" from the war -- which is what Panetta and other panel members figured Bush most wanted.

"I think he has been trapped by his own rhetoric," Panetta said in a telephone interview from his California office. Referring to a recent poll suggesting that 70 percent of those surveyed disapprove of Bush's handling of the war, Panetta said, "His ratings are so low now that he has got to do something to pull this country together."

But to those who know Bush best, the president's approach is not surprising. Bush's former chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr. , who was by Bush's side as he formulated many of his key decisions on the war, said Bush hears many opinions and thus believes that "his knowledge is more complete than anyone who is advising him." More here.

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