With Tony Blair by his side, the president was careful on Thursday to laud the Iraq Study Group’s report, but maintain his stance on troop withdrawals and diplomacy. In particular, Bush said he would not compromise on preconditions for talks with Syria and Iran.
New York Times:
WASHINGTON, Dec. 7—President Bush moved quickly on Thursday to distance himself from the central recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group: pulling back all combat brigades over the next 15 months and direct talks with Iran and Syria.
One day after the independent panel rocked Washington with its bleak assessment of conditions in Iraq, Mr. Bush met at the White House with his closest ally in the war, Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain. The president said afterward that the United States needs “a new approach” in Iraq and that he would ‘‘seriously consider” the report, but was unlikely to accept all of its recommendations.
At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, the co-chairmen of the panel, James A. Baker III and Lee H. Hamilton, called on Congress to exert pressure on Mr. Bush to accept the report in its entirety. Mr. Baker told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the White House should not treat the report “like a fruit salad,” while Mr. Hamilton complained that Congress had been ‘‘extremely timid” in overseeing the war.
But Mr. Bush, in his first extended comments on the study, pushed back. With Mr. Blair by his side, the president said he needed to be “flexible and realistic” in considering troop movements, and made clear he would impose preconditions for talking to Iran and Syria that neither side is willing to accept. He was especially animated in describing what he said would be the consequences of a failure to stabilize Iraq, saying that future generations of Americans would be put at risk.