Hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: "Iraq: Alternative Plans, the Iraq Study Group"
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DL): The hearing will come to order. I want to explain to my distinguished colleagues why so few people are here. I want to explain to the press why some of what I read today was slightly erroneous.
First of all, I want to thank you, Mr. Secretary, for being here, and thank you, Congressman Hamilton. I want to say from the outset, both of these gentlemen were prepared to be here. The problem is they have very, very busy schedules. And I want to thank the secretary for extending his schedule here in Washington, and for Congressman Hamilton for adjusting his, because in changing the timing.
Last week, the secretary was just not able to be here. And so it's very important you're both here, and we thank you. I also want to explain to you, as you both know this place well, there will be people coming in and out. In order to accommodated the schedules, we are starting on the afternoon session earlier than we usually would, because it's so important to have both these distinguished men before us.
So Senator Lugar, for example, is required to be in his leadership caucus, party luncheon that's going on now, as others are. And so, there will be a little bit of in and out. I'm going to urge my colleagues as they come in and their staffs let them know that I told the witnesses, again, we would try to see that they're out of here by three o'clock.
They have planes and trains and commitments to meet, and this is not their first testimony before the United States Congress. But having said all that, we'll try our best, Lee. You know how the place works. But so far, we've had some considerable cooperation.
We begin the fourth and final week of the hearings on remaining options for the United States in Iraq. And this will not be the last hearings we hold, because we're going to be engaged in a vigorous oversight for the remainder of this Congress, which I think everyone expects.
But we're privileged today to be joined by Secretary James Baker and Chairman Lee Hamilton, who are co-chairs of the Iraq Study Group, and the country owes both of you an enormous debt. Your willingness to seek a bipartisan solution, which is a dangerous thing to do in this town, to take on that responsibility to our most urgent and vexing national security problem is appreciated by everyone. And your statesmanship has been obvious.
The bipartisan commission produced a very worthwhile document, but bipartisan commissions are often criticized for producing the lowest common denominator. But your report broke new ground and changed the debate in this country.
I don't agree with every detail of it, and I have proposed a different plan for Iraq, but I am in total agreement with your central recommendations. To quote the report, "The most important recommendations call for new and enhanced diplomatic and political efforts in Iraq and the region, and a change in the primary mission of forces that will enable the U.S. to begin to move combat forces out of Iraq responsibly. We believe that these two recommendations are equally important and reinforce one another."
The report goes on to recommend that, "By the first quarter of '08, subject to unexpected developments in the security situation on the ground, all combat brigades, not necessarily for force protection, could be out of Iraq," end of quote.
You also state the recommendations should not be separated or carried out in isolation. As you said, Mr. Secretary, this report should not be treated as a fruit salad. Unfortunately, it appears to be exactly what's happening here, and I hope we get a chance to pursue some of the debate that is now swirling around the report and the president's present posture relative to Iraq.
So we're very anxious to hear your thoughts as well on how we can contain Iraq's civil war in the event your recommendations are not implemented and the situation continues to deteriorate, which we hope it won't, but we have to be prepared.
So I thank you in the absence of the distinguished Ranking Member, Senator Lugar. I would like to invite Senator Hagel if he wishes to make any opening comments.
SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R-NB): Mr. Chairman, thank you. I would just add my welcome to our distinguished witnesses and to say again how much we appreciate your continued service to our country and important contributions that I believe one of the most critically important in defining times in our history.
So thank you. I look forward to your comments.
SEN. BIDEN: By the way, I should add just, as I say, a housekeeping measure. On Wednesday, we will hear from former Secretaries Kissinger and Albright, who will testify separately, and on Thursday, we will hear from National Security Advisors Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski, who will also testify separately. So there will be two more days of hearings.
Mr. Secretary, the floor is yours. And again, thank you for accommodating the schedule.
HON. JAMES A. BAKER III: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, Senator Hagel, and distinguished members of the Committee on Foreign Relations. It's an honor for me to be before you this afternoon, as I'm sure it is for my co-chairman, Lee Hamilton.
I'll take the first part of our written statement, Mr. Chairman, and Lee will take the second part. I'll begin by thanking you for the opportunity to appear and to discuss our recommendations.
We'd like to begin, I think, by noting some common elements in the Study Group report and the president's speech of January 10. For example, we agree with President Bush that the situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people, that the consequences of failure would be severe, that it is clear that we need to change our strategy in Iraq, and that only the Iraqis can end the sectarian violence and secure their people.
We support increasing the number of American advisors embedded in the Iraqi Army with the goal that the Iraqi government will assume control of security in all provinces in Iraq by November 2007, as the president stated.
We support the benchmarks President Bush outlined for Iraq, and we agree that now is the time for the Iraqi government to act. As part of our testimony, we have attached a joint statement that we released right after the president's speech on January 10.
Now, the report of our Study Group, Mr. Chairman, has been analyzed at length, so we would like to be fairly brief, and we will concentrate on a few points. First, the security mission; secondly, benchmark performance; third, diplomacy; fourth, economic assistance; and fifth, the Iraqi government.
There are some very important points of similarity between the Study Group's report and the president's plan for security. Both of them keep rapid reaction and special operations forces available to undertake force protection and strike missions against al Qaeda in Iraq, as well as for other missions considered vital by the United States commander in Iraq. Both increase the number of US personnel embedded with Iraqi Army units, and both emphasize the mission of training Iraqi troops.
The president said, and I quote, "We will accelerate the training of Iraqi forces, which remains the essential U.S. security mission in Iraq." To accomplish that goal, the president intends to double the number of advisors embedded with Iraqi Army units. The Study Group report stated, "The primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq should evolve to one of supporting the Iraqi Army, which would take over primary responsibility for combat operations."
The Study Group suggested that such a mission could involve 10,000 to 20,000 American troops. The Study Group stated that the United States should not make an open ended commitment to keep large numbers of American troops in Iraq. We rejected an immediate withdrawal because we believe that so much is at stake.
The Study Group further stated, quote, "While these training and supporting efforts are building up, and as additional Iraqi brigades are being deployed, U.S. combat brigades could begin to move out of Iraq." And we said by the first quarter of 2008, subject to unexpected developments in the security situation on the ground, all combat brigades not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq." But the Study Group set no timetables and we set no deadlines. We believe that military commanders must have the flexibility to respond to events on the ground. We also believe, however, that if the important recommendations of the Study Group are implemented, it will enable the United States to begin to move its combat forces out of Iraq responsibly.
The Study Group report recognizes that even after the United States has moved all combat brigades out if Iraq, we would maintain a considerable military presence in the region, with our still significant force in Iraq and with our powerful air, ground, and naval deployments in Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar, as well as an increased presence in Afghanistan.
These forces would be sufficiently robust to permit the United States, working with the Iraqi government, to avoid the Iraqi government's collapse and the disintegration of the country. They would be sufficiently robust to fight al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations in Iraq, using special operations teams, and to train, equip and support the Iraqi security forces, and sufficiently robust to deter even more destructive interference in Iraq by Syria and Iran.
With regard to the military planning of the United States in Iraq and the region, the Study Group said, and I quote, "The United States must make it clear to the Iraqi government that the United States could carry out its plans, including planned redeployments, even if Iraq does not implement its planned changes." And we further said, "America's other security needs and the future of our military cannot be made hostage to the actions or inactions of the Iraqi government."
The president's plan does not mention the possibility of combat troops moving out of Iraq as the training mission proceeds. The president's plan makes clear that U.S. forces will be sent to Baghdad to help Iraqis clear and secure neighborhoods. That means combat operations, including possibly door-to-door sweeps.
The Study Group made the assessment that the security of Baghdad is crucial to security in Iraq more generally. And while we were in Baghdad at the end of the summer, Iraqi and American leaders told us that as Baghdad goes, so goes Iraq. We state in our report that there is no action the American military can take that, by itself, can bring about success in Iraq.
To reduce the violence in Baghdad and in Iraq, national reconciliation is essential. To provide for the long-term security of the Iraqi people, the Iraqi government must step up and take responsibility for the security of its citizens.
The Study Group, however, did state that it could support a short-term redeployment or surge of American combat forces to stabilize Baghdad, or to speed up the training and equipping mission, if the U.S. commander in Iraq determines that such steps would be effective. Our soldiers have the ability to undertake both missions. It is critically important, however, that the training mission not suffer while the United States military is engaged in a surge for Baghdad. The Study Group believes the training mission should be the primary mission. Otherwise, the United States risks delays in the completion of the training mission, in the handover of responsibility to the Iraqis, and thereby in the departure of U.S. forces from Iraq.
No security plan can work, however, in the absence of national reconciliation. The Study Group report stated that United States forces cannot stop the violence, or even contain it, if there is no underlying political agreement among Iraqis about the future of their country.
The Study Group, the President, and Prime Minister Maliki agree on key measures the Iraqis need to take. And they include: legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis; provincial elections later this year; reform of the de-Baathification laws; and a fair process for considering amendments to Iraq's Constitution. The Study Group report calls on the United States to consult closely with the Iraqi government to develop additional milestones, which are tied to calendar dates.
The Iraqi government's words on behalf of these measures have been good, Mr. Chairman, but its performance has been weak. We commend the President's statement, in which he made clear to the Prime Minister and Iraq's other leaders that America's commitment is not open-ended. If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people and it will lose the support of the Iraqi people. Now is the time to act.
We believe the administration must hold Iraqi leaders to those specific benchmarks and those specific dates for performance. The United States needs to use its leverage to get Iraqi leaders to perform. We use conditionality, Mr. Chairman, with many other recipients of U.S. assistance, and we should do so with Iraq.
The Study Group stated in its recommendation number 21: if the Iraqi government does not make substantial progress toward the achievement of milestones on national reconciliation, security and governance, the United States should reduce its political, military, or economic support for the Iraqi government.
Conditionality is necessary to press the Iraqi government to perform. Conditionality is necessary to press for national reconciliation. In the absence of national reconciliation, there will be sectarian violence without end.
And now, Mr. Chairman, Chairman Hamilton will present the balance of our joint statement. But before he does, let me just say to you and other members of the Committee that it has been a great pleasure for me to work with Lee on this matter. I need not tell this Committee that passions in this country on Iraq understandably run very, very high.
But thanks to Lee Hamilton's broad-gauged and steady commitment to our effort, we have been able to maintain, sustain a bipartisan approach from the beginning of our efforts. Thank you.
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
HON. LEE HAMILTON: Mr. Chairman Biden and Senator Hagel, and other distinguished members of the Committee, thank you very much for letting me appear before your Committee this afternoon to talk about the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group.
Chairman Biden and I remember that you were instrumental in the rollout of the Iraq Study Group way back early last year, and we deeply appreciated that. Let me also say what a great privilege it has been for me to work with Secretary Baker. He is easily one of the most distinguished public servants of my generation.
And I found in every respect, at times when we agree and at times when we disagreed, that it was a genuine pleasure to work with him. But both Jim and I would say that we were merely the chairmen, and that each of the members of the group made very important contributions to the report.
I take up with the diplomatic recommendations. We were encouraged by the president's statement that we will use America's full diplomatic resources to rally support for Iraq from nations throughout the Middle East. We believe there are additional steps, specific steps that should be taken. The president did not endorse a diplomatic effort including all of Iraq's neighbors.
The Study Group took the view that the United States should engage directly with Iran and Syria in order to try to obtain their commitment to constructive policies toward Iraq and other regional issues. We recognize, of course, that dealing with Iran and Syria is controversial. But it is clear that Iran and Syria have influence in Iraq. They are part of the problem.
It is also our assessment that neither Syria nor Iran have a long-term interest in a chaotic Iraq which could negatively affect their own national security interests. Accordingly, it was our view that the United States should try to make them part of the solution.
Sometimes the argument is made that Iran has momentum in the region, and the United States should not negotiate until it has more leverage over Iran. We disagree. We negotiated with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. We can negotiate with Iran on behalf of stability and our interests in Iraq. The United States and Iran cooperated in Afghanistan, and they should explore replicating that model.
The Study Group also calls for a renewed and sustained commitment by the United States to an Arab-Israeli peace on all fronts. The Group laid out specific and detailed steps that should be undertaken in order to achieve a comprehensive peace on all fronts, including Israeli-Palestinian, Israeli-Lebanese, and Israeli-Syrian. Secretary of State Rice has been traveling in the region. Her efforts to launch informal talks between Palestinians and Israelis are a positive development, but they do not yet include the Israeli-Lebanese and Israeli-Syrian tracks of a comprehensive peace.
We feel particularly strongly that the United States is missing an opportunity to promote its goals in Iraq and the broader region by not talking to Syria. Some have asked us: What does the Arab-Israeli conflict have to do with the war in Iraq? Why make one problem harder by taking on two?
The answer is simple. It is difficult to establish regional stability in the Middle East without addressing the Arab-Israeli issue. We want other countries, especially the Sunni Arab countries, to help us. When we go to talk to them about Iraq, they will want to talk about the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The United States says it wants to empower moderate Muslims. Yet the only way to empower the moderates is to take away the most potent grievance of the extremists: that the United States does not care about the Palestinians.
A comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace would deal the extremists a blow in Baghdad, Beirut, the Palestinian territories and elsewhere. It would certainly bolster America's prestige. And, above all, it would guarantee the long-term security of America's ally: Israel.
All of us understand that the peace process is difficult, and that results will be measured in years, not months. But a sustained and comprehensive effort counts. A sustained effort will help us with Iraq and will win us important diplomatic leverage across the board in the Middle East and elsewhere. The President asked for over $1.1 billion in additional economic assistance for Iraq. That too is a step in the right direction. The Study Group believes the commitment should be substantially larger -- $5 billion per year. We need to do many things right in Iraq if we are going to succeed.
We certainly need to devote resources to job creation and capacity building. The president has stated that Iraq will spend $10 billion of its own money on reconstruction and infrastructure projects that will create new jobs. We agree that job creation is necessary to give some hope and purpose to young Iraqis.
Too many of them are frustrated and cannot provide for their families. Too many have turned to militias and the insurgency. Our commitment to job creation should include the Commander's Emergency Response Program, but it must be broader. We need to help Iraqis restart their many idle factories.
Capacity building is also necessary because the Iraqi government is weak. It cannot deliver the basic services of government. It falls short in providing electricity and water. It falls short in providing security. The current government of Iraq can succeed only if it starts to win the confidence of those it governs.
Capacity building means technical assistance and advice. It means better procedures in government agencies, including a greater delegation of authority and better internal controls. The secretary of state has named a reconstruction coordinator in Baghdad. That will be helpful, but that will not address another problem we described in our report.
The problem of coordination is interagency. It is most acute in Washington. The new coordinator is capable, but he is the secretary of state's appointee, not the president's appointee. He cannot make other agencies do what he tells them to do.
Mr. Chairman, the President has decided on a new strategy. Much of the attention right now is on the troop surge. To some degree, that is understandable. We are all concerned when more of our young men and women are put in harm's way. The political, diplomatic, and economic pieces of our policy are just as important as the military piece.
The Study Group was explicit on the importance of a comprehensive approach. All elements of our policy should be pursued at the same time National reconciliation cannot wait. Make no mistake, the violence in Baghdad will not end without national reconciliation. The violence will not end unless Iraq's leaders step up and make difficult decisions about the future of their country. The president correctly stated that only the Iraqis can end the sectarian violence. We are placing all of our bets on the performance of the Iraqi government.
The rhetoric of the Iraqi government has been good. Its performance has been disappointing. Too often, Iraqi leaders have acted in their sectarian interest, not the national interest. The Study Group believes in a comprehensive military, diplomatic, economic and political approach: training as the primary U.S. military mission in Iraq; engaging Iraq's neighbors and the international community on behalf of stability in Iraq and the region; building the capacity of the Iraqi government and focusing on job creation as part of a robust economic program; and, of course, holding the Iraqi government to performance benchmarks, particularly on national reconciliation.
Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, thank you for your attention. We would be pleased to respond to your questions.
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you very much. We'll go eight-minute rounds, and let me begin by asking either or both of your to expand on what is, throughout the report, that it is not in the interests of Iran for there to be chaos in Iraq.
That is met with overwhelming skepticism by the administration and many others.
Could you be more specific? Why is it that Iran would not be interested, quote, in more chaos in Iraq?
MR. BAKER: Well, Mr. Chairman, I'll take a shot at that, and then Lee can add to it. Iran has many disparate elements in its polity, and they have differing views among those elements. If there were absolute chaos in Iraq, Iran could be expected to be overrun by literally thousands of refugees, in our opinion.
So I think that's the main reason that they would not have an interest in a chaotic Iraq. Having said that, there's no doubt they take great pleasure in seeing the United States tied down there, and the United States facing difficulties there.
And with respect to Iran generally, may I just say that the recommendation in our report regarding talking to Iran is really a recommendation about talking to them in the context of the formation of an international Iraq support group, that is a group of nations, a coalition if you will, that would help us with some of the difficulties we have in Iraq, including all of Iraq's neighbors.
I was authorized by the president to approach the government of Iran as we were conducting our study group's efforts. We did so. We broached this possibility to them that you've heard us articulate here this afternoon. That is, they helped us in Afghanistan when we approached them.
It was to the joint benefit of both Iran and the United States that they did so. And our view is we ought to try to replicate that situation, but we take great pains to point out we are not talking about a broad-based dialogue with Iran that would, for instance, include her nuclear efforts, which we specifically say in the report should remain in the UN Security Council.
When I approached a representative of the government of Iran, the answer came back that they would have little interest in participating to help because of the attitude of our government. We say, however, in our report, we still think we ought to ask them, and when they refuse, alone, we think, among all of Iraq's neighbors, we can hold them up to be the rejectionist government or state that they really are.
SEN. BIDEN: We heard today from --
MR. HAMILTON: Mr. Chairman, let me just add if I may to that.
SEN. BIDEN: Sure.
MR. HAMILTON: Of course, I agree with what Jim has said. We tend to look at Iran as a very monolithic state, which it is not. Fifty percent -- I think a little under 50 percent -- of the Iranian population is Persian. But they have about a 24, 25 percent of the population that is Azeri. They have a lot of Kurds in that country.
All you have to do is read their press in the last two or three days to see that there are a lot of centrifugal forces operating inside Iraq today.
If you had a territorial disintegration in Iraq, if you had chaos there, you could certainly inflame sectarian tensions in that region, which would be very, very adverse to Iran.
SEN. BIDEN: In what way? Again, I believe I share your view, and I think I know the answer. But we use those phrases because we're involved in this foreign policy speak a lot. The administration made it clear today, and has made it clear throughout, that merely having them part of a support group would enhance their influence in the region.
We don't want to enhance their influence. So when you say this disintegration would cause great difficulty, beyond population flows of refugees, what other aspect --
MR. BAKER: The possibility of regional conflagration, I think, Mr. Chairman. I mean, if you had a chaotic situation in Iraq, you're much more likely to have Iraq's neighbors move in there each to protect its own particular interest.
SEN. BIDEN: The argument is made again by administration supporters is that that's exactly what Iraq would want, that that would allow them to essentially annex the Shia territories, which make up 60 percent of the population and a considerable part of the territory.
MR. HAMILTON: Let's take a look at present policy today, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. BIDEN: Let me make it clear, I agree with you guys.
MR. HAMILTON: I understand that, but let's make it clear that the current policy is not working. There was a big article on the front page of the Post about that today. We've tried to isolate Iran, we've tried to isolate Syria, and it simply hasn't worked. What's happened?
Iran has become the most powerful country in the region. It continues to support terrorist organizations, it's continuing to develop its nuclear potential. How can anyone say today that our policy towards Iran is working? It is not.
Likewise Syria. Syria has certainly been a negative force in Iraq. It continues to support terrorist organizations in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. But our policy of isolation is not working.
We don't have a lot to lose, frankly, by engaging these countries. Jim and I are not starry eyed about this. We don't think you sit down with these folks and immediately come to solutions. There isn't any country on the face of the earth that has caused us more heartburn over the last several decades than Iran has.
So these solutions are going to come hard. We do not view talking as appeasement. And the argument you mentioned a moment ago is that we enhance their influence when we sit down with them.
SEN. BIDEN: That's what's being stated by --
MR. HAMILTON: I understand that. But my goodness, surely we have enough confidence in American diplomats to know, or to think, that if they sit down with Iran, we're not putting our stamp of approval on Iran, nor are we agreeing to concessions. Look, you sit down to talk to people for a lot of different reasons, and among those is to collect intelligence, to dispel misunderstandings, and to explain our policies, and a lot of other reasons.
They have a lot of influence in Iraq today. And they are certainly part of the problem, but they also have to be part of the solution as well.
MR. BAKER: Mr. Chairman, we don't think they'll help us, as I indicated, and we say that in our report. On the other hand, the engagement we're talking about is very limited engagement. It's to do the same thing with us that they did in Afghanistan.
And as you probably know, the Iranians are members of the so- called Compact. They attended the meetings in New York, the Iranian foreign minister and our secretary of state. So we're not going much beyond --
SEN. BIDEN: I agree with you completely. My time is almost up. Let me just conclude by asking you, you point out that you did indicate that you would support a short term redeployment or surge of American combat forces to stabilize Baghdad, but you condition it in two ways. The remainder of that sentence says, "complemented by a comprehensive political, economic, and diplomatic effort, and if the commanding officers ask for it."
When you wrote the report, the commanding officers were explicit they did not want it. General Abizaid and General Casey were explicit they did not want the surge.
Did that in any way color your recommendation? And do you think there is the necessary complementary, comprehensive political, economic and political effort going on? Obviously, the diplomatic is not. What about the other two?
MR. HAMILTON: Well, I think, Mr. Chairman, it makes all the difference when you talk about a surge -- how it is done, for how long it is done, for what purpose it is done, and in what context it is done. And where we clearly say that we can support a surge for Baghdad or, we put it in the alternative, for training, we also put it in the context that there must be an effort at national reconciliation at the same time.
Now, one of the major differences we have here with the administration at this point is highlighted in Mr. Hadley's article this morning --
MR. HAMILTON: Yesterday, thank you. He says, "Ultimately, a strategy for success must present a realistic plan for bringing security to the people of Baghdad..." -- then this is the key sentence -- "... this is a precondition to advancing other goals." In other words, he is saying that you must have security before you can advance other goals.
Our approach in the Iraq Study Group was that you've got to deal with these problems comprehensively, and that if you're focused solely on the question of security, you're not going to get there, because you cannot isolate that security from the other aspects --
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you for making that very, very important distinction.
MR. BAKER: But let me add to that, Mr. Chairman, if I might. The comment that I think I made in my portion of our formal statement, and that is when we were in Baghdad, everybody told us -- everybody told us -- that as Baghdad goes, so goes Iraq. And we believe that our forces are able to undertake both a surge in Baghdad under the conditions we laid out short term and provided the commander on the ground authorizes it, and the training of Iraqi forces.
Our report, I think, makes that clear, and I need to say that, because --
SEN. BIDEN: But that doesn't sound like that's what Congressman Hamilton is saying --
MR. HAMILTON: There's another point here that's very important, Mr. Chairman. I'm sorry to go on.
SEN. BIDEN: No, this is the key distinction, and it's worth you taking time.
MR. HAMILTON: We say that the training of the Iraqi forces must be the primary mission. By primary mission, we mean we have to put the highest priority on training the Iraqi forces. The sooner you get to that, the sooner you do it, you are able to withdraw American forces.
I don't think you're going to be able to withdraw American forces until you do train the Iraqis. So the highest priority is training Iraqi forces. Now, if your focus is all on the surge, as it has been, frankly, up to this date, if it's all on the surge, you make secondary the training of Iraqi forces.
And we said the primary mission has to be the Iraqi forces. Now, I think it's a positive thing that in Mr. Hadley's article, he uses the words "training and supporting Iraqi troops will remain our military's essential..." -- that's what the president said -- "... and primary mission.
My concern about this article, frankly, is that he then goes on to talk about -- in some detail -- about the surge, and what you do to get the security of Baghdad. He does not give us any detail about what he means by the primary function of training.
MR. BAKER: At the same time, we do know that the president's plan contemplates doubling the number of our combat forces engaged in the training mission. So there has been an enhancement of the training function as we recommended.
MR. HAMILTON: That was for embedding forces, I think, yeah.
SEN. BIDEN: I would love to continue this, but my time is up. Senator Hagel.
SEN. HAGEL: Mr. Chairman, thank you again. And again, gentlemen, we are grateful, this country is grateful for the contributions that you and your eight distinguished colleagues made, and continue to make, who served on the Iraq Study Commission.
In pursuing the conversation that the two of you were having with Chairman Biden, the question of, well, why would Iraq be interested in cooperating -- and you both have answered it, I think, clearly. And I would be remiss if I didn't say, which I have a number of times, that I am strongly supportive of what your commission has recommended.
There's an old saying that you all are both aware of, because you are practitioners of this business, and that is nations respond in their own self interest. There's something rather reassuring about that. That means that there's some consistency and continuity.
As you both know, what is most dangerous is the unpredictable. And we have that, I think, in a constant state of play with North Korea. Now, if, as you both articulated, it would be in the interest of Iran to find some solution, resolution for their interests -- not that they would like to help us out, necessarily. We know that's not the case.
And as Secretary Baker said, you both come at this as your commission, very clear-eyed. I don't think anyone would ever accuse Ed Meese, for example, of being a squishy person on these kinds of things. And as you have each said, as has been framed in the commission's report, that a comprehensive Middle East peace deal must be part of this. You've used a number of times "comprehensive." Your 79 recommendations, "comprehensive."
You talk about maybe a surge of troops, training, primary mission. But what, in my opinion, has been dangerously missing from what the president laid out the other day is that I see no new diplomatic initiatives. I see no diplomatic focus or efforts.
Take the Hadley piece that Chairman Hamilton has just referred to. It is all military, it is all surge, there's training, but where is the diplomatic focus and effort? I find it almost incomprehensible when you talk about Iraq, Iran, and America's policy that we won't talk with them, we won't engage them.
In fact, our allies, the sovereign government of Iraq, is engaging the Iranians. The prime minister of Iraq, the president of Iraq -- out of Tehran, meeting. You all saw this piece in The New York Times a couple days ago regarding the Iranian ambassador to Iraq saying that the Iranians are going to deepen their political, economic, and security ties with Iraq.
But yet, the contradiction, at least in my mind, is our government that we are supportive of in Iraq is going down one path with the Iranians, and we're going down another. Now, you have said, both of you today, and again in your report, that the outcome in Iraq is not going to come from the military. It's going to come from a comprehensive policy, which you have articulated rather clearly.
But again, I heard from the president another carrier battle group in the Persian Gulf, Patriot anti-missile batteries going in, more troops, as well as the Hadley piece, and I think there's rather significant evidence of further focus on this administration's policy.
So my question is then if all of this is playing out, as the two of you have noted today, and is articulated quite clearly in your commission report, then what do you believe is the outcome? It seems to me folly to believe, as Chairman Hamilton has said, the Iranians are already in there.
They already have an immense amount of influence, that we can't stop that. That is part of it.
I mean, let's be real here. Many of the senior Iraqi government officials were exiled in Iran during Saddam Hussein's time. So I think we somehow are getting a foggy sense of this.
So my question to each of you is if all these dynamics are in play, as you have just noted, then where is this going? Where is this going without any American diplomatic effort here or initiative to try to frame up the very things that you have all focused on in your 79 recommendations?
MR. BAKER: Well, Senator, there are diplomatic efforts. That's mentioned, of course, in Steve Hadley's piece. And by the way, before we say that that piece only deals with surge, let's remember that there are resolutions pending up here to, in effect, say the surge is not in the national interest. So quite naturally, he's going to concentrate on the surge in his piece.
The president has said that training is the essential mission for us in Iraq, and Steve has said that training and supporting Iraqi troops will remain our military's essential and primary mission. Now, I think we ought to take them at their word. And we ought to be glad that they are, in effect, reiterating one of the principal recommendations of our Iraq Study Group.
But you know, when we talk about talking to Iran, neither Lee nor I are suggesting that you just talk to them about incentives. We say, in fact, in here that when we contemplate talking to Syria or Iran, we talk about using incentives and disincentives. I think to some extent, that's what you're seeing happening now when you talk about carrier battle groups and so forth.
And our report also makes clear, Senator Hagel, that we don't think Iran will talk to us about helping in Iraq the way they did in Afghanistan, even though they might fear a chaotic Iraq. We don't think it's going to happen, but we still think we ought to make the proffer.
And as I indicated earlier, we have sat down with Iran in the Compact group at the level of foreign ministers. So it's not as if nothing's being done.
Where I think we're missing the boat, if I might jump ahead a little bit -- and I know Lee probably has a comment on this too -- where I think we're really missing the boat is Syria. I think we have tremendous opportunity here to perhaps move them away from a marriage of convenience with Iran.
And in our report, on page -- let me refer you to page 56 and 57 -- we lay out in specific detail there, Senator Hagel, what we ought to be talking to Syria about, and there are a lot of issues. But they're things that Syria has to deal with. We lay it all out there.
And I really hope that if you haven't focused on that, the Committee, that you'll focus on it. I think there's a real opportunity there to move them away from Iran without giving up anything. As Lee said, we're not talking about starry-eyed, naÃÂ¯ve, talking to them about giving them this or that without getting something that's really important for us.
But if we were able to flip Syria away from Iran and back toward where I think they would like to be, based on a two and a half to three-hour discussion I had, with the president's approval, with the Syrian foreign minister, I think they're ready to come back.
And what could we do? We could get them to get Hamas, which is headquartered in Damascus, to recognize Israel's right to exist. Boy, would that be a step in the right direction. You'd give Israel a negotiating partner on the Palestinian track.
I think we could cutoff the flow of arms to Hezbollah, because Syria is the transit point for all of those. And we're not suggesting you give up anything. Certainly, you hold their feet to the fire on the investigations going on with the assassinations in Lebanon, you get them to stop screwing around in Lebanon to the degree and extent that they have been, you get them to do a better job of closing their borders.
So that's a longwinded answer to your question, and I know Lee wants to add to all of it.
SEN. HAGEL: Before I ask the Chairman to respond, Mr. Secretary, you still didn't answer the question. But what's interesting about your point, you used the term "if" more than once -- if Syria. And by the way, I agree with everything you've just said. But that isn't the case. That's not reality, unless this administration changes rather significantly its direction. So your ifs, ifs, ifs are not the reality of what we're dealing with.
MR. BAKER: That's why we have to talk to them, Senator.
SEN. HAGEL: I agree with you. Is the president listening to this? As of today at one o'clock, what you have just talked about -- if, if, if -- that isn't where the administration is going.
MR. BAKER: Well, I didn't suggest that it was. I know that.
SEN. HAGEL: So I asked you what you thought was the outcome of the reality of where we're going. But that isn't reality when you say, well, if we would do this, if we would do this --
MR. BAKER: Well, the administration is -- they are pursuing a diplomatic approach, not the one necessarily that we layout in here...
SEN. HAGEL: Would you define that diplomatic approach?
MR. BAKER: Yeah, they're lining up our historic allies in the region to enlist them in adopting the same policy toward Iran that we have, which is a policy of isolation. Now, they are doing that, and they are also -- Secretary Rice has lined up, I think it's confirmed, a meeting between President Abbas of the Palestinian National Authority and Prime Minister Olmert.
So she's working the Israeli-Palestinian track, not working the Israeli, Syrian, or Lebanese track right now. But they are pursuing diplomacy, it's just not as broad and extensive as what we recommend.
SEN. HAGEL: Well, thank you. And I know I'm over my time, but I do want to get the Chairman's point on this. Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
MR. HAMILTON: Well, let me make one point very quickly about talking with Iran. In today's context, part of the reason for talks with Iran is to prevent the unnecessary, inadvertent, escalation of tensions. That can become hugely important in the days ahead.
Now, in listening to your question, Senator, I think you got it right when you understand that in order to be effective in Iraq, you have to integrate all of the tools of American power. You cannot just emphasize the military and expect to succeed. You cannot just emphasize diplomatic. You cannot just emphasize political and economic. You have to integrate.
And this is the tough challenge in Iraq. Now, part of the use of the tools of American power is the tool that Secretary Baker, Jim, has been talking about, and that is the diplomatic offensive. I want you to take a careful look -- you've probably already done it -- at our recommendations on the new diplomatic offensive.
What we're talking about here -- we recommended it be launched in December, immediately. We believe there was a genuine urgency about it. And then, look at the countries that we talked about. All of the attention, of course, has been on Iran and Syria, for understandable reasons.
But when we're talking about this new diplomatic initiative, we're talking about engaging the Arab League, we're talking about engaging all of the key regional states, we're talking about the border states with Iraq, we're talking about the European Union, possibly Germany, Japan, South Korea.
In other words, we need a lot of help in stabilizing things in Iraq. And we think there is a high degree of urgency needed on a diplomatic offensive. I take the initial steps by Secretary Rice to be positive. I think they're very modest, but they're positive.
But we certainly need to build on them, and we need to build on them with a much, much greater sense of urgency than I see.
SENATOR CHRISTOPHER J. DODD (D-CT): Thank you. Senator Biden's out of the room momentarily, so I'm now in command here. I'm going to deal myself several hours here. Well, thank you both, and you've heard this repeatedly from others, and I'm sure you conveyed this to your colleagues who did the work over these 9 or 10 months, it was a tremendous effort, and I think all of us in the country are grateful to both of you for putting your time and effort.
I've read this so many times I can almost quote it without reading, but it just deserves being repeated over again. The opening sentence in your executive summary in December, "The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating." That sentence is a compelling sentence.
And skipping down to the next paragraph, "Our most important recommendations call for new and enhanced diplomatic and political efforts in Iraq and the region, and a change in the primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq that will enable the United States to begin to move its combat forces out of Iraq responsibly. The two recommendations are equally important and reinforce on another."
And I want to come back to Syria in a minute, and I want to thank Secretary Baker for talking about it. We were in Syria, Senator Kerry and I, in December, and we were in Lebanon as well as Jordan, and Israel, and in Iraq. And embassy people were in the room there.
This was, obviously, a conversation -- what went on there, the offer to really work with the United States and others, for the first time in 24 years, you have an exchange of ambassadors between Baghdad and Damascus. Maliki, the prime minister, was in exile in Damascus during much of that period of Saddam Hussein's rule.
They're exchanging ministers back and forth. I don't want to exaggerate the point, but when asked to Assad what his goals were in Iraq, his answer was, I want a pluralistic Arab state. I'm not interested in having an Iranian, Shia-dominated, fundamentalist state. Now, that was said in English in a private meeting. I'm repeating what he said to us in that room, and it was reported in cable traffic back. I'm not going to verify for the veracity of the statement. But it seems to me if two United States senators, in the presence of embassy personnel, have a president of Syria saying this is what he's interested in, why wouldn't you pursue that, in my view?
I called the State Department, got back, and repeated privately what the answer was. This was now two and a half months ago. And it seems to me, you could prove me wrong. Maybe he was just saying that for our consumption, maybe it was a political trick -- I don't know what the purpose was.
It also may have been true, in which case it seems to me we are wasting valuable time to get someone with whom we have significant disagreements on a variety of issues, but who may agree with us on this issue to play a constructive role. And so I would like both of you to respond to whether or not you believe the situation is still as you describe it in the first sentence, or maybe worse, today, as we approach the month of February.
And secondly, as a practical matter, on the surge question, putting 17,000 young men and women in a city of 6 million people, where there are 23 militias operating, not to mention Baathist insurgents, maybe some al Qaeda elements, how is this in any way going to enhance the recommendations you make here, given the goal would be to either arrest or engage Shia or Sunni militias?
In an article written by Fareed Zakaria, it talks about failing or succeeding absolutely makes the goal of political reconciliation maybe that much more difficult, even if it succeeds. Because once we've engaged these elements rather than figure out ways to bring them together, you get further away from the strong recommendation you make about internal political reconciliation.
So I'd like you to respond to how, in any way, you can see this surge contributing to the very recommendations, the most serious recommendations you make in your report. And Secretary Baker, you might just, for the purpose of discussion here, share with us your experience back in -- what was it -- '91, the Gulf War.
I've heard it talked about, 15 trips to Syria.
MR. BAKER: I think I made 16 trips, Senator...
SEN. DODD: ... just to talk about that...
MR. BAKER: And let me just say that at the time, it was not particularly popular to talk to Syria. On the 16th trip, Syria changed 25 years of policy, refusing to sit down to negotiate peace with Israel, and they came to the Madrid Conference and sat down and negotiated peace with Israel.
Syria, at that time, was on our list of states that sponsored terrorism, but we talked to them. We spent a lot of time. We practiced diplomacy full time, and it paid off.
SEN. DODD: On the 16th trip.
MR. BAKER: On the 16th trip. Now, let me just say with respect -- one other thing with respect to Syria and you comment about their exchanging ambassadors with Iraq, and that Assad wants a secular Iraq, which is quite true. If we could -- and I believe we can -- move them away from, again, their marriage of convenience with Iran, that would do a lot more than I think we're able to do right now to marginalize Iran.
And it would really help us with Hezbollah and Hamas. If the Syrian foreign minister -- and I have no reason to think he's not right -- if he's right, the Hamas offices are in Damascus, if they could get Hamas to recognize Israel's right to exist, maybe they could get a unity government with Fatah, and then you'd have a negotiating partner for Israel with the Palestinians. It would be a huge step in the right direction.
SEN. DODD: He also added, by the way, and I just say this to you, we asked about a direct negotiation between Syria and Israel. In the past, the Golan has been the precondition.
MR. BAKER: That's right.
SEN. DODD: He said, I'm dropping the precondition. I want the Golan back, he said, but I'm not going to make it a precondition.
MR. BAKER: That is the key, of course, to an ultimate peace. Some day, and hopefully in my and your lifetimes, Senator, there will be peace between Israel and Syria -- I believe there will be. That will be the key. We mention that in our report, but we go further, further, I think, than any administration has gone to date, and we suggest that we give Israel a U.S. security guarantee in order assuage their security concerns in the event that they were to trade the Golan for a full, complete, and secure peace with Syria.
MR. HAMILTON: Senator, let me make a few comments, if I may. First of all, on the Syrian matter, I think there are a lot of indications coming out of Syria today, including your conversations, which indicate that they're very, very interested in engagement with the United States.
Not all of those are official contacts, like yours, but many, many in the non-official private sector. They are sending signals to us. Now, when you stop to think about it, the alliance between Syria and Iran is an unnatural one. Syria is Sunni, Iran is Shia, and it's not something that is bound to stay permanent. And we ought to be, as Jim has said, ready to exploit that.
You also asked about the trend line since the Iraqi report was issued. I don't think they've gotten much better. December was the deadliest month of the year for 2006. We had 108 fatalities in that month. The UN reported recently 3.7 million refugees since we issued our report. That's 1 in 8 Iraqis.
Saddam Hussein's execution made him a martyr in the Arab world in the manner in which it was handled. Oil production is still down below prewar levels. General Petraeus testified before one of your Committees the other day that life is a daily struggle to survive in Iraq. And the end of the year passed and the Iraqi government still hasn't met any of these benchmarks. These benchmarks are all agreed upon. They've been known for months, but they still have not met those benchmarks.
What's happening? Why are they not acting to meet those benchmarks? And weeks have passed since our report came out. And, of course, the American people, the polls show very clearly they continue to sour on this war. So the trend lines are not positive with regard to Iraq, since the report came out. They continue to be negative.
SEN. DODD: The first question I asked, as a practical, given the number of troops we're going to place on the ground in Baghdad, given the size of that city and the number of militias operating, given your strong recommendations here, the two strong recommendations, how does that in any way contribute to achieving the goals that you two have outlined along with your colleagues in this report in December, putting 17,000 kids in a cauldron like Baghdad?
MR. HAMILTON: I know, I understand. It is possible, Senator, that the infusion of 20,000 additional troops will bring about, as the generals said to us, that we talked to -- and they didn't recommend it -- but they said it is possible, if you put in a lot of additional troops into a fairly localized area, you can bring about a temporary improvement in the situation there.
That could happen with the surge. We hope it does happen. I'm not predicting it, but it could happen.
SEN. DODD: But even if it does succeed, don't you run the risk of keeping the Shia and Sunni further apart, given the policing role they'll function, which runs directly contrary to exactly what we're trying to achieve here, and that is political reconciliation?
MR. BAKER: I don't think so, Senator. You couldn't get them much further today than they are in Baghdad. And let me say one more time, everybody we talk to says that as Baghdad goes, so goes Iraq.
And one of our first tentative conclusions was that we needed to put even more forces into Baghdad, but we concluded we didn't have them available. Now, that was not a conclusion of the Iraq Study Group. It was an informal discussion we had among ourselves.
So I guess my bottom line on the surge is, look, the president's plan ought to be given a chance. Give it a chance, because we heard all of this. The general that you confirmed 81 to nothing day before yesterday, this is his idea. He's the supporter of it. He's not a commander on the ground in Iraq. Give it a chance.
SEN. DODD: Senator Sununu.
SEN. JOHN E. SUNUNU (R-NH): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Welcome to both of you. Congressman Hamilton, I well remember serving in the House with you. And while I'm sure you don't remember it -- there's no reason that you should -- I always found it extremely helpful, whether I was voting with you or against you, to ask you why you were voting the way you were.
And it always seemed to be revealing of some aspect of the debate that I didn't have the opportunity to consider. So I very much appreciate you both being here. And I enjoyed, to the extent that anyone could, reading the Study Group report. And I will make the observation, as I've made to a number of people who asked me about it, some of them being in the press, it was very clearly written.
I mean, it was a dark assessment in many ways, but it was clear, it was direct, and it was to the point, which makes it especially ironic that over the last three or four weeks, everyone has looked at that report and walked away with it perceiving, in some ways, what they wanted to perceive, that they used it to reinforce preconceptions rather than to engage in a discussion of how best to implement as many of the recommendations in the report, the vast majority of which I agree with.
And, in fact, to that end, some of my colleagues probably read the benchmarks that come out every week that come out about what's happening. And you mentioned electricity and our performance and the Iraqi performance on electricity has been an absolute disaster.
But I noted that last week, the oil output, the exports of oil plummeted, I mean, to the lowest level perhaps in three or four years. And fortunately -- I didn't have to make too much of a commotion -- there was a footnote, the reason for that was that they finally installed meters.
They went to the port and they installed meters so that they could actually measure throughput, which is one of the recommendations in the oil sector that you made, and it is a shame, in some ways, that it's taken so long. I've talked a great deal on this Committee about the importance of distribution of oil revenues and actually measuring economic performance, because you want to enfranchise people economically, and that's the way to do it.
So there is a recommendation that I think we've made progress on. Unfortunately, in other areas, perhaps not so much.
Secretary Baker, I want to ask a question about conditionality. You mentioned conditionality. First, what specific conditions should we look at and consider most strongly, and second, on conditions or on encouraging Iraqis to take the various steps, measures that we've encouraged them to do on oil, and elections, and reconciliation, are there other methods to facilitate their act of engagement on these issues, or are hard conditions the best way to do it?
MR. BAKER: Well, Senator, we call for, in our report, additional benchmarks to be worked out with the Iraqi government. In addition to those benchmarks that the administration has already come up with, we suggest that they be tied to specific dates. We do not spell out in exquisite detail the conditionality, but we have that one sentence that I read in my part of the prepared statement that says if they don't meet these benchmarks, the United States should either make it clear -- I guess we said should reduce its political, military, or economic support.
And we wrote it that way intentionally. It's a bit vague, but the administration would then have, we think, all the flexibility they need to say if you don't go this, we're going to take this away, or do this; if you don't do that, we're going to take that away or do that.
I mean, there's a lot of flexibility in there, but we need to make it very clear that there ought to be conditionality.
SEN. SUNUNU: Understood that you don't want to be more specific. Let me ask you a question, though, about approaching the Iraqis on conditions. Simply put, there are two ways to do it. You can do it publicly and make it known what you expect them to do and, in return, what conditions you're going to impose on it. Or you can make the point privately.
There are two questions. One, which is more effective, or two, what factors do you use to determine whether you're private in your setting conditions or public?
MR. BAKER: I was just whispering to Lee this was the very debate that we had on many occasions during the preparation of this report, because Lee wanted to say that the president should lay it all out there publicly and in effect make a public statement or threat. And maybe it was because I was a former secretary of state -- I thought it might be better done privately.
SEN. SUNUNU: I'm sorry to have driven such a sharp wedge between the two of you.
MR. BAKER: Well, you didn't. The wedge was there, but we worked it out. And I think sometimes, publicly might work better. Generally speaking, I think that sometimes when you do it publicly, you put a government in a position where it can't take the action you want it to take.
MR. HAMILTON: Senator, first of all, I want to say that neither Jim nor I can claim credit for the clear writing.
The people that did it are sitting behind us here, Chris Cojum (ph), and John Williams, and Ben Robes (ph) are the gentlemen who deserve the credit for that.
I was amused by your comment that everybody reads the report and sees something in it they can support. I suppose that's a result of a bipartisan effort. And there isn't any doubt that we tried to deal pragmatically and realistically with the political situation in two countries, Baghdad and Washington, and to reach an agreement.
And as you know, that's not easy to do. I think Jim's expressed my view on the conditionality. Quite frankly, I've lost my patience with Maliki. He has known what he needs to do for a long time. I would give preference to an approach that deals with it privately, but we've used that approach for better than half a year now and it hasn't worked. And I think we've got to put the screws on this fellow.
SEN. SUNUNU: I want to ask a question next about discussions, not necessarily negotiations, but involved discussions with those in the region, in particular, Syria and Iran. But it could apply to any adversary. When those countries come up, there are two specific concerns that are raised, or at least that I've heard raised over again, and I want you to respond to both of them.
One concern is that we're reluctant to engage in discussions because the counterpart might insist on something that we're not prepared to agree to, that we might find unacceptable. The second concern that's often raised, or point that's often made, is that the adversary understands what they need to do and what we want them to do, so there's no point in speaking with them. Can you address both of those concerns?
MR. HAMILTON: On the first point, they will insist on us doing something that we object to -- we just tell them no. Do we have no confidence in American diplomats? Do we assume that if the American diplomats sit down at the table with them, they're just going to agree to everything?
My goodness, no. So all you've got to do is say no, and believe you me, there'd be plenty of things they'd ask us to do that we'd just say no to. On the second point --
SEN. SUNUNU: That they know everything they need -- we've already instructed or given an indication of our objectives.
MR. HAMILTON: It's very easy to sit in Washington and speculate about the intentions and the motivations of the other side. And every op-ed is filled with these guesses. They're guesses. We don't really know. Now, we can make an educated guess, but we don't really know.
The only way you really know is to put them down at the table and test, test them. And you may not get it the first time either, but you may get it the 50th time when you talk to them. I just find rather disconcerting the speculation that we enter into about the intent of the other side with such assurance. Now, we may be right and we may also be wrong.
SEN. SUNUNU: Thank you both very much.
SEN. BIDEN: Senator Menendez.
SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D-NJ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Secretary and to Congressman Hamilton, who I had the privilege of serving with in the House, and under his leadership as the chairman of the International Relations Committee, I appreciate both of your work, and I appreciate a lot of what you put in the Iraq Study Report.
My sense -- and I tried to pursue this with Secretary Rice when she was here earlier today with Ambassador Negroponte at his confirmation hearing -- is that while our focus has been, obviously, by the president's escalation, that it seems to me that everything I read from your report, the whole assessment part of it, for starters, speaks volumes of the urgency of the moment, and secondly, that that urgency is overwhelmingly in the context of having a diplomatic surge.
When I looked at the comments, the assessment that you made about how while Iraq has an elected government, it has focused its acts in a sectarian context, when I look at the corruption that is involved, when I look at the lack of capacity that is involved by virtue of de- Baathification, an Iraqi Army where the equal numbered divisions sign up only to serve in certain parts of the country and willing to respond to a national context, and a whole host of other things.
It just seems to me that when I see the president's response, which I personally disagree with, but I don't understand how we have not seen a surge in all of the diplomacy and the actions necessary to achieve all those other elements that are really about success.
When we speak about success in Iraq, in my mind, that's what success is. So my question is, is there not a real sense of urgency, has much changed since you issued your report in the context of that assessment? Thirdly, is it not necessary to have -- you refer to benchmarks in the report, but benchmarks with some form of conditionality, whether it is timeframe or consequential for not meeting in some way.
Because we've had benchmarks, and those benchmarks have many times not been achieved. So at the end of the day, benchmarks without consequences are aspirational and nothing else. I'd like to hear some of your responses in those three areas, sense of urgency, a sense of having the surge be more diplomatic than anything else, the consequences, the necessity to have benchmarks with real consequences, combination deadlines and/or actual consequences that are invoked for not meeting them when we believe that they're not being met.
MR. BAKER: Senator, we just had a colloquy here about conditionality on the benchmarks, and we think there should be conditionality. There should be consequences. I don't want to speak for Lee, but I believe he would agree with the statement that I think there's a sense of urgency here in our report with respect to all of our recommendations because of the grave and deteriorating situation we found in Iraq as we studied this problem.
And so, I don't know that you can say that there's no sense of urgency with respect to military, but there is with respect to diplomatic. There's a sense of urgency with respect to both. You want to add anything?
MR. HAMILTON: Well, I think, Senator, that there is, as you correctly note in the report, a sense of urgency, almost with every recommendation, whether it's diplomatic or changing the mission of American forces, or other aspects of the report. So the urgency is clearly there.
We do not believe we have a lot of time here. We've got to get this right, and we've got to get it right pretty quickly, because events are continuing to move against us. I spelled out those events a moment ago, I think, before you were in the room, that are moving against us since we issued our report.
And so, we, all of us have a great sense of urgency on it. And with regard to the surge, I said a little earlier that we say in the report that we can support the surge, but that is in the context of doing a lot of other things at the same time, including diplomatic, and including political, diplomatic, and economic action. You have to integrate all of these things.
SEN. MENENDEZ: With all due respect, do you sense that this administration has captured that same sense of urgency on these other matters?
MR. HAMILTON: No, I do not. I think that, for example, on the conditionality question, the president's approach has been I must try to give Mr. Maliki confidence. And he has been unwilling to be critical of Mr. Maliki. Now, that's maybe the approach by which you would begin.
I think you're at a point now where you have to bear down on the Maliki government because of their non-performance over a period of time. And if they don't perform, and if they don't perform pretty quickly, then we will lose it. I don't care how many troops you put in there. We're going to lose it.
They must begin to perform, and they must begin to perform promptly.
SEN. MENENDEZ: And we've heard about the escalation of the war, and what we've heard, starting with Secretary Rice and others, is that the Iraqis will be at the forefront of this, and we'll be assisting them. And then, we've heard testimony quite to the contrary of that.
I looked at your report, and clearly, based upon that report's assessment of Iraqi troops capability, you know, preparedness, and willingness to fight in a national context, that's just simply not there at this time.
MR. HAMILTON: You're correct. I mean, the surge is not a new idea. We've had several surges there. And what has been very clear is that the Iraqi forces have not performed. They didn't show up on some occasions, or they showed up much fewer in strength than we had anticipated.
Now, the argument is made that things have changed, that they're ready to go. I hope that's the case, but we certainly haven't seen solid evidence of that up to this point.
SEN. MENENDEZ: It seems to me we're rolling the dice on putting 20 some odd thousand extra troops up first in the hope and expectation of a quantity that has been proven to date not to meet the obligations that we would want them to see, and that therefore, if the troop strength isn't there, the ability to fight in a national context isn't there.
If we're told that that's what's necessary and they're going to lead the way and we're going to follow them, and if all of the diplomatic efforts necessary, conditionality on benchmarks necessary, is not being pursued with the urgency that is needed, I don't understand how we are moving forward in this context to success.
MR. HAMILTON: What we said was if you do the things we recommend, we have a chance.
SEN. MENENDEZ: The clock is ticking.
MR. HAMILTON: And we believe there is a chance, at this point. In other words, we did not, in the Iraq Study Group Report, come to the conclusion that it was hopeless and, therefore, we should just pull out immediately. We believe, if a lot of things happen quickly, there is a chance we can succeed.
Now, you can get into some dispute as to the definitions of success, but we can reasonably succeed. But we recognize that that is a very, very daunting challenge, and we recognize that you've got to get at it with a great sense of urgency.
The questions you were raising relate to the competence of the Iraqi government. Can they perform? There isn't any doubt, 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. If it doesn't happen, then the result will be very, very bad.
But if we can put this together, there's a chance we can reasonably succeed. We do believe that we have a lot of interests in this region that need to be protected, and we think that we have to behave very carefully and very responsibly in order to protect those interests. And we, therefore, rejected the idea of just pulling out immediately.
But it does make you uneasy, there's no doubt about it. It makes you uneasy when you have to put your dependence on this government which, as you say, hasn't performed very well in the past. But 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.
This is a duly elected government, it is a democratically elected government, it has a lot of problems to it, but it does have a basic legitimacy to it. And you, therefore, I think, have to deal with it.
MR. BAKER: Senator, one of the purposes of the surge, as I'm sure you heard from General Petraeus, when you confirmed him, is to give the Iraqi government a little more running room in order to help it achieve national reconciliation by tamping down the violence or pacifying, if you will, Baghdad.
Let me, if I might, Mr. Chairman, read from the report with respect to this issue of a surge, because there are only two conditions upon our support for a surge. One is that it be short term and the other is that it be called for by the commander in Iraq.
President Bush said this is not an open-ended commitment. Secretary Gates said this is a temporary surge. And, of course, General Petraeus is the guy that's to carry it out, and he was the person that originally recommended it. This is the language and all of the language of the report with respect to a surge.
We could, however, support a short term redeployment or surge of American combat forces to stabilize Baghdad or to speed up the training and equipping mission if the U.S. commander in Iraq determines that such steps would be effective. The only two conditions are short term, commander in Iraq determines it would be effective.
Both of those conditions have been met, unless you disbelieve the president and his national security advisor, and General Petraeus.
MR. HAMILTON: I do think, Senator, in addition to what Secretary Baker said, is that we recommended the surge, as he said, but we believe that that surge has to take place in the context of a lot of other things happening, including political action, diplomatic action, and economic action.
And that sentence that is quoted in there is in a section that talks about the importance of national reconciliation.
SEN. MENENDEZ: Mr. Chairman, my time's up. I just would note that given the Iraqis running room suggests that they're ready to run the race. And secondly, I know the temporary nature, Mr. Secretary, that you cited in the report. The problem is that as presented to us, there's no timeframe here whatsoever.
So it may be suggested that it is temporary, but there's no clear timeframe as to how long these troops will be committed.
MR. BAKER: The secretary of defense said it's going to be a temporary surge, and the president said it's not going to be open- ended, and then there have been some suggestions from some quarters -- and again, I don't know whether this came up in General Petraeus' hearing before Armed Services -- but there was some suggestion that we would pretty well know whether this works by the summer or early fall. I don't know exactly who said it, but I know it's out there.
SEN. BIDEN: Mr. Secretary, the reason I want to make it clear -- what I read in your statement was the Appendix One on your July 11 '07 statement that you and --
MR. BAKER: You mean January '07?
SEN. BIDEN: January 11 '07. It says statement of co-chairs, January 11 '07, Appendix One, James Baker, Lee Hamilton. I'm not in any way contradicting what you're saying. I want you to understand where I got the phrase --
MR. BAKER: Yeah, I see it there.
SEN. BIDEN: The phrase I got was that "complemented by." It says, "The Iraq Study Group indicated it could support a short term redeployment or surge of American combat forces to stabilize Baghdad complemented by a comprehensive political, economic, and diplomatic effort."
MR. BAKER: That's right.
SEN. BIDEN: I assume that's the context that Secretary Baker was talking about. I didn't mean to imply, if he thought I did, that the actual page 72 said that.
MR. BAKER: Thank you.
SEN. BIDEN: Everyone's being very generous.
The ranking member is here, as is Senator Coleman, and they both have indicated that since Senator Voinovich has been here, they would be prepared to yield to him to go next. I want to make it clear, I'm going to be stepping out of the room, and in my absence, I'd ask Senator Dodd to chair this.
And we're going to promise we're going to try to get you out of here around three o'clock. So lots of luck in your senior year. But at any rate, all kidding aside, I appreciate your patience. Senator Voinovich.
SEN. GEORGE V. VOINOVICH (R-OH): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to thank both of you for your service to your country. I know you've been taken out a whole lot. And Secretary Baker, nice that you're willing to pitch in and try and give us your best judgment. You've certainly been through the mill over the years.
When this all came out about the surge, I indicated that I was skeptical of it because, first of all, Casey and Abizaid weren't enthusiastic about it, and I figured, you know, we'd been relying upon them for a long time. And a lot of folks, including other witnesses and others, have said that may exacerbate the situation and become a lightning rod for everybody to come in there and kick us.
Then I think about the hearings that we had early on in the war. And Mr. Chairman, at that time, ranking member -- you were chairman at the time -- that we were given the impression that there were certain things that needed to be done in conjunction with our going in there.
We talked about political issues, security infrastructure, economy, and we thought that some folks were really thinking about that. Well, Jay Garner came in and had some ideas, and before you know it, Jay was gone, and then Bremer came in, pulled the plug.
And so, my confidence in some of the fastidiousness that I think is necessary right now with what we're doing is a little bit low. You talk about the surge, and then you say comprehensive, political, economic, and diplomatic efforts. Negroponte was here today. We asked him about whether or not the diplomatic issue had been carried as far as it could be.
And, of course, Condoleezza Rice has been out talking to people. But it seems to me that at this stage of the game -- and I'd like you to comment -- I don't think that we have made the diplomatic efforts that we need to make. Second, in terms of the economic issues, we had the folks in here talking about PRTs, and then we found out that they got about $11 billion in their treasury and they don't know how to spend it.
So the question is, these conditions that you laid out as part of the surge, in my opinion, haven't been met. That's number one -- your opinion on that. Number two, you mentioned that America's commitment is not open-ended. Well, I'd like to know when does it end? How do you determine? He says not open-ended. What does that mean?
How do you determine that? Do we have measures in place that we can really find out whether or not the conditions have actually been met? I'd like you to comment on that.
MR. BAKER: Senator, I'll comment on the first part, because it was the same discussion we just had with the Chairman. The diplomatic, economic, and so forth complementary issues are not conditions to the surge. Our approval of a surge is conditioned only by the fact that it be short term and, secondly, that it be approved by the commander in Iraq.
SEN. VOINOVICH: When you say short term, what do you mean?
MR. BAKER: Ok, short term, I've already said, I think, you have to look at Secretary Gates' comment. This is a temporary surge. Now, does that mean two months, does that mean 12 months? I can't answer that. The president said it's not going to be open-ended.
Now, has there been a specific date put on there? No, there hasn't. The commander on the ground, we think, and I think the president, obviously feels, has to have the flexibility to conduct the surge in the best manner possible to pacify Baghdad. So you don't have a date put on it.
But the language that you read is context language, as Chairman Hamilton has indicated. Those are not conditions to our approval of a surge.
MR. HAMILTON: Senator, I agree with your observation about the diplomatic effort has not been full enough. I said earlier that I thought Secretary Rice's trip was a positive step. But if you look at the recommendations we make, we really make recommendations for a very, very comprehensive diplomatic offensive, in which we engage all of the countries in the region, the Perm 5, the Arab League, and a lot of others, not all at once, but in stages.
And we see that diplomatic effort as a very important reinforcing mechanism along with the other steps you take internally in Iraq in order to bring stability to Iraq. And we think there is a real urgency to that diplomatic effort, that we cannot proceed business as usual here. We think it's terribly important --
SEN. VOINOVICH: Pardon me, but do you think it would be easier to do it now and wait and do it later on, or do you think that now is the time to clearly state to the people that are out there, look guys, ultimately, we're getting out of here?
MR. HAMILTON: Look, I think things in Iraq continue to go down. We don't have time to wait on any of the recommendations we made. I feel a real sense of urgency on all of these recommendations. We recommended that the diplomatic offensive that we spell out start in December 2006, and here we are, almost February 2007. And a very modest step, I think, has been taken.
SEN. VOINOVICH: I think the American people probably would feel a whole lot better if we had started this or announced that we're going to do it with a lot of aggressiveness, or at least get Maliki to say, hey, I need some help, and they have him convene them.
MR. HAMILTON: I agree with that. You asked about not an open- ended commitment. We're quite specific here about what the Iraqis must do, and we are demanding that they make, in the phrase of the report, substantial progress towards very specific goals that are broadly agreed upon, and that if they do not make substantial progress, then we are going to reduce our commitment.
Now, how much time do you give them to make substantial progress? Well, I guess people would vary in their judgment about that, and at the end of the day, it's going to be the president's call what constitutes substantial progress and how quickly.
The point we make is that you set up these benchmarks, they have to make substantial progress in hitting those benchmarks pretty soon, in our judgment, or we're going to reduce our commitment. If you do not get a bona fide effort by the Iraqi government to perform in governance, in national reconciliation, and in carrying their share of the load on security, recognizing they're going to need some U.S. help, but if they do not perform, then there is no way that the United States is going to succeed there no matter what we do. The Iraqi government has to perform.
MR. BAKER: Senator, if you look at the president's speech of January 10 -- and I mentioned this in my opening remarks -- he talks about increasing the number of American advisors embedded in Iraqi Army units with the goal that the Iraqi government will assume control of security in all provinces in Iraq by November 2007.
Now, that's further out than the summer I mentioned in my answer to Senator Menendez.
MR. HAMILTON: I might just say on this surge question that there isn't any doubt in my mind that the United States forces are going to win every battle. That's not the problem. I'm not suggesting that's easy, but it's not the problem. We can clear out any neighborhood we want to clear out. We did it last summer.
The question is, can you hold it, and can you build it after you've cleared it out? And that has to be primarily, it seems to me, up to the Iraqis, not up to us to do that. And to date, no one can claim that their performance has been very good.
I want to point out on this surge question, which keeps coming up here, the surge was not one of our 79 recommendations.
It was a part of a discussion of the military options that are available to us there, and we continued to say throughout the report that the primary mission of U.S. forces, as I said earlier in the testimony, should be to train Iraqis.
The question in my mind, frankly, is not whether you should train Iraqis, but when. We're going to have to do it. We've been working at it for several years. We didn't do a very good job of it, to be blunt about it, for several years. I think we've improved. I think we're much better today at training the Iraqis than we were three or four years ago, but we've still got a long way to go, and I think that has to be the primary mission, and it has to be accelerated.
And the more you talk about the surge and the details of the surge, the less likely it is that you are to focus on what we consider the primary mission, which is training those Iraqis. If you want to get out of Iraq, the best way, most feasible way to get out of Iraq is to train those forces.
SEN. DODD: Thank you. Senator Cardin.
SENATOR BENJAMIN L. CARDIN (D-MD): Secretary Baker and Congressman Hamilton, I want to thank both of you for your service. The Iraq Study Group was created by Congress to help us and the American people better understand our options in Iraq.
Now, as you probably know, I voted against the war four years ago. I want us to win in Iraq. I want us to succeed in our mission. And Congressman Hamilton, I appreciate the manner in which you have presented the options that we have available, and Secretary Baker.
My concern is I go back to the original justification for entering Iraq. The president talked about the attack on our country on September 11, talked about weapons of mass destruction. And now, I'm trying to figure out the justification for the escalation of our military presence, as the president talks about benchmarks and talks about diplomatic efforts.
And I'm concerned that that's liable to get lost in the president's desire to win a military victory in Iraq where, as your report underscores, a military victory in Iraq is not possible, that it needs to have the diplomacy and the economic reforms, and all the other issues that are spelled out in your report.
So I guess my question to you, particularly to Congressman Hamilton, you served this nation with great distinction not only as a member of Congress, but in the 9/11 Commission. The thing that impressed me the most is that when that Commission issued its report, it didn't go out of existence. Some may have thought it would, but it didn't.
And it's helped us and assisted us to stay on track to try to accomplish an objective to make this nation safer. I would like to solicit your help as we go forward in Iraq as to whether in fact we have effective and enforceable benchmarks.
I must tell you, I am somewhat confused as to what the benchmarks are. I've listened to the Secretary of State, I've listened to the president, I've heard what they've said about the Iraqis standing up and taking responsibility for their own country and doing all these other things.
But I also could find that a couple of months from now, the president says, well, they're doing better here, they're doing there, and that the benchmarks are certainly not very definitive as to what they have to do by certain dates and the consequences if they don't.
As far as diplomatic efforts are concerned, I've listened very carefully to this administration and I've yet to see them engage an all out effort in the region or internationally for effective diplomacy. It still appears to be America rather than looking at the region and the international community for an effective solution to the political problems in Iraq and the region.
So I welcome your thoughts as to whether going forward, I certainly hope the president will change his policies in Iraq. But I do think that this study group report, and your recommendations, gives us a comprehensive plan that could succeed in Iraq. And I think it would be very helpful to us to get your continued involvement as to -- you pointed out, in the last two and a half months, very little has happened, and your report talked about the urgency of the situation.
But I would find it helpful if you would continue to give your views as to whether the recommendations that have been made by the study group are in fact being followed by the players.
MR. HAMILTON: Senator, I think our view is that many of the recommendations have been partially accepted, not totally accepted. Some have been totally accepted, one or two, three, maybe, have been outright rejected. But there isn't the view in the Iraq Study Group to engage kind of a follow up effort that we had in the 9/11 Commission.
Now, I'm doing quite a bit of testifying and speaking with regard to the Iraq Study Group. I think other members of the Iraq Study Group, including Secretary Baker, are doing likewise, but we no longer meet. We're out of existence, and there isn't any follow up group taking place, except -- any follow up taking place as a group -- there is follow up on an individual basis.
I have seen statements, for example, by several of the members of the Study Group as they have spoken to press around the country and to groups around the country. I do want to say a word about these benchmarks. I think the benchmarks, where we're asking the Iraqi government to perform, are very clear.
And we're asking them to be more inclusive in that constitution, include the Sunnis. We're asking them to put in a program of de- Baathification that requires the reintegration of the Baathists, except those at the very top level of the Saddam Hussein party, to get them into the national life of the country. We're asking for an oil revenue sharing program that is fair.
SEN. CARDIN: Oil revenue I think we've seen some action. Are you comfortable that there's a reasonable timeframe that would have consequences?
MR. HAMILTON: No, I'm not comfortable on the timeframe. I think these things need to be done urgently, and I'm very impatient.
SEN. CARDIN: Let me put it a different way. Do you believe that the Iraqis are under the impression -- the current government of consequences and a timeframe in which they have to perform?
MR. HAMILTON: I do not believe they are sufficiently alert to that. Now, I think our administration has talked to them about it. I think they've agreed on what the benchmarks are. I think they even now have dates. We've put out a lot of the dates in our report. They have to achieve certain things by certain dates.
But these dates have slipped in the past, and they are not performing on time, in my judgment, about it. How do you change that? Well, you change it, I think, by putting more leverage on Maliki through conditionality, and perhaps some opportunities would arise on the diplomatic track as well.
But it is not an easy thing to do. But it is key.
MR. BAKER: Senator Cardin, I think they are much more aware of it today, let's say, than they were four or five months ago. And I think that without doing it publicly that the president and the administration have made it pretty clear to that government that we need to see performance on these benchmarks.
Now, I can't tell you that for a fact, because I wasn't in any of the meetings or anything else. But I think they're much more focused on it today than they have been in the past.
Just here the other day, they arrested 40, as I understand it, 40 followers of Muqtada al-Sadr. They got an oil law. They've done a few other things like that that look like things are finally beginning maybe to happen.
Time will tell. We'll just have to see.
But I think the president -- and I don't know this for a fact, and I don't mean to be suggesting that I do know it for a fact, but I think he had to come to you know what meeting with the prime minister when he last met with him. And as he said in his speech, the patience of the American people is not unending. If you don't perform, you're going to lose the support of the American people.
And if you read that carefully, I think that means you'll lose the support of the administration.
SEN. CARDIN: I just want to compliment the bipartisan leadership of our Committee and Congress, because I think it's also helped get the message out. We'll see whether there's accountability. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. DODD: Thank you, Senator Cardin. Senator Lugar.
SEN. RICHARD LUGAR (R-IN): Thanks very much for coming. I'm going to make a comment, and I would like for your reflections on this idea. Secretary Rice has recently outlined what appears to be a shift in emphasis in U.S. policy towards countering the challenges posed by Iran.
Under this new approach, the United States would apparently organize regional players -- Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, the Gulf States and others -- behind a program of containing Iran's disruptive agenda in the region. Such a realignment has relevance for stabilizing Iraq and bringing security to other areas of conflict such as Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.
Moderate states in the Middle East are concerned by Iran's aggressiveness and the possibility of sectarian conflict beyond Iraq's borders. They recognized the United States' indispensable counterweight to Iran and a source of stability in the region.
The United States has the leverage to enlist greater support for our objectives inside Iraq and throughout the region. Now, quite apart from the military diplomatic surge in Iraq that's been the focus of our attention, we're now seeing the outlines of a new U.S. regional approach, more assertive stance by our military toward Iranian interference in Iraq, a renewed diplomatic effort on the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, substantial U.S. security assistance to Palestinian President Abbas, and a U.S.-led effort to bolster the Lebanese government against Hezbollah.
In The Washington Post today, I noted that the United States should recalibrate our reference points on Iraq. We should not see the president's current Iraq plan as an endgame, but rather as one element in a larger Middle East struggle that is in the early stages.
The president's Baghdad strategy is still aimed at an optimal outcome: the creation of a democratic, pluralist society that would cooperate with us, achieve reasonable security. But at this stage, that is a goal worth pursuing, but our strategy in Iraq must be flexible enough to allow for changing circumstances.
And even as the president's Baghdad strategy proceeds, we need to be preparing for how we will array U.S. forces in the region to defend oil assets, target terrorist enclaves, deter adventures by Iran, provide a buffer against regional sectarian conflict, and generally reassure friendly governments the United States is committed to Middle East security.
Such a redeployment might well involve bases inside Iraq that would allow us to continue training Iraqi troops and delivering economic assistance, but would not require us to interpose American soldiers between Iraqi sectarian factions. One of the ironies of the highly contentious debate over President Bush's new Iraq plan is that it is focused on the strategically narrow issue of what U.S. troops do in a limited number of multiethnic neighborhoods in Baghdad to contain only about 7 percent of the Iraqi population, what General Jack Keane has called the key terrain.
Undoubtedly, what happens in those Baghdad neighborhoods is important, but it is unlikely that this mission will determine our fate in the Middle East, and remaking Iraq in and of itself does not constitute a strategic objective. The risk is that we will define success and failure in Iraq so rigidly that our Iraq policy will become disconnected or even contradictory to broader regional goals.
Do either of you have a comment on that outlook?
MR. BAKER: I don't think anything I heard in there, Senator -- and you read it fairly quickly -- but nothing that I heard in there is inconsistent in any way with the call we made in the Iraq Study Group Report for a new diplomatic offensive and an international Iraq support group.
I think it's complementary. What we suggest would be complementary of those efforts and vice versa.
MR. HAMILTON: Senator, I think the diplomatic initiatives that you mentioned are all worthy. I guess I'm a little impatient. I want to see them proceed more quickly and with a greater sense of urgency than I have thus far seen. But what really interested me about your excellent piece this morning in the Post was the so-called plan B.
We were urged on occasion in the Iraq Study Group to go beyond what we recommended and develop a plan B. We rejected that idea because we reasoned that if you're going to make a proposal, you ought to advocate it, not ought to immediately begin thinking about a second plan.
But there is very clearly need for policymakers, including yourself, to be thinking about a plan B. And you call for a redeployment of forces in the region to defend the oil and target the terrorist enclaves, deter adventurism. We would certainly agree to all of that.
So I react positively to your statements here with the caveat, I guess, that full speed ahead as necessary on the diplomatic side.
MR. BAKER: And may I add to that, Senator Lugar, that when Lee says we were urged to take a look at a plan B, I suppose I was the primary urger, because I was and still am interested in the proposal that Senator Biden and Les Gelb put forward with respect to the idea that ultimately, you may end up with three autonomous regions in Iraq.
Because I was worried that there are indications that that might be happening, in fact, on the ground anyway. And if it is, we ought to be prepared to try and manage the situation.
So we have a sentence in our report that said if events were to move irreversibly in this direction, the United States should manage the situation to ameliorate humanitarian consequences, contain the violence, and minimize regional stability. That's, of course, with respect to the Biden-Gelb proposal.
But again, let me repeat, there's nothing in your proposal that I heard that would be in any way inconsistent with, and would in fact be complementary of, the new diplomatic offensive that we call for in the Iraq Study Group Report.
SEN. LUGAR: Well, the reason I famously site The Washington Post editorial this morning, what have you, and repeat it, is that I hear both on the Republican and Democratic side, the people are formulating resolutions that they might offer next week in our debate such terms as last chance.
In other words, a number of people are saying the surge is the last chance, or secondly, that there have to be rigid benchmarks. We've got to tell the Iraqis that, by golly, this is your last chance. Either you pass the oil law, you get the devolution of authority or the provinces done, or all the rest of it, or we're out of there.
Now, that is my worry. In other words, if we come into a debate in which we -- I characterize the situation today in football terms. This is like third down and 20, and you call a draw play. Well, it turns out you've got six yards, and you punt on fourth down. It's the first quarter, and so you're now in more favorable territory to try another strategy.
What I fear we're heading toward on both sides is a situation in which, shall we say, we are either tired of it, stop the funds, bring home the troops, or maybe some on the Republican side saying this is it, this is the surge, these are the benchmarks, when, in my judgment, there's not a scintilla of hope the Iraqi government or governments, wherever they are, could fulfill all of this.
And so then you do, as was suggested, I think, by Senator Cardin, get some fudging. What if there's progress made, and a little headway here and there, and once again, we're back into it. What I would hope is the diplomatic side of this that I think Secretary Rice is now beginning to put together, beginning to foster in various ways, the movement of the carrier, the Naval people coming into it, offers a sense really, probably, of several years of evolution of not only Iraq, but likewise, of the Middle Eastern situation.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
MR. BAKER: You didn't ask this question, Senator, and I don't mean to speak for my co-chairman -- I think we're going to be there a long, long time. And that's why in my formal remarks, I mentioned the continuing presence, large, substantial, robust presence of the U.S. military in the region, in the area.
SEN. LUGAR: Thank you.
SEN. DODD: Senator Webb.
SEN. JIM WEBB (D-VA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Secretary Baker, Chairman Hamilton, this is my first opportunity to publicly thank you for the work that you did on this Iraq Study Group. It's been enormously valuable to the country for people who have had strong concerns. And everybody's said all this to you before, but I want you to know that you've set an example here for a lot of people, showing that we can work across party divides and other divides to try to come to some sort of a solution.
I want to associate myself with the views that both of you expressed with respect to Syria. We tend to focus on Iran, and rightly so, but as you've said -- as I've tried to say a number of times -- Iran and Syria are not natural allies. And it's very much in our strategic interest that we should be dealing with these two countries rather than causing them to be working together largely because they're on the other side of the diplomatic fence.
I can't say it any more clearly than the two of you did. I think it's vitally important that we do that.
With respect to this discussion now about the surge and, quite frankly, how this is going to be used in our debate that will be coming up on the floor, I would like to start off first by saying that we had Admiral Fallon at a confirmation hearing this morning on the Armed Services Committee, and he gave some very nuanced answers, which encouraged me a great deal.
One of the points that he made was that it's not particularly the number of troops that are involved in any of these endeavors, it's how they're used. And one of the concerns that I've had with where we are right now is that I don't see anything that's been proposed over the last month as truly a change in strategy.
I see it as more an adjustment, a tactical adjustment, without changing our national strategy. And in that respect, what we're doing is moving forward on one area without having implemented the other key recommendations in your Iraq Study Group. There is not a robust diplomatic effort that, as Chairman Hamilton has mentioned several times, should have begun a month or so ago.
So the downside of that from people like myself who have a concern about how our Army and Marine Corps have been used on the ground there is that we may end up, just through momentum, continuing the same practices, which is going to have an impact on the force structure issues in the Army and the Marine Corps, on troop rotations, and these sorts of things, without a change in strategy.
And just for the record, I want to say that I voted for General Petraeus. I listened to him in the Armed Services Committee hearings, and I did not vote on him because I believed in his strategy. I voted on him because I believe he is a person who is eminently capable of assuming that command, and he has told us in clear terms that he is going to be candid with us about his operational matters as they go forward.
What I really have a concern on here -- and this is a great opportunity for me just sitting, listening. And I know it's never particularly fun to testify like this, as has been intimated a few times, but it's a great opportunity for me to sit and listen to your views. The question I really have is how do we get to the end of this? And that's a substantive question that we've been kicking around.
Secretary Baker, you've got as much experience as anyone in the country in terms of dealing with these issues in a procedural way. And I know there are a broad range of diplomatic efforts that are mentioned in your report, but what would be the best procedural format for us to be able to create this international support structure that we've been talking about? How do we get there from here?
MR. BAKER: Well, Senator, we're fairly specific in the diplomatic portion of our report in laying out the steps we think need to be taken. We call for a new diplomatic offensive. We call for the creation of an international Iraq support group. We call for the convening of various meetings. We mentioned the countries we think ought to be in that international support group, including all of Iraq's neighbors, which, of course, would include Iran and Syria.
We go further with respect to Syria because we see that as a distinctly different case than Iran, and that it has fundamental application with respect to the issue of Arab-Israeli peace. So it's pretty much all laid out there. You say how do we get to the end of this. Let me throw something out here that maybe nobody will stand up and salute.
And I haven't talked to anybody downtown about this, and I don't speak for the administration. But look, neither the administration nor the Congress has adopted all the recommendations of our report, or all of the conclusions of our report. The administration, as Lee put it earlier, and as you just put it, Senator, has not gone as far diplomatically as we proposed.
The Congress is not in favor, or at least it looks like there may be a majority of Congress that is opposed to the surge, and is preparing to vote a resolution of disapproval. Back in 1983, when I was Ronald Reagan's chief of staff, we decided we wanted to try to do something with social security, if we could.
Social security was the third rail of American politics, and it still is today, in my view. We concluded we weren't going to ever be able to do anything with social security unless we got the leadership of both parties together. And they sat down -- I'm talking now about at the level of the Senate majority leader, and the speaker of the House, and the president of the United States, and they sit down and they decide this problem is of such fundamental importance to our country that we need to take it out of politics, we need to give each other cover in a way that would permit us to deal with this and to move forward.
And I know the chairman has, I guess, gone to another appointment. But I have to tell you, I look at this situation today a little bit in those same terms. And we were able, in 1983, to come up with an agreed solution, a bipartisan solution, Republicans and Democrats, that made social security whole for at least 30 years.
And this issue of Iraq is every bit as emotional and certainly every bit as important to the country as what we were dealing with back then.
So I guess what I would like to throw out here for people to consider is whether or not there couldn't be some sort of a grand negotiation between the executive and the legislative branches of our government to come together on a way forward in Iraq.
There are things that the majority up here on the Hill think should be undertaken by the administration that are laid out in this report, and there are things that the president, as commander and chief, and his military advisers think ought to be done, specifically the surge.
Why not get together and agree that both sides are going to do some or all of those things so we can move forward together on Iraq in a bipartisan way?
Wouldn't that be better than what we have now? Again, that's not something I've even ever discussed with my co-chairman. He may disagree with me on that. But we ought to be able to work across party lines on something as important as this. So how about at least giving it some thought.
That's maybe not really a direct answer to your question, Senator.
SEN. WEBB: If I may clarify procedurally here -- and by the way, I think that's what you all have been doing. You know, that's what your Study Group has been doing, is a first step in that direction. Procedurally, the United States has lost so much esteem in that part of the world as a result of this Iraq endeavor, it would be an awkward thing for the United States to step forward and say, Ok, we are going to convene and Iraq Study Group and we want Iran and Syria to the table.
Procedurally, where do we go to get that issue on the table? It doesn't have to be a long answer. It's just a question I've had for some time.
MR. HAMILTON: We put the responsibility on the president and the secretary of state. They've got to take the action.
SEN. WEBB: Wouldn't you think that the United Nations would be the --
MR. HAMILTON: Ok, they have to launch this effort. We were not all that specific as how to launch it, but you are dealing with a sovereign country here, Iraq; you are dealing in an environment where the United States has lost standing and prestige. But at the same time, there is a recognition that nothing is going to happen in that region if the United States doesn't leave.
So I think we have to step forward, and we recommend a very, very comprehensive effort, multilaterally, bilaterally, with the establishment of the support group as a principal objective, and involving many, many countries in the region and outside the region.
We can't tell exactly how that would proceed. I'm hoping that's what Secretary Rice was doing while she was out there.
SEN. WEBB: My time has expired, but Mr. Chairman, just if I can nail this down. From my perspective, this is the key issue here, because on the one hand, we have lost so much standing in the region, and on the other, this administration refuses to negotiate with Iran and Syria. And yet, there has to be a vehicle in order to bring this forward, and that's the concern that I have.
MR. BAKER: Senator Webb, the administration has ongoing the Compact for Iraq, which is essentially a collection of the same countries. That was organized procedurally by Iraq and the United Nations. It was called for by Iraq. It contains Iran, it contains Syria. We attend and they attend, and so something like that.
But we did specifically, as Lee said, avoid the difficult question of exactly how to call this, leaving it up to the president and -- we didn't have a specific suggestion on that -- but that you could do it the way the administration did the Compact for Iraq.
SEN. WEBB: I would hope they would consider doing that. I appreciate your testimony.
MR. HAMILTON: Senator, I'll make one other comment here. You folks are headed for some rough patches in your relationship with the executive branch, and they probably begin next week, if I understand your schedule. My hope is that as you go through this process -- and I don't think it will be an easy one for you -- resolutions that are non-binding, a supplemental, then the appropriation bill down the line, you're going to have all kinds of amendments and clashes in that process.
And maybe it's being a little Pollyannaish -- I hope not -- but in that process, I hope at the end of the day we come to a little better unity of effort in this country on Iraq. I wouldn't for a minute think it will be unanimous. I think the questions are just too deep.
But everybody in this room understands the importance of unity of effort in foreign policy if you're going to have an effective foreign policy. So it's not an easy process for you, and you're going to have some tough debates, and there are going to be some hard edges to it and maybe some bad feelings now and then, but it is the process we have to work towards a greater unity of effort.
SEN. DODD: Let me just say, Jim Baker, before I turn to Senator Coleman, the case you cited, the social security case. I remember another case. I remember you walking into my office in 1989 and saying to me we're not going to spend all day in the White House debating Central America. We're going to sit down and figure what has to be done on this. We're going to come up with some common answers.
We went through some difficult negotiations back and forth, but under your leadership, we came up with a common plan, the common idea that got us out of a daily quagmire of dealing in Central America with all the other issues we had to grapple with.
The point I want to make is I think the United States has to lead, but leadership in this country begins at the executive branch, asking 535 members of Congress, with disparate districts and constituencies to lead on this issue. So we can play an important role. And we live in a vacuum otherwise.
But the real leadership has to come from the president and that office. That's what you did -- I'll never forget it. Because you said, enough of this stuff, we're going to work together and find some answers here. That has to start at the White House.
MR. BAKER: In those days, Senator, you remember very well that the war in Central America was the holy grail of the left in this country and the holy grail of the right in this country. And I tell people even to this day, many years later, that my first serious negotiation as secretary of state was not with a foreign power. It was with the Congress of the United States, and we got it done.
And all I'm saying is we ought to be thinking about something like that here. These issues are tough, as Lee says, and they're very emotional, as I mentioned in my opening comments. But there are some things here that you oppose that the president wants, and there are some things here that you want that the president opposes.
And rather than just doing this for a couple of years, why don't we see if there's not a way -- the country has a huge interest in a successful conclusion of this problem. Why not find out if there's not a way to do it?
SEN. DODD: Again, I'll make the point, there was a guy who was going through a confirmation process to be secretary of state who took the leadership, with the approval and support of the president, I might add, to get that ball moving. And that's missing today, I must tell you, just in candor, in this hearing room.
SEN. NORM COLEMAN (R-MN): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would say, first of all, to the gentlemen, thank you for your service. Thank you for your service on this and so many other issues. It's certainly very, very appreciated.
I think, Congressman, I don't think there is any lack of appetite for clashing with the executive in both parties right now. I think there is a common understanding that a lot of things have gone wrong, trying to deal now with the de-Baathification policy.
I think the real challenge, however, the concern is not about clashing with the executive, but at least two concerns that I have have been moved forward. One, most important, is the impact on the troops on the ground. Things that we do and we say have consequences.
There are young men and women in harm's way. Many of us have visited them on a number of occasions.
We've been to Walter Reed. So we start with that. And the second concern is, where perhaps there isn't the common ground right now, and maybe we have to get to that point, is an understanding of the long term consequences of failure.
In the report itself, I think on page 37, as I think I recall, you talk about the consequences of failure. And we've had a number of hearings -- talk about the near term results, we talk about precipitous withdrawal if we leave. Precipitate, use the word, and then premature, two different phrases which I'm going to ask in a second about what you mean by that. But you talk about a significant power vacuum, greater human suffering, regional destabilization, threat to global economy; you talk about al Qaeda declaring it as victory, Iraq descends into chaos, the long term consequences could eventually require the United States to return.
And I think there's a number of things. I think there's a different perspective. Some folks have said, well, Iraq's a mess, as if it can't get any worse. I would take it that the sense is that it could get worse if we take the wrong steps.
MR. HAMILTON: Yes, it clearly is. And we think that the emphasis you're making in your second point on the consequences of failure are terribly important to focus on. We want to try to avoid the expansion of Iranian influence in the region. We don't want to jeopardize the energy resources.
We don't want to abandon our Arab friends and the so-called moderates. We don't want America to have a strategic defense in the region. We don't want to have the stability of Iraq jeopardized. We don't want to see Sunni and Shia clashes across the region. We don't want to see chaos in the region.
We don't want to see terrorism grow and al Qaeda. There are a lot of very, very important consequences here that people who favor a precipitous withdrawal just I don't think have encountered. On the first point, incidentally, the impact on U.S. troops, you brought us to the right point there, I believe.
The section in our report about restoring U.S. military is in a very important section. I begins on page 76, and we are deeply concerned about resetting the American military as a result of the drain in Iraq.
SEN. COLEMAN: And one area where I think there is a bipartisan vision is on that issue.
MR. HAMILTON: Yes, I think so.
SEN. COLEMAN: And I think that's a good thing. The other issue where I see a kind of divergence of view, and I'm trying to think if we can reconcile, is this issue of loss of esteem. We probably reflect upon the loss of esteem from what's going on in Iraq.
On the other hand, I look at this issue of consequences again, and the president's talked about this. If we were to precipitously withdraw, if we were to leave, what does that do to our esteem? What does that do? Mr. Secretary, you've been in this business a long time --
MR. BAKER: Well, it would destroy our credibility, not just in the region, but around the world. And, of course, as Lee pointed out, we're strongly against a precipitous withdrawal. I mean, we think the consequences, as we say, would be severe. I think they would be catastrophic. You'd see a regional war in the Middle East.
SEN. COLEMAN: And then the other -- I'm going to try to tie these together in the time I have. Mr. Secretary, you talked about the reflection that we're going to be there a long time.
MR. BAKER: Yeah, we are.
SEN. COLEMAN: We're going to be there a long time. On the other hand, we talk about -- and Congressman, you used the phrase, the recognition of nothing's going to happen in the Middle East, in there, until we leave. Can you help me understand, is there a difference there between the two of you -- one, a sense that we're going to be there a long time versus the sense that we can't get things moving forward until we leave?
MR. BAKER: Let me explain what I meant when I said we're going to be there a long time. In addition to being in Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar to protect our interests in the region, we're going to have a fairly large residual presence in Iraq itself, as our report says. We don't spell out the numbers.
They're going to be significant, because we talk about leaving special operations forces. We talk about leaving rapid reaction forces to go after al Qaeda and for other nations that the commander on the ground thinks is important, particularly with respect to the War on Terror. And we talk about force protection units that would be left there.
So when I say we're going to have a presence for a long time in the region, we're going to have a presence in Iraq for those purposes and in the region, in my opinion, for a long time.
MR. HAMILTON: I'd simply emphasize, Senator, in response that, I guess, a clichÃÂ©, and I just don't think things will happen in that region unless the United States leaves.
SEN. COLEMAN: You agree with him. Is that leave in a different sense than what the secretary talks about?
MR. HAMILTON: Well, he's talking about a military presence in Iraq, but also a military presence in the region. We're going to have a large military presence in that region for a very, very long time to come, I agree with that part of it. Will we have a large military presence in Iraq? I don't know.
But I can certainly see, if you're going to be embedding troops, if you're going to be training troops, if you're going to be going after al Qaeda, if you're going to be protecting the U.S. troops who are embedded with Iraqi troops, you're going to have to have substantial American combat power in Iraq for a period of time. I don't know how long that is, but it's an extended period of time.
But in the region itself, there has to be, will be for a long, long time to come, substantial American military, diplomatic, and political presence.
SEN. COLEMAN: If I can, two other questions. When some of us see a difference between the battle that's being waged in, let's say, Anbar Province against al Qaeda, against the foreign fighters, against the insurgents, and what we've seen -- I was there about a month ago -- in Baghdad with the sectarian battle going on between, you know, the Sunni extremists and the Shia extremists, and the concern we have is at this point, putting Americans in the center of that before the Iraqis have met the benchmarks that you've talked about, and that others of us have talked about.
Did you at all, either in the Study Group Report or your own reflections, recognize that kind of difference, that distinction?
MR. BAKER: We did see that difference when we were there. I think it's valid. I think there is a difference.
MR. HAMILTON: Yeah, I agree with Jim on it. We did not make -- Jim, I don't think we did -- we didn't make any recommendation with regard to Anbar Province. We did with regard, as Jim has pointed out, with regard to Baghdad, but we did not make it with regard to Anbar.
MR. BAKER: The difference in function of our troops is something we recognized.
MR. HAMILTON: Oh, yes, al Qaeda is much more of a presence there.
MR. BAKER: That's right, and sectarian violence in Baghdad.
SEN. COLEMAN: Very last question, then. You talked about social security and talked about resolving things here, and the Chairman talked about leadership, but ultimately, with this issue, it's the American public, not the left and the -- the American public clearly does not have any sense of confidence of where we're at, is clearly losing the appetite for the long term commitment, at whatever level, particularly, if we continue to suffer loss of life.
How do you get the American public to understand the consequences of failure, how do we do that?
MR. BAKER: If you have a truly bipartisan policy, and you have the executive branch and the legislative branch pulling together on the same oar, I daresay you're going to see the numbers on the public perception change.
SEN. COLEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. DODD: Senator Coleman.
SEN. COLEMAN: I think my time is up, Mr. Chairman. Thank you very much.
SEN. DODD: Senator Casey.
SEN. ROBERT P. CASEY JR. (D-PA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'm the last questioner, and I know that's good news to both of you, and I'll stay within my time. I want to focus and try to direct your attention to a very important aspect of what you've already testified to.
And, of course, before doing that, I want to thank you for your contribution, your public service already prior to this work, your ongoing scholarship and work that has gone into this and the questions you've been asked and the way you've dealt with them. We're in your debt for that. And I'm certainly grateful as a first year senator.
I want to direct your attention at the training aspect of what you testified to today. And I think both of you, in one way or another, said that training is the primary mission or must be the primary mission. And I think we've heard about training for a long time now, many, many years since 2003, when this engagement started. And we've heard over and over again how important it is.
I appreciate the fact that you highlighted it today as the primary mission. I think Congressman Hamilton, you not only have it in the report, but you've enunciated it as the foundation of how we get American sons and daughters home from Iraq. Here's the question. What in your judgment, based upon what you know up to this moment, the work that went into the Iraq Study Group conclusions, all the testimony you've heard, everything you've read, based upon all that, what do you think is the problem with this mission of training these Iraqi security forces?
MR. HAMILTON: I think the problem, Senator, is we just haven't given it enough priority. Or to put it another way -- and I don't mean to disparage anyone here -- but we have not put our best people into training. If you look at it in terms of a career path in the military, that's not the way you get to be a general.
That mindset has to change, and we have to understand in this situation we're confronted with in Iraq that we have to put our very best people in there to train these forces. So it's a question of resources; it's also a question of priorities.
Now, I want to repeat what I said earlier. I think we didn't do a very good job of this for about three years because of that. And I really do think there's been improvement in the training of the Iraqi Army -- I have a lot of doubt still about the police -- but the training of the Iraqi Army.
And we are saying here that the military priorities in Iraq must change. That's one of the recommendations. They must change. And we have to give highest priority -- highest priority -- to this effort.
SEN. CASEY: So that those who are training have elevated status. In other words, they're recognized as important as any other military --
MR. HAMILTON: I'm no expert on all the incentives that can be offered. Maybe it's financial. But I think more important even than the financial is status and a career path for promotion within the services, because these people all are ambitious and we encourage that.
MR. BAKER: Senator Casey, the president's plan calls for doubling the number of troops we have embedded with Iraqi forces and engaged in training, as I understand it. And the president himself said that training is the essential mission of our forces. And I think it was Steve Hadley's op-ed piece yesterday in which he said that training and supporting Iraqi troops will remain our military's essential and primary mission.
I mean, there's not a lot of daylight between what we called for in this report and where the president's plan is, assuming that those comments are true, and I for one take them at their word.
SEN. CASEY: And I appreciate that highlight of his plan. But I'll tell you, in your report, very early in your report, first of all, you talk about the Iraqi Army and say the police are a lot worse.
MR. BAKER: They are.
SEN. CASEY: But when you're talking about the army, you're saying they lack leadership, equipment, personnel, logistics, and support.
MR. BAKER: Yeah, well, that's what Lee said, that we did a bad job for a number of years.
SEN. CASEY: Well, it's been going on for several years, and I'm glad you pointed it out. But here's my problem, all right. I come from a state we lost 140 lives already. You know that. We're third on the death toll. Hundreds and hundreds of kids have lost their lives there, and we've been hearing about this for years now.
And it should never have taken the administration all these years, and frankly should not have taken your report for them to get the message about training. They've had this problem for years. People have had it up to here. Their patience is gone, virtually, on this because of the sacrifices.
Then you pick up The New York Times last week, and this is the predicate of the whole escalation. You pick up The New York Times and they talk about the main mission. They call it a miniature version of what the troops will be doing in the so-called surge. As the sun rose, many of the Iraqi Army units who were supposed to do the actual searches of the buildings did not arrive on time, forcing Americans to start doing the job on their own.
When the Iraqi units finally did show up, it was the air of a class outing, cheering and laughing as the Americans blew locks off the doors with shotguns. An American soldier is shot in the head. And then it goes on later, many of the Iraqi units that showed up late never seemed to take the task seriously. At one point, Iraqis completely disappeared, leaving the American units working with them flabbergasted.
It goes on, and on, and on. So my question -- and you've done the hard work already, I just wish the president would read and internalize and act upon what you have already found is a major problem. But he doesn't seem to want to do that. And so, you pick up the paper and you read that and families out there who -- every one of those families who lost someone in Iraq I think today would stand up and say we support this mission, we support this president.
Most of them would say that. But they have the right to expect that when American sons and daughters are going into those dangerous neighborhoods that some of what you have pointed out becomes a real priority. I see no evidence of that. And the whole escalation is based upon the fact that these Iraqi Army units and soldiers are going to be up to a certain level to take the lead, and there's no evidence that I can see that that is happening.
And it's more commentary than question, but there doesn't seem to be any evidence in your report and in recent reporting right on the ground in real time that this thing is getting any better when it comes to training. And I leave that for comment.
MR. HAMILTON: Senator, well, one thing in the Iraq Study Group, we did not look back --
SEN. DODD: The Committee will come to order.
MR. HAMILTON: We did not look back and we did not criticize mistakes that have been made. That was one point. But the second point you make, I personally agree with. In other words, I see some positive movement in Steve Hadley's statement here, where he says that training and supporting will remain our military's essential and primary mission.
I do not yet see enough action to support that, and I am concerned about it. I am pleased that Mr. Hadley has recognized that as a primary mission. The president did not mention that as a primary mission in the State of the Union Address. He did not use the word primary in his speech on Iraq.
But the national security adviser's statement is encouraging. I hope the president repeats it, and I hope that we are now in a position to really put the highest priority -- now, one of the risks of a surge is that you lose emphasis and priority on the training mission. You've got to keep them both, I guess.
SEN. CASEY: Mr. Secretary.
MR. BAKER: I would agree with that. But let me just say I take the president at his word when he said in that speech that this will be the essential mission. I don't see the difference between if it's the essential and primary. He didn't say one essential mission. He didn't say an essential mission. He said training will be the essential mission.
That means to me that it will be the primary mission. He didn't use the word primary, Lee's right about that, but Steve Hadley has.
SEN. CASEY: I think that's progress. Let me make one more point. Not enough progress, but they're moving in the right direction. But they've got a long way to go. I was heartened by -- and I want to commend you not only for your report and your testimony today, but this statement on January 11, which I didn't focus on at the time, and I'm glad you included it.
What you talked about here with regard to what the president had said in respect to his policy, you say the following in the third paragraph. You say -- and I quote from the January 11 statement -- "The president did not suggest the possibility of a transition that could enable U.S. combat forces to begin to leave Iraq." That's number one.
"The president did not state that political, military, or economic support for Iraq would be conditional on the Iraqi government's ability to meet benchmarks." Number two thing he didn't say. And thirdly, you say, "Within the region, the president did not announce an international support group for Iraq," and it goes on from there.
And I appreciate the fact that you carefully examined what he said and highlighted that, because I think that kind of accountability or oversight, in a sense, has been missing for the last couple of years. Thank you very much.
SEN. DODD: Thank you, Senator Casey. I just have a couple of quick points. I was impressed in the report, on page 39, paragraph four, the devolution to three regions, which the Commission, the Committee, or the Group was pretty firm in pretty good language I thought, and a position I share with you, about trying to keep this country together, not the idea of splitting it up into three, loose, federated states.
It may end up there, but it should be our position to do whatever possible to keep this country together. I was disturbed to hear the other day that there was apparently a secret meeting of the Turkish Parliament debating whether or not to send Turkish troops into northern Iraq, on the border with northern Iraq. One of the points you raise in the concern is why this ought to concern all of us.
Secretary Baker -- and again, your comments earlier in talking about the proposals that have been made by some to actually have this become a part of policy, I'd be curious as to whether or not you're in any retreating from the recommendations here in the report, in light of that was December, this is almost February.
Are there events now that would cause you to feel less certain about that conclusion?
MR. BAKER: No. We stand by the report, and particularly that conclusion. I mentioned earlier, Senator Dodd, the sentence on that page 39 that says if events were to move irreversibly in this direction, we ought to jump in there and manage it. But no, we still feel that there are serious questions about that approach having to do with such things as where do you draw the boundaries between Sunni areas and Shia areas, what do you do about the major cities, wouldn't this encourage regional players to come in to begin to protect their interests more so than they're even doing today if they thought there were going to be three semi-autonomous regions, or three autonomous regions.
SEN. DODD: So your concerns expressed then are the same today.
MR. BAKER: Same today as they were --
SEN. DODD: Do you agree with that, Lee?
MR. HAMILTON: I do agree with it. I think our concerns about that devolution plan is it goes against a unified Iraq, fundamentally, and then for the other reasons we state in the report.
SEN. DODD: Let me ask you two other quick questions if I can. And picking up where Jim Webb's question here -- and I think Dick Lugar raised in his points too -- this idea... and we talked a lot about Syria and Iran, and I think many of us here agree with the points that have been raised by both of you this afternoon, as well as the comments made by our colleagues here about how we ought to approach this.
But you point out as well that there's almost as much of an emphasis on the so-called moderate Arab states. Answer if you can the question -- I've been surprised there hasn't been at least more of an expression of concern from the moderate Arab states about events in Iraq and the growing concerns of Iranian influence.
There are a lot of ways of doing this. I realize they're not societies that have a lot of forums such as we're having here today, but this has gone on now for four years, where they have some very immediate threats. I know there are things going on quietly, but I'm a little mystified as to why there has not been more outspoken support for the efforts to achieve some success in Iraq and bring about some stability given the immediate implications to many of these countries if this situation continues to crater, as it is.
We obviously are concerned about it for all the reasons you outlined. But if I were sitting in Riyadh or sitting in Amman, Jordan, or Cairo, or Beirut, I'd be a lot more concerned in the shorter term about my conditions and what's about to happen here as a result of what goes on. Why aren't we hearing more from these countries? Why doesn't there seem to be more of a willingness to participate in some solution here despite the outcry from you and others about being involved in a political, diplomatic solution here?
MR. HAMILTON: Well, first of all, we share your concern. I think one of the things that has characterized the response of these regimes is passivity, in all respects. They haven't helped us on the money side, the resources, and they haven't been very helpful diplomatic.
They've done some training, they've done some things that are mildly helpful, but they haven't really been engaged on it.
I'm not sure I know the answer to your question, except I think they're still waiting to see how this thing comes out.
SEN. DODD: Well, I mean, waiting to see how it comes out could mean --
MR. HAMILTON: Listen, they're hanging back. There is a strong feeling in the region there that America's losing and that Iran may emerge as the winner. If that's the case, that's a very different environment. Let me be clear here: I'm speculating. I don't know this.
SEN. DODD: One head of state said to me -- and I'm going back about four or five months ago when I was there -- said my great concern is the United States is going to cut its own deal with Iran at our expense.
MR. BAKER: There is concern about that. There is concern about that on the part of these countries. I mention, if you look on page 44, Senator, we mention the efforts with the Gulf plus two that the secretary of state has been engaged in. These are very beneficial, in my opinion.
We indicated in our report that maybe it didn't go as far as it should in terms of creating an Iraq international support group, but nothing but positive, I don't think, can come from those efforts. So it's a good thing to be doing, but that maybe they would be good to fold those into a broader effort.
The same with the Compact for Iraq. These countries do participate in the Compact for Iraq, the countries you're talking about, the Gulf plus two.
SEN. DODD: And I appreciate some points -- you might want to expound on this further. And Secretary Baker, you've had years of experience dealing very directly with some of these folks as to why there isn't a more aggressive approach on being active on the diplomatic front.
One of the problems I hear all the time from people, and it sort of underscores the point that my colleague from Pennsylvania has raised here this afternoon, I don't know how accurate, again, polling data is in these matters -- I'm not sure how you do a good poll in a place like Iraq today, given the circumstances.
But the number we hear bandied around quite a bit is something in the neighborhood of 60 percent of the Iraqi people are hostile to the notion of us even being there. One number had 61 percent suggesting that they were not opposed to attacks on American forces in Iraq.
It's a pretty difficult deal to explain to anyone why you're here sending your sons and daughters to this situation when a majority, not an insignificant majority of the people, if these numbers are even remotely close, are hostile to the very presence of the people who are there for the purposes of providing them a better opportunity.
How do you make a case --
Could I please just finish the thought here? Thank you. My point being here, it's one thing about the polling data here, and there's obviously numbers that think we ought to be removing. But the polling data in Iraq suggesting that they're opposed and hostile to us being there makes it very difficult for us to sustain the kind of support in this country and elsewhere if, in fact, people are cheering when American soldiers are being shot at, wounded, or killed.
I don't know how we sustain a policy with that kind of activity going on in a country when we talk about giving them some hope for the future.
MR. BAKER: Very true. I can't quarrel with the conclusion. It makes it very difficult. That doesn't mean we ought not to try. We have a lot at stake. We've talked here today about the consequences of failure, and they're severe -- catastrophic, in my view.
SEN. DODD: Lee, any final point on that?
MR. HAMILTON: Well, the perceptions that we have of what we're trying to do, and the perceptions they have of what we're trying to do, are just miles and miles apart. And bridging those perceptions will just be exceedingly difficult to do. But you know, these people are living today a miserable life. And anybody who visits Baghdad gets a sense of the hopelessness of life there for these people.
And when you're in that circumstance, you blame somebody. And we happen to be the foreign power that's present, and I guess a lot of them blame us.
SEN. DODD: I thank you both. We've kept you a little longer than we promised, and I apologize to that. Do any of my colleagues have any final comments? We kept you beyond three o'clock.
Again, I think all of us have a deep appreciation of the amount of effort you've put in. You and your staffs that were here as well should be recognized, and other members of the group. So we thank you immensely for your effort. We may have some additional questions some members may want to submit to you, but thank you for your presence, and this Committee will stand adjourned until further call of the chair.