The report was published two days after US President George W. Bush reiterated his position on keeping American soldiers in Iraq until their mission was complete.
The report came in time for a summit in Amman Thursday morning between Bush and the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki which was scheduled following another NY Times report revealing an internal memo written by Assistant to the President For National Security Affairs Stephen J. Hadley that called al-Maliki weak and incapable of exerting authority over Iraq.
The memo was written over three weeks ago, but its content proved to be very accurate, after five ministers and 30 Shiite parliament members resigned in protest of al-Maliki’s meeting with Bush.
70,000 troops to remain in IraqThe American president arrived in Amman on time, but had to make do with a meeting Wednesday with his host, Jordan’s King Abdullah. Bush and al-Maliki were scheduled to meet Thursday in the Jordanian capital.
According to the NY Times, the report, unanimously approved by a 10-member panel led by James A. Baker III and Lee H. Hamilton, was to be delivered to President Bush next week.
The NY Times also stated that the Baker panel would recommend starting the pulling-out process in 2007, however the report did not determine whether forces would withdraw from Iraq’s big cities to American bases in the country, American bases in neighboring countries, or America itself.
Despite the panel’s recommendation of a gradual withdrawal of combat units, over 70,000 or more American trainers, logistics experts and members of a rapid reaction force were expected to remain in Iraq.
The report also included a recommendation to Bush to initiate a more “aggressive” diplomacy in the Middle East, including direct negotiations with Iran and Syria. Such contacts would be in the form of a regional council on the Iraq issue – or as a wider regional council which would deal with Middle East issues, and in particularly with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.