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INSIDE POLITICS
Iraq Transition

Congress forms panel to study Iraq war

Panel to recommend Iraq policy to Congress, White House

From Ted Barrett
CNN Washington Bureau

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Ex-Secretary of State James Baker, left, meets Wednesday with other members of the Iraq Study Group.

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IRAQ STUDY GROUP

  • Former Secretary of State James Baker
  • Former Rep. Lee Hamilton
  • Ex-CIA director Robert Gates
  • Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani
  • Former Clinton adviser Vernon Jordan
  • Clinton ex-Chief of Staff Leon Panetta
  • Former Defense Secretary William Perry
  • Former Democratic Sen. Chuck Robb
  • Former GOP Sen. Alan Simpson
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    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Congress unveiled an independent panel on Wednesday assigned to study the U.S.-led war in Iraq and to make policy recommendations for both Capitol Hill and the White House.

    The bipartisan Iraq Study Group -- led by former Secretary of State James Baker, a Republican, and former Democratic congressman Lee Hamilton -- is designed to focus "fresh eyes" on the war debate from people who "love their country more than their party," said Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Virginia, during a Capitol Hill news conference.

    Wolf -- who first proposed creating the group -- said he has had "extensive conversations" with the White House about the need for such an assessment.

    He wants a "second opinion" about the war from a well-known and respected group of Americans -- all of whom long involved in public service.

    Wolf wants them to say whether the war is going well or poorly and to explain the ramifications if the U.S. mission were to fail, said Dan Scandling, a top aide to Wolf.

    "Our purpose is to undertake a bipartisan, forward-looking assessment of the current and prospective situation on the ground in Iraq and its impact on the surrounding region, and its consequences on United States interests," said Baker, who served as the country's top diplomat in the administration of President George H.W. Bush.

    The group will focus on the political, military, security and reconstruction efforts in Iraq.

    "There is no issue confronting our nation, the coalition of nations working with us, and indeed the free world, than to try and bring back a measure of stability and peace to this troubled region of the world, Iraq," said Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner, also a Virginia Republican.

    Baker and Hamilton, an Indiana Democrat who also co-chaired the independent 9/11 commission, declined to give their views on the Iraq war.

    Hamilton called Iraq a "formidable challenge" but said, "We make no judgment right now."

    The group will be made up of five Republicans and five Democrats.

    They include: former CIA Director Robert Gates; former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Republican; former Clinton adviser Vernon Jordan; former Clinton Chief of Staff Leon Panetta; former Clinton administration Defense Secretary William Perry; former Democratic Sen. Chuck Robb; and Alan Simpson, a Republican former senator from Wyoming.

    Panel members said another prominent Republican will join the group but declined to say who it is. A congressional Democratic leadership aide identified that person as retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

    Hamilton said the group will travel to Iraq and may produce interim reports before issuing a final report but he declined to give a timeframe for release of those reports. He said the group would make every effort to reach bipartisan recommendations.

    Wolf said Congress will appropriate $1.3 million to fund the group, which will work under the auspices of the congressionally chartered U.S. Institute for Peace and three think tanks.

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