ISG leaders defend plan on talk show circuit

Leaders of a bipartisan panel on Iraq defended their call for a new war strategy Sunday, saying it embraces President Bush’s goal of an Iraq government that can defend and sustain itself.

In the Sunday talk shows, former GOP Secretary of State James A. Baker III and former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton said their recommendations for a more robust regional diplomacy was the best approach to promote peace and stability in the region.

"We’re not going to win this war militarily; we’re going to win it politically," Baker said. "There must be a political reconciliation among the warring factions in Iraq or we’re going to continue to have major league problems."

"It’s no answer to say just because it’s tough we don’t do it," Baker said.

Bush has already been publicly cool to the panel’s key proposals — which called for direct engagement with Iran and Syria and a pullback of all American combat brigades by early 2008 — and has suggested the Baker-Hamilton plan falls short of a full victory.

In Iraq, meanwhile, President Jalal Talabani on Sunday harshly criticized the bipartisan report as having "very dangerous" recommendations that would undermine Iraq’s sovereignty. He singled out the report’s call for the approval of a de-Baathification law that could allow thousands of officials from Saddam Hussein’s ousted party to return to their jobs.

The co-chairs rejected claims their proposal ensures failure in Iraq.

"It all depends on what you mean by victory," Hamilton said. "We think it’s possible to achieve the goal the president has set out."

Baker and Hamilton appeared on "Fox News Sunday," NBC’s "Meet the Press," and CBS’ "Face the Nation."

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press