Panel of prominent figures to review US policy in Iraq

WASHINGTON (AFP) March 16 — Lawmakers in Congress unveiled a blue-ribbon panel to help chart the way forward in Iraq amid growing concerns over sectarian unrest and an American public increasingly eager to withdraw US troops.

The independent 10-member panel of prominent Americans — equally divided between Democrats and Republicans — will be chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Representative Lee Hamilton.

Lee Hamilton, who was vice chairman of a similar panel that assessed official US response to the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, said the panel would “try to answer the question of what’s next in Iraq.”

“I am hopeful that this panel, comprised of honest, ethical and experienced patriots, will offer a realistic and frank assessment of the situation in Iraq and will ultimately lead us to common ground form which we can move forward as a nation.”

Participants include former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani; former Preident Bill Clinton’s Chief of Staff Leon Panetta; former CIA director Robert Gates and former Defense Secretary William Perry.

James A. Baker to lead new panel, similar to the first choice of Henry Kissinger to lead 9-11 investigation

The effort is being coordinated with assistance from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the Center for the Study of the Presidency, the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University in Texas, and the non-partisan United States Institute of Peace.

“The Institute is being responsive to requests by Congress to analyze international issues affecting war and peace,” USIP President Richard Solomon said in a statement this week.

“We look forward to supporting a group that will assess the current and prospective situation on the ground in Iraq and the region.”

Iraq at the Cross-roads of Civil War

“But I will not let myself be reduced to silence.”

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