The Associated Press's Frederick Frommer reports that Walz encouraged by Iraq Study Group's recommendations. It looks as if Walz and Senator Norm Coleman don't see eye-to-eye:
WASHINGTON - Rep.-elect Tim Walz, who made a new approach to Iraq a central them in his congressional campaign, said Thursday he agreed with the major findings that have leaked out from the Iraq Study Group.
"I'm optimistic," Walz, D-Minn., said in a telephone interview. "It's what I've been asking for, and what the American public was asking for, that we have an open, honest discussion on this thing."
The report by the special commission, chaired by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, a Republican, and former Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., is set to be released Wednesday, but portions have of it have been reported.
According to an official familiar with the panel's deliberations, the report will urge a major push to engage Syria and Iran in diplomacy aimed at providing a greater regional dialogue. Walz, an Army National Guard veteran, said he was particularly encouraged by that recommendation.
"I think the big breakthrough here was the admission that Syria and Iran may play some role in this," he said. "We have to engage those countries."
But Sen. Norm Coleman, a Minnesota Republican who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, took a dimmer view of that approach.
"At this point, I have some concerns about that," Coleman said on a conference call Thursday, citing Syria's "destabilizing" role in the region.
"If Syria looks at that engagement as a way to leverage greater control of Lebanon, then that would cause me to have great concerns," he said.
And he noted that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for the destruction of Israel and is developing a nuclear program which the U.S. alleges is geared toward secretly developing atomic weapons.
"If the price of engagement means we turn a blind eye to their efforts to develop nuclear weaponry and further their goal of the destruction of Israel, then I would be very cautious of engagement," Coleman said.
He added that he wouldn't mind back-channel discussions with the countries.
Walz agreed that safeguards in dealing with Iran and Syria were needed, but added, "they are two key players, whether we like to admit it or not."
The New York Times, citing unidentified people familiar with the report, has reported that the panel would recommend a gradual pullback of the 15 U.S. combat brigades.
Walz said he agreed with that.
"What I said during the campaign season, and I took some heat even from our side, was that it's not realistic to believe that every soldier's going to be gone by tomorrow at midnight," he said.