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CNN Larry King Live

The Iraq Study Group Report

Aired December 06, 2006 - 21:00   ET


JAMES BAKER, IRAQ STUDY GROUP CO-CHAIR, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: We do not recommend a stay the course solution. In our opinion, that approach is no longer viable.


LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, a grim bottom line on Iraq -- "grave and deteriorating." And it could get much worse.

The Iraq Study Group -- prominent Americans bridging partisan differences -- says there's no magic formula to end the war that cost Americans mightily in blood and money.

But their long-anticipated, just released today report offers what might be a way out for the U.S. and an escape from chaos for Iraq.

Now, will President Bush take their advice and act?

The Study Group's co-chairs, former Secretary of State James Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton join us for their first prime time interview since making their recommendations public.

That's next on LARRY KING LIVE.

An historic day on the American political scene.

And we welcome, to kick things off tonight, James Baker, the co- chairman of the Iraq Study Group. He served as the nation's first secretary of state under President George H.W. Bush -- the 61st secretary of state, rather. If he was the first, this would be historic.

And Lee Hamilton, co-chairman of the group, who served 34 years as a Democratic congressman from Indiana. He was director of the Woodrow Wilson -- is director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

They met with the president this morning to present the report.

What was his reaction, Jim?

BAKER: Well, we were -- we were pleasantly surprised, as a matter of fact, Larry, that the president said -- of course, he hadn't seen, he'd just gotten the report, so he couldn't really speak to the specifics of it. But he said some very positive things.

He said this is a serious report, thank you for what you're doing, I'm going to consider it seriously. And it might very well present us with a common way of moving forward, or words to that effect.

So we were encouraged.

KING: Lee, would you say, based on the way they've received it, that you're optimistic?

LEE HAMILTON, IRAQ STUDY GROUP CO-CHAIRMAN: I think we're pleased. Obviously, the report is going to get very serious consideration by the president himself and by the administration. That's really all we can hope for.

We put a lot of work into this. We gave it very serious consideration. We think we have put forward recommendations that are achievable in the political environment in Washington and the political environment in Iraq.

Other reports will be coming out in the next few days for the president to consider. We think we have our report that is under very serious consideration, and that's really the best we can hope for.

KING: And, as you pointed out this morning, Jim, this was unanimous, a totally unanimous report of a very diversified group of 10.

What, Jim Baker, in your study of the Iraq situation, surprised you?

BAKER: Well, I think we were surprised, Larry, at the gravity of the situation, and we make that clear in our assessment in the report. It's a very difficult situation, particularly difficult for our young men and women who are over there and doing a remarkable job. And, by the way, their courage and their determination and their commitment will make you so proud when you're there and you see it. And it's not just the military folks. It's the folks who are doing the job for the other government agencies over there.

But I suppose I would have to say the gravity of the situation. It's very tough.

KING: Lee...

BAKER: But we say in the report, Larry -- I should add, we say in the report that we think the prospects can be improved and we make 79 recommendations that we think will improve those prospects.

KING: And you say the three that are most important then, we'll go down them -- Lee, a change in the primary mission of the U.S. forces in Iraq.

A change to what? HAMILTON: Well, we recommend that the primary mission of the United States forces in Iraq change from combat to support. And we want to see the Iraqi forces take over more of the combat responsibilities.

We recommend putting more U.S. advisers into the Iraqi structure, military structure, to be embedded in those units, and as those units become more capable, then we hope that American combat forces, we believe that American forces can be drawn down over a period of time, carefully and deliberately.

We also think that you're going to have to maintain in Iraq, while you have American forces embedded with the Iraqi units, that's a dangerous position oftentimes. You're going to have to have American power the through Special Operations forces, rapid reaction teams and other ways, to protect those forces as best you can.

KING: You also call, Jim, for prompt action by the Iraqi government to achieve milestones, particularly national reconciliation.

Would you say that the government policy, the United States policy thus far is a failure?

BAKER: Well, I don't think you -- I would characterize it as a failure. But I want to point out, Larry, that the three big areas that we -- the three big recommendations we make all represent a change from current policy.

We think there needs to be a new way forward and a new approach. And one of those new ways forward is to not have our forces actually accountable to action or inaction by the Iraqi government.

The Iraqi government and the U.S. government have agreed on certain milestones. We call for their agreement on others, or at least the setting of other milestones, in consultation with the Iraqi government. And what we say in the report is that if those milestones are not met, or substantial progress not made toward achieving them, the United States should consider whether it should reduce its military, political or economic assistance.

My co-chairman, Lee, has very effectively, during the course of the day, made the analogy there to conditional assistance, conditional aid. Whenever we give aid to countries, a lot of times we condition it. That's very -- that's only proper, so that it -- so that the aid is used to further U.S. national interests.

KING: Lee, how do you think Iraq will react to this report?

HAMILTON: Well, we hope positively. We say that we're going to try to support this Iraqi government. We had a brief conversation this morning, Jim and I did, with Prime Minister Maliki. It went very well. He obviously has concerns about any policy recommendation that deeply affects his country.

But I believe overall they will see it positively. Now, they're sensitive on some matters. They're very sensitive about their own sovereignty. And so when we recommend a new regional framework for diplomacy, they want to be very careful that Iraq is, in fact, in control of that, or at least very prominent. And they certainly resist any idea that the United States or anybody else is imposing something on them.

We tried to draft a report that is achievable in its recommendations, achievable in the United States, given the political environment here, which is very evenly divided and highly partisan; achievable in Iraq, where that government, a weak government, is struggling to put their act together.

I think it's a relatively easy thing to sit down make a lot of recommendations about Iraq. We've seen them by the ton in the last few weeks. What's difficult is to put recommendations together that have some legs on them, if you would, in the political environment in both countries.

We tried to do that. I hope we've succeeded.

It certainly is the only bipartisan recommendation that the president is going to get. He's going to get a lot of recommendations. But this will be a bipartisan recommendation, five Democrats, five Republicans, who came together on these recommendations. And I think that'll give it additional force.

KING: We'll be right back with James Baker and Lee Hamilton, the co- chairmen of the Iraq Study Group, right after this.


GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've told the members that this report, called "The Way Forward," will be taken very seriously by this administration. It's a -- this report gives a very tough assessment of the situation in Iraq. It is a report that brings some really very interesting proposals, and we will take every proposal seriously and we will act in a timely fashion.



KING: We're back on LARRY KING LIVE with co-chairmen James Baker and Lee Hamilton of the Iraq Study Group. Their report issued today.

Jim, you want the United States to sit down and talk with Syria and Iran. They have avoided that.

Why should they do it? And do you think they will?

BAKER: Well, I can't speculate as to whether they will, Larry. But let me say that they did when we went into Afghanistan. We approached Iran directly and asked them for some assistance in there and they cooperated and they helped us. All we're suggesting in this report, with respect to Iran, is that we do the same thing with them in Iraq, that we approach them to attend a multilateral meeting of Iraq's neighbors and some other countries and see if they have any interest in helping us stabilize the situation in Iraq.

Iran has no interest whatsoever in a chaotic Iraq. And the representatives of the Iranian government that we have talked to during the development of this report have told us that.

So we ought to make sure we understand what we're talking about when we say talk to Iran. We're talking about talking to them about doing the same thing they did for us and with us in Afghanistan.

We make it very clear that the nuclear issue should remain off to the side here and in the United Nations Security Council.

Syria is a different proposition. We have diplomatic relations with Syria. We pass messages with Syria. We talk to Syria. But Syria is in a position probably to, perhaps, be more helpful even than Iran, because Syria is the transit point for all weapons that go to Hezbollah.

If we could somehow pull Syria away from Iran -- and my sense is they'd much rather be close to the United States and to the moderate Arabs nations they used to be friends with -- than they would in their marriage of convenience with Iran. We could solve Israel's Hezbollah problem.

Furthermore, Iran is in a position -- I'm sorry -- Syria is in a position to get Hamas, in the Palestinian Territories, get Hamas to acknowledge Israel's right to exist. That would give Israel a negotiating partner on the Palestinian track and would be extraordinarily helpful toward eventual peace between Arabs and Israelis.

KING: Now, Lee, in that area, urging the administration to launch new diplomatic efforts in the Israeli-Palestinian area, is -- were you stretching from the Iraq Study Group to the whole Middle East?

HAMILTON: Well, I know it appears that way. We put forward a very comprehensive, broad, diplomatic offensive. And the reason we do that is because you look at all of these issues in the Middle East and they're connected with one another.

A key to our success in Iraq, the key to our success in the region, is to appeal to the moderate Arabs. That's absolutely crucial if we're going to make progress there.

In order to make progress with the moderate Arabs, you simply have to have the standing, the legitimacy that comes from dealing seriously with the Arab-Israeli dispute. If you talk to Arab leaders throughout this region, they all sing from the same sheet of music here -- the United States must deal with the Arab-Israeli dispute in order to do a lot of other things. So would have a very ambitious diplomatic agenda. We don't try to sequence it. We recognize there are a lot of tactical decisions that have to be made. But it's a very, very important part of dealing with the Iraq situation.

The road to peace in Iraq probably does lie through Baghdad. But it is crucially important that the neighbors to Iraq reinforce Iraq and help it deal with its problems.

KING: Jim, with over 2,900 dead, 20,000 injured, why not an immediate withdrawal? Why not, you know, tomorrow?

BAKER: Well, we looked at a lot of different options, Larry, and they're all specified there in our report. And the reasons why we did not go with different options is likewise laid out there.

A precipitous withdrawal would undoubtedly not only generate a broad-based civil war in Iraq, it would probably lead to a regional war as each of Iraq's neighbors came in to protect their own interests -- the Turks with the Kurds, the Iranians with the Shia in the south, the Sunni Arab nations with the Sunnis in the center of Iraq.

So it would be a recipe for complete and thoroughgoing disaster.

HAMILTON: It would also mean, Jim, I'm sure you agree with this, that al Qaeda would have a sanctuary.

BAKER: It would have a base.


BAKER: Al Qaeda would have a base like they did when the Taliban controlled Afghanistan.

HAMILTON: Absolutely right. And our chief national security interest, in a sense, is al Qaeda here, because they're the terrorist operation.

KING: You sought the advice, Lee, of many, many people -- Bill Clinton.

Why not George Bush the first?

BAKER: We did talk to George Bush the first.


KING: Oh, you did?

HAMILTON: He was very discreet, as you would expect him to be. He felt that because the president is his son that he ought not to be engaging with us. We appreciated and respected that. He's clearly a person of great knowledge of this region and area. We would have liked to have heard from him.

But, on the other hand, we certainly respect his view. KING: How did you get 10 people who agree, Jim?

BAKER: Well, it wasn't easy for a while there, Larry. I mean there were some significant differences among this group. These are all very strong willed and powerful people and they have strongly held views.

But in the final analysis, I think everybody put those personal views aside, those personal preferences aside in the national interest. It -- we have a terrible -- we have a really difficult problem here. And we were trying to develop a consensus, bipartisan approach behind which the country could unite.

And I think everybody -- everybody did a little bit of compromising at the margins and we came up with a unanimous report -- all 79 recommendations unanimous.

KING: We'll take a break and...

HAMILTON: I think what there is here...

KING: Hold it, Lee.

We'll take a break and be back with our remaining moments with Jim Baker and Lee Hamilton.

And then we'll meet Tony Snow for a White House response.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is ahead, as well.

Don't go away.


KING: Jim Baker, assessing all of this, is the United States losing?

BAKER: I don't think you can say we're losing. By the same token, I'm not sure we're winning. I think we're in the midst of a war, Larry. The war is ongoing and that's why it's important, in our view, that these recommendations be looked at very carefully and be embraced if that's possible. We're going to need all the help we can get. And, you know, no policy is going to work with a situation as tough as this unless the American people are behind it and unless it is bipartisan in nature.

KING: Lee Hamilton, Colin Powell was quoted as saying to Bob Woodward in -- reported by Bob Woodward in his latest book that don't break the Pottery Barn rule if you're going to go into Iraq. If you break it, you own it.

Have we, Lee, broke in Iraq?

HAMILTON: Well, one of the things we were very careful about was not to look backward. We really didn't have that mandate. The mandate was to take a fresh look. We are where we are. Where do we go from here?

That's the policy question.

I believe if we had spent time looking back, we would have fractured the commission, the Iraq Study Group. It would have ended up in disarray. We didn't make any judgments about the troop levels or some of the mistakes that have been made.

We said OK, this is where we are today.

What kind of steps must the United States take to deal with the very difficult challenge of Iraq?

Forward looking all the way.

KING: Jim Baker, when you and I spoke on the phone last week and I asked you, give me a little advance of this, and you said nobody may like it.

Do you still stand by that, Jim?

BAKER: I think there are going to be a lot of people who will, a lot of self-proscribed experts who will have their preferred approach and they might not like ours. There will be a lot of people who won't like ours for other reasons.

But it's really important, though, Larry, that the country get behind this. We've got a very difficult problem there. It's not going to be solved unless everybody gets behind and pushes -- and pulls on the same oar.

KING: Lee, is this a tough sell?

HAMILTON: Of course it's a tough sell. We've got a lot of people, good people in this country, thinking about it from all perspectives. We've come out with these recommendations. They're examining those now. And Jim and I are going to be testifying 15 or 20 times before the Congress in the months ahead.

We'll do the best we can to make the case. It'll be a tough sell. We'll have to use all of the considerable persuasive powers that Jim Baker has.

BAKER: That's very kind, Lee.

All the persuasive -- considerable persuasive powers that Lee Hamilton has, as well. And the other members of our Study Group, Larry. We've got some really, really fine people on there and they can be quite persuasive.

KING: Jim, what's the -- you've been over so many times in diplomatic efforts around the world -- what's the Iraq government going to look like, ideally, when all this is over?

Ideally. BAKER: Larry, in this report, we say we agree with the president's goal of an Iraq that can defend itself, sustain itself and govern itself. And we agree with that goal. And if we can get an Iraqi government that can do that, we will have won. We will be successful.

KING: What will it look like, Lee? Will it be -- will it be a federal government? Will it be three states? What do you think?

HAMILTON: Larry, you're not going to get me to make predictions. What impresses me overwhelmingly is we've got a tough problem here and we've got to come together as a nation to try to resolve it.

I can't predict the future for you. We've got a chance. The situation is grave and deteriorating in Iraq. We got some very bad news today with regard to American casualties.

KING: Yes.

HAMILTON: And we've got to try to turn it around.

I'll let the predictions be made by somebody else.

KING: America owes you all, both of you, a good deal of thanks for continued great service to your country.

Thank you, guys.

BAKER: Thank you, Larry.

HAMILTON: Thank you, Larry.

KING: James Baker and Lee Hamilton.

And when we come back, Tony Snow, the White House press secretary.

Don't go away.


KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE Tony Snow, an old friend, the White House press secretary.

What's the White House's reaction to this, Tony?

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, you've heard part of the White House reaction. The president, earlier today, welcomed the report. And I'll tell you the thing we like the most, Larry, and you just heard it from Lee Hamilton and Jim Baker.

What you had is a bunch of Democrats and a bunch of Republicans who said we're not going to be Democrats and Republicans. We're going to be patriots. We're going to take a look at a tough problem. And we're going to try to look at a way that is practical in addressing the concerns regarding Iraq, but also may deal with one of the more intractable issues in America, at least in the recent months, which is bringing Americans together, bringing Democrats and Republicans who are in office now together and creating some sort of basis on which we can rebuild a sense of national unity and purpose.

Because, as they point out, you can't win without unity. The president understands that. We're taking a very careful look at all 79 recommendations, as well as the analysis in the report.

But I've got to say, maybe the most heartening and impressive thing was the attitude of the members of commission itself because sitting in the room with them this morning really was a great experience. And you had people as different as Ed Meese and Vernon Jordan both talking about the fact that they've been in commissions like this over and over and over again and, for the first time in their life they were in one where it felt special.

This was not -- this was not -- they weren't there for the honor of the thing. They were there to roll up their sleeves and work on a tough problem.

KING: Tony, do you think the big divide will be over sitting down with Iran and Syria?

SNOW: Well, you know, there's interesting language. As Jim Baker pointed out, thee had -- it doesn't say that you're going to have full diplomatic ties. What it says is that in the context of an Iraq support group, there may be, you know, there may be some diplomatic contact.

We're not going to prejudge it. But as Jim Baker was pointing out, in Afghanistan there was some contact between the then-ambassador to Afghanistan, Zal Khalilzad, who's now our ambassador in Baghdad and governor of Iran. And in 2004, at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, Colin Powell was at a meeting where there were Iranians present.

But I will say this. We've made it clear in dealing with Iran that, especially with regard to moving forward on a whole series of initiatives within the U.N. Security council, actually, what they call the P5 Plus One, the five permanent members plus Germany, that there are some very specific things Iran needs to do with regard to uranium enrichment and reprocessing.

So I don't want to prejudge it. But it is clear and it is interesting -- with regard to Iran and Syria, they understand, the members of this study commission, what's going on with Iran and Syria and how they need to stop being provocative factors and try to be constructive factors within the region.

So, you know, in terms of analyzing the problem, we certainly see eye to eye in terms of the problems posed right now by the behavior of the governments in Tehran and also Damascus.

KING: The president has promised to act in timely fashion.

SNOW: Yes.

KING: Define that.

SNOW: Well, what we're trying to do, obviously we have the Baker-Hamilton commission report, the Iraq Study Group. Now we're also awaiting the study from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, headed by General Pete Pace. The National Security Council is working on an inter-agency operation involving the State Department and other portions of the Bush administration. We're hoping to have all of that pulled together so that maybe by the end of the year, the president can announce a new way forward.

But the one thing -- look, we agree with one of the key conclusions of the commission, which is we need a new way forward. It is clear that some of the attempts in the past to work out Baghdad security have not produced the results we wanted.

As Donald Rumsfeld said in that now famous memo, things are --- we're not doing well enough fast enough. It's important for people to understand not only what we're doing, but what the Iraqi government is doing. And the president will talk about it when he's ready.

KING: And one other thing, Tony. Does he remain confident that this can be turned around?

SNOW: Yes.

And I'll tell you why, Larry. The president believes not only in the American military -- and he's had an opportunity now to take the measure of Nuri -- Prime Minister al Maliki -- Prime Minister Maliki and -- I'm sorry, I'm getting all my -- getting caught up here a little bit -- and also some of the leaders of other political parties within Iraq.

But he also understands the transformational power of liberty. And he talks about this with some passion. It's the animating passion that made people in the United States do something that seemed impossible long ago, which was to stand up to their freedom and create the greatest empire -- the greatest nation on the face of the earth.

And it creates an opportunity -- the power of the promise of liberty is something that motivates people to do pretty extraordinary things. You take a look at what the Iraqis did. They went to the polls, 12 million of them, against possible threats of death. You have a government that still remains intact, where you have Sunni, Shia, Kurds and others working together. You have a military that remains intact and is getting more capable.

And that gives you an idea that the Iraqis are serious about this. And as this report points out, ultimately, it is going to depend on the Iraqis. But you know, that power and promise of freedom is something pretty special, as every American knows.

KING: Thanks, Tony. See you soon.

SNOW: Thank you, Larry.

KING: Tony Snow, the White House press secretary. When we come back, Madeleine Albright will be joining us and George Mitchell.

Lots more ahead.

Don't go away.


HAMILTON: Many Americans are understandably dissatisfied. Our ship of state has hit rough waters. It must now chart a new way forward. No course of action in Iraq is guaranteed to stop a slide toward chaos. Yet, in our view, not all options have been exhausted.



KING: We now welcome Madeleine Albright, she was the 64th secretary of state in the Clinton administration, and George Mitchell, the former Senate Majority Leader and international peace negotiator.

Madeleine, your reaction to this event today?

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, I think that this study group has done an incredible job, worked very hard, pulled a lot of material together. But ultimately, Larry, it depends on the president. As he says so often, he's the one who makes the decisions. And he has to process all this material, as well as the other reports that Tony Snow was talking about, and then decide that it is time for a new approach.

I'm a little worried that some of the language that the president and Tony Snow are using is very similar and that they's still a little bit of state of denial here. This is a very bad situation. And Jim Baker and Lee Hamilton and the other commissioners have basically told the truth about how difficult it is.

KING: George, how do you view it?

GEORGE MITCHELL, FMR. SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: They did the country a service by telling it like it is, Larry.

They didn't look back. That's the only way they could achieve a bipartisan consensus.

But they made an assessment, which they had to do. And the assessment can be read only as a devastating critique of the administration's performance to date.

But I do think they did the president a great service by first offering a way out. And specifically, Larry, they have defined success downward. Their report, which is headed in one chapter "Achieving Our Goals" quotes the president, defines the goal as an "Iraq that can defend itself, govern itself and sustain itself." And you heard Jim Baker just a few minutes ago call that success. You read those words and that's a long way away from the original, rather grandiose delusions that the administration set for its policy in Iraq, democracy throughout the region, so forth and so on.

So I hope the president, after taking the lumps that the assessment really does provide, looks at this positively and seizes on this opportunity. I think there is still a possibility of achieving that objective, although it's going to be very, very difficult.

KING: I would gather, Madeleine, we'll be doing a lot more on this tomorrow night and calling on you to hopefully return because this is a very, very important matter. We have limited time tonight.

Madeleine, do you think this administration will sit down with Iran and Syria?

ALBRIGHT: Well, I hope they will because I do think that, as Jim Baker has said and I've said, I think George has said this, too, is you have to talk to your enemies. You make peace with your enemies, not with your friends. And there is no question that both Iran and Syria, especially Iran, has a great deal of influence in the region.

And I do think the other part of this report that is important is that they have put Iraq within the regional context and said that there are a whole host of issues that need to be resolved, including the Israeli-Palestinian one. So I do hope that they consider talking with Iranians and Syrians. It does not have been on the in a one-on- one as has been pointed out, but I do think they need to be brought into the process.

KING: George?

MITCHELL: Well Larry, as you know, I've said many times on your show that the central issue in the region and to the Muslim world is not Iraq, it's the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And one of the problems that I think has developed in the past four years is the administration's relentless focus on Iraq in resources, attention, manpower, to the exclusion of other problems in the region and most notably the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

This report is very direct and explicit in saying it's all one region and you have to concentrate -- you have to make a real effort on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I agree with that completely. And I think that it gives the president an opportunity to move there as well.

KING: Sorry about the limited time tonight. We'll be calling on both of you again. Madeleine Albright and George Mitchell, always great to see two great Americans together with us. Thank you.

ALBRIGHT: Thanks, Larry.

MITCHELL: Thank you.

KING: Anderson Copper is in Washington tonight with good reason. He stands by, he'll be hosting "A.C. 360" at the top of the hour. What's up, Anderson?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Larry, the focus of course, Iraq. Now the question is what happens now? Now that the commission has made its recommendation, will the president follow the recommendation and does he have to follow them?

Plus another story out of the White House. There's a baby on the way, not from one of the president's daughters or the Cheney's daughter Elizabeth, but instead from Cheney's daughter Mary. She is expecting, and you might remember Mary is the openly gay daughter of the vice president. And you can imagine her news is making some ripples among this country's conservative base. We'll take a look at the issue.

All that and more, Larry, at the top of the hour.

KING: That's "A.C. 360" at 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific.

Coming up next, two mothers of kids in the military with two very different views. Stick around.


KING: In light of this historic report, we thought we'd call on two mother with boys in Iraq, with very different views in the war. Here in Los Angeles, Pat Alviso, she is a member of the Military Families Speak Out. Her son is a United States marine on his second deployment to Iraq. There is his picture. We keep the face covered. His nickname is Bitto.

And in Orrington, Maine is Becky Davis, she's a member of Military Families Voice of Victory. She has three sons on active duty. One of them currently deployed in Iraq.

Pat, the report issued today said that a precipitous withdrawal might cause a blood bath and a wider war. You want a precipitous withdrawal.


KING: How do you react to that?

ALVISO: Well, after nine months that this study has taken for us to finally get an answer, this group that has decided to pretty much do the same thing, right, stay the course.

KING: You don't see any...

ALVISO: ... Not much. Not say stay the course but they're asking for basically redeployment, right? And a phased withdrawal. And that's allowing time for those of us who have family members out there worry every day. You're a parent, too, right?

KING: Why do you want your son's face blocked?

ALVISO: Well, we don't -- my son is not exactly believing as I do, that they should come home now because he's in the middle of doing his job. And he's in a position where he doesn't want anybody in the military to know who he is. Because I'm speaking out, doesn't mean that he feels the same way, but he's part of me.

KING: The death total now is 2,918. Becky, what do you make of this report?

BECKY DAVIS, SON IN IRAQ: I have some reservations about the report. I do appreciate the feedback, but I have a lot of reservations about diplomatic talks with Iran. A lot of the sectarian violence in Iraq is from Iran. That's my biggest issue with it and the biggest issue of all the families I spoke with.

KING: Wouldn't that then be a good idea if they're the cause of it, to talk to them, rather than not talk to them?

DAVIS: If they were reasonable people. Ahmadinejad does not -- he's not reasonable. He's not like our other enemies or the basic enemy we've dealt with like Russia in the past. These are people who have bigger issues of controlling Persia and he's not as warm and fuzzy as he appeared at the U.N.

KING: Pat, why do you want your boy brought home and everybody else brought home?

ALVISO: This war has raged on for three years. I'm a member of Military Families Speak Out. That's the largest organization of military families that has ever assembled awe oppose the war. We want the troops home now.

KING: Because?

ALVISO: But we support the troops. Because there's plenty of them to -- we have plenty to do now to take care of them when they get home. The major issue is not really whether or not we are the problem -- whether or not they are the problem. The problem is our position, we are the occupying force and we believe that is just making it worse.

KING: You think it's wrong then?

ALVISO: Yes. And we think it's time to bring them home. This war has gone on for three years already.

KING: Becky, why should your boys stay?

DAVIS: Actually, we shouldn't even be looked at as an occupying force at this time. This is the second year in a row that Iraq has asked us to stay in order to stabilize the country. If we were to leave before it is stable enough for them to take care of themselves, we'll end up going back over there again.

KING: Why do you want your boy to stay?

DAVIS: Well my boy wants to finish his job while he's over there. KING: But you, do you want ...

DAVIS: ... I'm going to honor him enough. Well, I -- as a mom, every mom would like their son to be safe. But he -- he wants to serve his country. He's wanting to be doing what he's doing. He wants to complete his mission.

KING: Your boy wants to stay?

ALVISO: My son would like for all of us to come home. You know, the truth is, you know we have had already just 12 deaths today. It's about saving lives. If we're facing reality, it's a civil war right now. I don't want my son -- nobody wants their son or family member involved in a civil war.

We just lost 12 lives today. We're going to have, what, 29 this month and it's only six days into December. We're close to the 3,000th death and this is after nine months is all they're telling that us we should do?

KING: Becky, how do you react when you hear members of the ISG say they don't know if the situation can be turned around?

DAVIS: I actually hear from the boots on the ground that it can. There are some problems. Our military has their hands tied when it comes to defending themselves. That's why we have issues with, you know, putting more boots on the ground if you don't take a good look at the rules of engagement, you know that would be senseless. But as in saying it can't be saved, no, I hear much differently from our troops.

KING: Are you at all critical of the way the administration has run the war, Becky?

DAVIS: No war is ever perfect and there have been mistakes made, allowing Muqtada al-Sadr to still be around was a huge one that's hurt us dearly. But if you can't do everything perfect it doesn't mean, you know, you shouldn't do it right and not finish what you're doing...

KING: Well said. Only have 30 seconds left, Pat.

DAVIS: ... because you want perfect.

KING: Pat, do you think your boy will be home soon?

ALVISO: I'm praying that he's home and 140,000 others of them that they can come home now.

KING: Thank you both very much, Pat Alviso and Becky Davis.

Up next, we check in with two of CNN's top international journalists to see how today's report's being received overseas.





KING: And to wind things up, Christiane Amanpour, CNN's chief international correspondent, joins us from London. And Nic Robertson, CNN's senior international correspondent, from Baghdad.

Christiane, your take on the reaction in Iraq from this today?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm not sure about the reaction, except to say that the Sunni bloc have said some positive things out of here. Some of it's vague. They expected more of a timetable for perhaps the withdrawal.

But on the issue of training Iraqi troops, which is basically what this is boiling down to now, they have said that what we need is a serious effort at that.

And I think all of us who have covered that story and who have covered the American effort to train the Iraqi troops know that the U.S. commanders and U.S. soldiers there are trying to do a really incredible job, and most of their heart really is in it, and they know that it's a serious exit strategy.

However, they have not had all the stuff they need to do it properly, whether it be all the money they need, all the equipment they need, all the uniforms they need. There still isn't a proper ministry of defense system set up in Iraq.

So that is a major, major problem, given that it is a number one priority of the United States. So how to actually train these soldiers better now in a last-ditch, desperate attempt.

And I think the other issue is that this is interesting point, these -- the Iraq Study Group clearly makes, but it looks like, obviously, "Iraqization", which is what we had back in Vietnam, "Vietnamization".

But then it's sort of blame the Iraqis if it goes wrong. If they can't do the political, military, militia kind of things that they should do, reduce support for them.

KING: Nic Robertson, what's the official reaction, if any, so far from Baghdad?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the prime minister here, Wolf, says -- Larry, I'm sorry -- Larry, says that he wants to read the whole report before he makes any final decision and makes any comments on it. But it looks like he's preparing to do that. He is expected to hold a press conference on Thursday.

I think what we've seen from the prime minister over the last few days is, perhaps, he's already beginning to step along the path of some of the ideas outlined in the report. That is, that he's calling for a national reconciliation conference. He's talked about sending envoys around the region. He's talking about having a regional conference. So, he's doing some of the things.

And the government here has been demanding greater control over the security of Iraq. It has been demanding an increase in the -- in the capabilities provided for the military here: medical support, greater armaments, tanks, heavier weapons to deal with the insurgency.

The Achilles' heel of the training, as Christiane was pointing out, the Achilles' heel of it has always been the number of translators to translate what the American trainers are telling the Iraqi troops.

Now we're hearing that the number of trainers is going to be ramped up, perhaps fourfold. The problem has been that there hasn't been enough translators. And that still remains an issue today, Larry.

KING: But Christiane, the beat goes on. Today was a horrible day in deaths, more violence. Is this going to stop it?

AMANPOUR: Well, look, it's really Hard to see a way out. I think this report painted a very, very stark picture of the reality there, the reality that we have been reporting for the last three and more years out there.

And that is that it is -- it has been gradually spiralling into the situation that it is now. And it's hard to see now how it's going to be pulled back from the brink. I mean, people say civil war, people say Lebanon, some people say worse than Lebanon because there are so many different factions.

The issue of trying to have a regional conference -- all of these things sound really, really interesting and good. But it's very hard right now to see even what dialogue with Iran would do. Even if they were going to do it, Iran is a big bargainer, as you know. Right now, it hasn't had much from the administration to invite it in to actually try to play a positive role.

You heard Tony Snow say that even if they did talk to Iran, they would want to put the U.S. issues on the table, such as the nuclear issues. Well, Iran would want to, as well. And then where does this bargaining go? Does it help Iraq? And that kind of timetable. It's a very, very difficult situation.

KING: Nic, might -- seriously, might it be too late to implement this?

ROBERTSON: Well, when you talk to some of the politicians leading the country here at the moment, they sincerely doubt that talking to Iran and talking to Syria at this stage could make a difference.

They say if that was to have helped, it should have happened several years ago. They believe that the situation is at such a crisis point that time is of such an essence that the nature of any bargaining with Iran or with Syria would just be so lengthy.

And the report points out that Iran, of any of the regional country here has the greatest leverage of any country in Iraq. It's been arming, training the militias here, influencing the politicians on both sides of the equations here. The government is under huge pressure to disarm militias. Many leading politicians think that could bring down this government.

The timeframe is so short. The analysis here really is that the time for talking to these countries was several years ago. It's good to talk, but whether it's going to deliver, really, there's not a great deal of hope at the moment, Larry.

KING: So, Christiane, we only have 30 seconds.

Are you optimistic at all, based on today?

AMANPOUR: I have to say, optimism is very difficult for Iraq.

But what I'm hearing from people who -- whether they be U.S. or other officials who have been dealing with Iraq for several years now, people are really starting to talk about the three-part option. And some people point to Kurdistan and say, look, you know, they're the big winners, it works up there, maybe we can do this kind of thing.

Obviously, many others think that this is just opening a whole new Pandora's Box down the road. But it's interesting what desperation may lead people to.

KING: Thank you both very much. Christiane Amanpour and Nic Robertson, two of the best, if not the best in the business.

We will probably stay on top of this story again tomorrow night. We'll let you know details and you'll be hearing about it during the day as to what we'll be covering.

Right now Anderson Cooper is going to stay with this story. He's in Washington, D.C. to host "AC 360" -- Anderson.