BARRY SCHWEID,Associated Press
WASHINGTON – Former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright urged President Bush on Wednesday …to develop a comprehensive strategy for the area. They called for wide-ranging talks with Iraq’s neighbors, including Iran and Syria, and increased autonomy for clashing Iraqi groups. The administration has brushed aside the proposal to engage Syria and Iran.

Kissinger…said….”I think the focus has been on the surge,” he testified. “My focus is the other way around: to explain the surge in terms of the strategy to which we should go.”…a strategy that would permit large regional autonomy for the various Iraqi groups and a stronger Iraqi army. And, he said, “All of this has to be in the context of a willingness to talk to Iran” because of its power, even though he did not think Iran “would help us in Iraq as such.” “What we cannot accept is an Iran that seeks to dominate the region,” Kissinger said.

Albright, who was secretary of state under President Clinton, …told the committee, “We are viewed in the Middle East as a colonial power and our motives are suspect.” Like Kissinger, she supported participation by Iran and Syria along with other nations in talks designed to keep Iraq from slipping into chaos. “One gains by communicating with countries with which one disagrees,” Albright said. Kissinger said the U.S. should always be ready to negotiate with governments with which it disagrees.

The Iraq Study Group, a private panel headed by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and former Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., recommended in December that the administration engage in talks with Iran and Syria.


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