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Iraq Transition

Hadley: Bush knows changes needed in Iraq

Story Highlights

• National security adviser says Donald Rumsfeld memo "useful"
• Rumsfeld presented options in controversial memo, Hadley says
• Iraq Study Group to present its recommendations this week
• Bush unlikely to act on any recommendations for weeks, Hadley says
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- White House national security adviser Stephen Hadley said Sunday that President Bush realizes "we need to make some changes" in Iraq policy.

Bush is willing to listen to proposals for a change, Hadley said on NBC's "Meet the Press," and will receive some proposals Wednesday when the Iraq Study Group presents its report.

But Hadley downplayed the opinion of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who said in a November 6 memo that a "major adjustment" was needed.

The memo, dated two days before Rumsfeld's resignation was announced, offered the White House a variety of options on Iraq. Among them: a "modest" withdrawal of U.S. troops, to let Iraq's leaders know "they have to pull up their socks, step up and take responsibility for their country."

"In my view, it is time for a major adjustment," Rumsfeld wrote. "Clearly, what U.S. forces are currently doing in Iraq is not working well enough or fast enough." (Watch how Washington is reacting to Rumsfeld's memo)

Hadley called the Rumsfeld memo "useful and constructive." But he cautioned, "It was not a proposal for a new course of action. It was much more a list of things that needed to be considered."

A source familiar with the nonpartisan Iraq Study Group said last week it will recommend a "gradual but meaningful" reduction of U.S. troops begin "relatively early in the new year."

The Pentagon, meanwhile, is conducting its own assessment of the conflict.

"The president has acknowledged that there are things that have not gone the way we had hoped, that we need to make some changes," Hadley said Sunday.

But Hadley said last week any policy changes are not likely for weeks as Bush weighs options from all sources.

Rumsfeld's timing criticized

Rumsfeld has been widely criticized for management of the war, and lawmakers on both sides of the congressional aisle wondered Sunday why he was so late in reaching his conclusions, which were first published by The New York Times.

"I think it's a little late for the secretary of defense to be sending a memo -- at least when it's reported he sent -- after almost four years to finally acknowledge that maybe we should change strategy and acknowledge for the first time that I'm aware of that our policy is not working," said Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Nebraska.

Some of Rumsfeld's proposals echo calls by congressional Democrats, who have suggested that a phased pullout of American troops and the basing of a quick-reaction force in the region to bolster Iraqi forces. Other ideas he listed as less favorable include the deployment of large numbers of additional troops.

Sen. John Warner, the outgoing chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called the timing of Rumsfeld's ruminations "very perplexing."

"It would have been helpful if some of those ideas were brought on earlier in the fall," said Warner, R-Virginia.

And Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, said Rumsfeld's recommendations contradict much of what Bush asserted during the run-up to last month's midterm elections.

"What we heard during the election was that if you suggested a change of course, that somehow or other you were a cut-and-runner, that you were less than patriotic, that you were defeatist," said Levin, who will lead the Armed Services Committee when Congress reconvenes under Democratic control in January.

Graceful exit 'unrealistic'

Bush has insisted that American troops will remain in Iraq until the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is able to support itself. At a meeting with al-Maliki last week in Jordan, he dismissed talk of a "graceful exit" from Iraq as unrealistic.

But polls indicate a majority of Americans now oppose the war, which has claimed about 2,900 American lives. And thousands of Iraqis each month are falling victim to sectarian killings between the country's Sunni and Shiite Muslim communities.

Al-Maliki, a Shiite, has so far failed to rein in the sectarian militias blamed for the violence; and in a memo that surfaced last week, Hadley questioned whether the Iraqi leader was willing or capable of doing so.

Bush is scheduled to meet Monday with a leading figure in the prime minister's ruling coalition, Abdul Aziz Hakim. Hakim leads the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the largest party in al-Maliki's government.

Hadley told NBC the meeting was not a sign that the Bush administration was preparing to tilt its policy toward Iraq's Shiite majority at the expense of other ethnic or sectarian groups.

CNN's Kathleen Koch and Jamie McIntyre contributed to this report.


SPECIAL REPORT

• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide
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