Iraq changes

WASHINGTON – President Bush said Saturday he wants to hear all advice before making decisions about changes in Iraq strategy, even as it was disclosed that Donald H. Rumsfeld called for major changes in tactics two days before he resigned as defense secretary.

“In my view it is time for a major adjustment,” Rumsfeld wrote in a Nov. 6 memo to the White House. “Clearly, what U.S. forces are currently doing in Iraq is not working well enough or fast enough.”

Existence of the classified memo was first reported by The New York Times on its Internet site Saturday evening in a story for the paper’s Sunday editions.

Pentagon press secretary Eric Ruff said he was not the source of the leak to the Times, but confirmed the memo’s authenticity to The Associated Press late Saturday.

“The formulation of these ideas evolved over a period of several weeks,” Ruff said in a telephone interview.

He said the options presented in the paper were Rumsfeld’s personal ideas developed in conversations with a variety of people, not part of a formal Pentagon review that also is under way. Rumsfeld had previously said publicly that he believed U.S. efforts in Iraq were not working well enough or fast enough, but he has not called for a “major adjustment” in the U.S. approach to stabilizing Iraq.

Ruff also emphasized that Rumsfeld does not endorse any one particular recommendation, and that he notes in the memo that “many of these options could and, in a number of cases, should be done in combination with others.”

Lawrence Di Rita, who was Rumsfeld’s chief spokesman before he left the Pentagon last spring, said in a telephone interview Saturday evening that the broad range of options presented by Rumsfeld belies the notion, often cited by his critics, that he is inflexible and reluctant to consider alternative approaches.

“I see this thing as classic Rumsfeld,” Di Rita said. “This is the way he operates.”

The president acknowledged the difficulties in Iraq in his Saturday radio address and said: “I recognize that the recent violence in Iraq has been unsettling. Many people in our country are wondering about the way forward. The work ahead will not be easy, yet by helping Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki strengthen Iraq’s democratic institutions and promote national reconciliation, our military leaders and diplomats can help put Iraq on a solid path to liberty and democracy.”

Bush added: “The decisions we make in Iraq will be felt across the broader Middle East.”

The president is under pressure to decide a new blueprint for U.S. involvement in Iraq. A bipartisan commission headed by James A. Baker III, a former Republican secretary of state and Bush family friend from Texas, and former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana is to present its recommendations to Bush in the coming week.

There is no hint in the memo Rumsfeld sent to the White House a day before the Nov. 7 elections that he intended to resign.

However, a person familiar with the sequence of those events told the AP that Rumsfeld did know when he wrote it that he would be leaving. The person discussed the matter on condition of anonymity.

Bush announced Rumsfeld’s impending departure the day after Democrats won control of the House and Senate. The president has designated Robert Gates to replace Rumsfeld.

Before listing options for change _ many of which are similar to various proposals by people in and out of government, including Democratic critics in Congress _ Rumsfeld noted that the situation in Iraq “has been evolving” and said U.S. forces have adjusted from “major combat operations, to counterterrorism, to counterinsurgency, to dealing with death squads and sectarian violence.”

Rumsfeld said the administration should “announce that whatever new approach the U.S. decides on, the U.S. is doing so on a trial basis. This will give us the ability to readjust and move to another course, if necessary, and therefore not’lose.'”

At the end of his list of “above the line” preferred options, he recommended: “Recast the U.S. military mission and the U.S. goals [how we talk about them] – go minimalist.”