WASHINGTON -- While President Bush acknowledges the need for major changes in Iraq, he will not use this week's Iraq Study Group report as political cover for bringing troops home, his national security adviser said yesterday.
"We have not failed in Iraq," the adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, said in a talk-show interview. "We will fail in Iraq if we pull out our troops before we're in a position to help the Iraqis succeed."
But he added, "The president understands that we need to have a way forward in Iraq that is more successful." Among the options under consideration are a partial withdrawal of US troops from more violent areas and a redeployment near Iraq's borders with Iran and Syria.
The White House readied for an important week in the debate over Iraq: Bush planned a meeting today with Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, the Shi'ite leader of the largest bloc in Iraq's parliament, and awaited the recommendations Wednesday from the bipartisan commission.
Yet his administration found itself on the defensive from the second recent leak of an insider's memo on Iraq in a week.
The latest, first reported yesterday in The New York Times, said that Donald H. Rumsfeld had called for a "major adjustment" in US tactics on Nov. 6, the day before an election that cost Republicans the Congress.
Hadley played down the memo as simply a laundry list of ideas rather than a call for a new course of action.