Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Study Group Report, and A Follow Up Report

I finished the Iraq Study Group Report last night, and read a follow up to it prepared by the International Crisis Group titled After Baker Hamilton: What to Do Next in Iraq, which was released today. Both reports urge the creation of an “International Support Group” to work out a consensual solution to the myriad of problems facing Iraq and the region; both reports also stress the inclusion of Iran and Syria as key to the success of international efforts to achieve stability. The Crisis Group’s report goes even further than Baker – Hamilton by urging the inclusion of all home-grown Iraqi insurgent Groups, and the de facto marginalization of the current elected Iraqi government in the negotiations.

The inclusion of Iran and Syria in overt negotiations over the region’s fate is likely untenable to the current administration, and for many good reasons. However, both reports, while stressing the long term benefits to these regimes of a stable Iraq, nonetheless point out that it is unlikely that either will act in a manner that is even marginally perceived to be in the West’s interest. The U.S. is strategically fixed in Iraq for the time being, with little to no leverage to employ against Damascus or Tehran. All the better for these capitals; Iran and Syria can bide their time, let America’s national will atrophy, and then act from a position of strength when it suits them. Good luck in getting either country to send diplomats to a conference on Iraq chaired or even attended by the U.S.

Neither report provides recommendations for actions that could enable the U.S. to achieve its initial stated goal of a pluralistic democratic Iraq, so hopefully the Pentagon’s analysis will provide an alternative viewpoint that stimulates debate among key policymakers and the public in general.

Read both reports, so you stay “in the know”. And here’s to hoping that the Pentagon or some other think tank provides intellectually rigorous analysis that offers a path to achieving long term objectives in the region.

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