Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The ISG Report Is In

This is why I call the Baker boys psuedorealists and why the media doesn't quite get it.

Headline: Panel: Start Withdrawing From Iraq.

The lede:
A commission on the war in Iraq recommended new and enhanced diplomacy Wednesday so the United States can "begin to move its combat forces" out of the country responsibly.

"The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating," the commission warned after an eight-month review of a conflict that has killed more than 2,800 U.S. troops and grown increasingly unpopular at home. The report was obtained by The Associated Press.

The report warned that if the situation continues to deteriorate, there is a risk of a "slide toward chaos (that) could trigger the collapse of Iraq's government and a humanitarian catastrophe."
Maybe it's just me but there's a serious disconnect between the headline and what the panel is ostensibly calling for. If the US withdraws, the slide towards chaos will accelerate and deteriorate further. It would not improve with the US leaving. The only difference is that the US wouldn't be in country to do anything to stop the violence (though the ISG says that there's little the US can do on that score except accelerate training of the Iraqi forces).

The report says that Iraqis need to take responsibility for their own security - but that's what the US has been saying for some time now. The Iraqis haven't quite figured out how to deal with the jihadis and militias that are operating both within the government and outside it. They must gain control over the situation to improve the security situation.

But to think that the situation will improve if the US up and leaves, is downright naive. The situation cannot improve if the US leaves because the terrorists will be able to operate openly and freely. The US takes casualties because of its ongoing operations to deal with terrorists where we know they're located - inside Iraq.

It's also naive to think that the Syrians or Iranians have Iraqis best intentions in mind. They're too busy trying to destabilize all the democratically elected neighbors so that they can increase their power in the region. Lebanon tetters on the brink, Israel is beleaguered and beset on its borders by terrorists sponsored by Syria and Iran, and Iraq is between a rock (Syria) and a hard place (Iran). Calling for negotiations with countries whose long term goals are the imposition their will and their version of Islam (Ahmadinejad issued yet another da'wa to the West today) are doomed to failure because there is no common ground. Any concessions by the West will be seen as weakness by the Iranians to be exploited down the road. It is for this reason I call Baker and his comrades who call for negotiations with Iran and Syria pseudorealists because nothing good can come of such talks for the long term strategic interests of the US (or its allies in the region).

The report doesn't call for a specific timeline for withdrawal, which is a good thing since there's no reason to spell out the specific date that the terrorists have to simply survive until in order for them to achieve their success. Instead, the report provides goals that need to be achieved and warns of the dire consequences of failure. The report notes the importance of gaining consensus on what to do about Iraq and to see things through. I could not agree more. Precipitous withdrawal would have disasterous consequences not only for the Iraqis, but for US interests in the region both in the short term and the long term. While such a withdrawal would mean US forces coming home, it would reduce US national security because our allies would be that much more leery of committing to action to defend their common interests, and nations and leaders that might otherwise seek our support and assistance would instead become more reluctant to work with the US for fear of having the carpet pulled from under them at the worst possible time.

The full text of the report can be found here. Among the problems, many are due to corruption within the Iraqi government, a weak judiciary, and failings of the Iraqi military and security forces who have uneven performance and allegiances (pages 20/21). The economic situation in Iraq is uneven, but there are serious signs of progress. Cell phone usage is growing significantly and that's also a sign of freedom of speech as Saddam had restricted such usage because he would not be able to control the message. Food production also increased by 40% in Kurdish controlled areas because of an improved security situation. The Iraqi government also met IMF benchmarks.

The Iraqi economy is growing at 4% a year, which falls short of the hoped for 11%. Considering that most of Europe would kill to get 4% economic growth, take that comment by the ISG with a grain of salt. The unemployment situation is bad and improving that could go a long way to reducing the violence as well. Some percentage of those who are involved in the insurgency are doing so because they don't have jobs or because they no longer have their former jobs under Saddam. That will need to be addressed by the Iraqi government in some form or another.

Corruption and violence are also affecting Iraq's oil output, though the high prices of oil on the international markets have meant that Iraq's economy has not been harmed nearly as badly. Output is below pre-war figures, and that too needs to be addressed by the Iraqi government.

International aid has fallen short of its pledged amounts. No surprise there. (page 27). Strangely, the report claims that no country in the region wants an unstable Iraq and yet a few pages later the ISG outlines that Iran and Syria are meddling in Iraq to achieve their own strategic and tactical goals. Both are purposefully undermining the US and coalition efforts in Iraq, and undermining democratically elected governments elsewhere in the region because such governments are a direct threat to the thugs in Damascus and Tehran. Chaos in Iraq is being exploited by Iran and Syria to expand and enhance their power. Instead of addressing this, the ISG ignores this basic fact and instead suggests that the US engage in multilateral discussions as though this will accomplish US strategic interests (page 50).

What also makes little sense is why the US can or should link the situation in Iraq to any peace process between the Palestinians and Israelis (page 44). That conflict has been going on for 60 years with no sign that the Palestinians are any closer to recognizing Israel's right to exist and a 2-state solution than they were when Israel declared its independence in 1948. Yet, there is one respect where the various regional conflicts are linked: international terrorism and the state sponsorship of that violence by the likes of Iran and Syria. Saudi sheikhs are also involved in the sponsorship and other countries host terrorists and groups that preach violence and jihad. The problem is that none of the countries in the region are willing to address those issues because the terrorism is an extension of their foreign and military policies and/or lack of control over such groups as a result of being failed states that have become terrorist incubators. The ISG wiggles out of this in the following manner:
There must be a renewed and sustained commitment by the United States to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace on all fronts: Lebanon, Syria, and President Bush’s June 2002 commitment to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. This commitment must include direct talks with, by, and between Israel, Lebanon, Palestinians (those who accept Israel’s right to exist)[emphasis added], and particularly Syria—which is the principal transit point for shipments of weapons to Hezbollah, and which supports radical Palestinian groups.
Considering that the Palestinians elected Hamas - an Islamic terror group dedicated to Israel's destruction, and Fatah is also committed to Israel's destruction, no progress is possible unless and until the Palestinians accept Israel's right to exist. Syria will not stop its support of terrorism unless the regime itself is threatened with force to cease such support. It will not willingly give up thoughts of dominating Lebanon either without such threats. Yet, the ISG claims that there is no military solution to the situation. I disagree. A military solution would involve heavy casualties, but those regimes that support and harbor terrorists would be deposed and would no longer provide safe havens to the terrorists. Hizbullah and Hamas would lose their primary financial support, and be forced to fend for themselves. They'd still be able to cause mayhem against Israel and Lebanon, and perhaps other US interests in the region.

Israelis are tired of leaders that waffle and do not take decisive actions. They supported Sharon's disengagement from Gaza because it ended Israeli occupation of Gaza. That was met with a rocket war launched by PIJ, Hamas, and Fatah. Palestinians, instead of using the opportunity to advance economically, turned Gaza into an armed camp - complete with bunkers, smuggling tunnels, and further radicalized the Palestinians who saw the disengagement as a sign of Israeli weakness instead of a peace offering.

Land for peace may sound great as per UN SCR 242 and 338, but the Palestinians have no interest in anything other than pieces for peace. They want Israel in pieces, and then the Palestinians will have their peace. Their refusal to carry out any of the obligations under Oslo shows that they are unserious about peace. The Palestinians refused the deal offered by Barak at Camp David in 2000, and their elected leaders are more radical now than in 2000.

Elsewhere, the ISG's recommendations on page 45 amount to little more than asking Iran and Syria to "pretty please with sugar on top" stop making trouble in Iraq. Hoping that the UN will have some kind of magic pixie dust (page 50) to assist in Iraq is also wishful thinking. The UN was part and parcel of the problem via OFF/UNSCAM and a blind eye to the repeated Iraqi violations of UN resolutions by Saddam. Now, China, Russia, and others are hoping to use Iraq to club the US and tie it down there so that they can expand their influence in the region at US expense.

The ISG's response to addressing the issue of Iran's nuclear program: punt to the UN Security Council (pages 51/52). That's done wonders so far. No resolution and Iran continues down the path to securing its nuclear weapons program.

Hoping that Syria will adhere to UN SCR 1701 is also wishful thinking (page 54). Heck, it's wishful thinking that the UN itself would carry out the terms of UN SCR 1701 since they've ignored the part about disarming all militias operating within Lebanon - including Hizbullah. That's a not insigificant oversight and flaw in both the UN and the ISG report.

All in all, the ISG report mostly rehashes recent history and offers up a bunch of ideas that are pie-in-the sky offerings and hopes for renewed diplomatic maneuverings that might get movement somewhere on the issues facing the region.

As would be expected, quite a few people are discussing the report and attempting to read the tea leaves. This includes Charles at LGF who wonders why the ISG wants to hang Israel out to dry and negotiate with the terror supporting regimes that destabilize the region.

Rick Moran takes a read on the lay of the land. Decision 08 saw this coming given the leaks about the report for weeks and months now and further notes benchmarking is a great idea, but negotiating with Syria and Iran isn't.

The incoming chair of the House Intel Committee thinks that the US should add troops to Iraq.

Don Surber notes that the Democrats have found themselves wanting to win in Iraq now that they're going to be in charge of Congress come January. Flopping Aces wonders what this is going to do to the unhinged Left.

Others blogging: Stop the ACLU, Ace of Spades, Jules Crittenden, Tom Maguire, and Outside the Beltway.

Added TTLB linking for citations above. The ISG isn't a blueprint to victory. As others have noted, this is a political document designed to provide political cover to those who think the Administration needs to withdraw post-haste, or to continue and fight but aren't sure just what their commitment is. Others blogging: Security Watchtower, QandO, neo-neocon, and Redstate.

Still more reactions: Macranger thinks the ISG is telling the US to bend over.

Others blogging: The Lede, Dan Riehl, AJ Strata, Tigerhawk, and Tammy Bruce.

More importantly, what do Iraqis think of this. They aren't exactly thrilled about the report, or its contents.

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