IRAN AND SYRIA
In the Executive Summary, one of the Group's recommendations is:
Given the ability of Iran and Syria to influence events within Iraq and their interest in avoiding chaos in Iraq, the United States should try to engage them constructively.
The first thing that leaped out of the page at me was "their interest in avoiding chaos in Iraq". Exactly what interest is that?
If you read the report itself, it seems to contradict the Executive Summary on this point:
U.S., Iraqi, and international officials also commented on the range of tensions between the United States and Iran, including Iran's nuclear program, Iran's support for terrorism, Iran's influence in Lebanon and the region, and Iran's influence in Iraq. Iran appears content for the U.S. military to be tied down in Iraq, a position that limits U.S. options in addressing Iran's nuclear program and allows Iran leverage over stability in Iraq. Proposed talks between Iran and the United States about the situation in Iraq have not taken place. One Iraqi official told us: "Iran is negotiating with the United States in the streets of Baghdad."
...Like Iran, Syria is content to see the United States tied down in Iraq.
Back to the original question: How is the U.S. supposed to "engage them constructively"?
This is where the "New Diplomatic Offensive" comes into play.
NEW DIPLOMATIC OFFENSIVE
Catchy phrase. What it means is use diplomacy to get all of Iraq's neighbors to create a "Support Group" to work towards a stable Iraq. (For the complete detail, read pages 50-58 of the report).
While the Iraq Study Group (ISG) came up with some intriguing negotiation "carrots" for dealing with Iran and Syria (page 51), I question whether Iran and Syria will see them that way. Especially when we get to recommendations 13-17, which have the U.S. getting more involved in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The Syrians will especially like recommendation 15 (pages 56-57), which is a list of things we should demand from them.
The Isaeli part of the "New Diplomatic Offensive" is probably the weakest part. It is filled with great ideas that never worked in the past. How many politicians and diplomats have tried to solve the Israeli-Palestinian issue? Fortunately, they did not give weightings to the importance of each recommendation, otherwise the Israeli recommendations would have to be given a "pie in the sky" rating.
BAD NEWS FOR THE LEFT
Much to the chagrin of the peacenik moonbat fringe on the Left, which has been saying for years that Iraq has nothing to do with terrorism, the ISG Report says:
Iraq cannot be addressed effectively in isolation from other major regional issues, interests, and unresolved conflicts. To put it simply, all key issues in the Middle East -- the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iraq, Iran, the need for political and economic reforms, and extremism and terrorism -- are inextricably linked.
I guess it is safe to assume the moonbats will ignore the ISG Report since it doesn't match their world view.
There is also more bad news for John Kerry and Jim Webb. The ISG Report says an immediate withdrawal is a bad idea:
The near-term results would be a significant power vacuum, greater human suffering, regional destabilization, and a threat to the global economy. Al Qaeda would depict our withdrawal as a historic victory. If we leave and Iraq descends into chaos, the long-range consequences could eventually require the United States to return.
Finally, the ultimate insult is saved for Nancy Pelosi. Just a week ago, San Fran Nan had this to say about one of President Bush's comments referring to Al Qaeda in Iraq: "But the 9/11 Commission dismissed that notion a long time ago and I feel sad that the president is resorting to it again." The ISG Report explicitly refers to an Al Qaeda presence in Iraq, performing acts of terrorism there. (On a side note, the 9/11 Commission did NOT dismiss the notion like Pelosi said.)
GOOD NEWS FOR THE LEFT
The ISG Report also says "staying the course" is a bad idea, as well as sending more troops (pages 38-39). Neither of these ideas solve the sectarian strife in Iraq.
BAD NEWS FOR JOE BIDEN
Finally, the ISG Report (page 39) rejects splitting Iraq into three regions:
Because Iraq's population is not neatly separated, regional boundaries cannot be easily drawn...A rapid devolution could result in mass population movements, collapse of the Iraqi security forces, strengthening of militias, ethnic cleansing, destabilization of neighboring states, or attempts by neighboring states to dominate Iraqi regions.
The report does add that if the situation were to move in this direction, then the U.S. should "manage the situation" to avoid negative consequences (i.e. ethnic cleansing).
There is a long portion of the ISG Report dedicated to actions that need to be taken inside Iraq. Most of it is fairly common sense, which surprises me that more of it has not already been implemented. Things such as the Iraqi government negotiating with the various sectarian groups ("Hello?! McFly!").
There is also a good idea about setting milestones for the Iraqi government. If their government does not accomplish certain goals by certain milestones, the U.S. could withdraw certain amounts of support, such as economic or military support.
RESTORING THE U.S. MILITARY
On pages 76-77 of the ISG Report is a section entitled "Restoring the U.S. Military". If anyone thinks Donald Rumsfeld didn't screw over the military, this section puts a big exclamation point on that fact:
The U.S. Military has a long tradition of strong partnership between the civilian leadership of the Department of Defense and the uniformed services. Both have long benefited from a relationship in which the civilian leadership exercises control with the advantage of fully candid professional advice, and the military serves loyally with the understanding that its advice has been heard and valued. That tradition has frayed, and civil-military relations need to be repaired.
THE IRAQI POLICE
One of the most brilliant ideas from the ISG Report is to utilize the U.S. Department of Justice to train the Iraqi police forces (pages 81-83).
THE REST OF THE STORY
There are some other sections in the ISG Report dealing with subjects such as economics and intelligence gathering. If you want to read them, help yourself, but they are not particularly interesting or earth shattering compared to the rest of the Report.
The "New Diplomatic Offensive" is a bit too idealistic for my tastes. If Condi Rice can pull this one off, give her the Nobel Peace Prize for the next ten years.
That said, I like the ISG Report overall. It has a lot of good ideas which make you wonder what our country has been doing over in Iraq the last three years.
As Captain Picard would say, "Make it so."
(Hat tip to Robert George over at Ragged Thots for posting the links to the Washington Post copy of the Executive Summary and the report itself)