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I've had more of a chance to look through the ISG report ... and it really doesn't get any better. The fundamental problem with the ISG is to misunderstand the entire war on terror. When we invaded Afghanistan, we did it because it sheltered and promoted terrorism, specifically the terrorists that had killed almost 3,000 Americans on 9/11. Iran and Syria do the same; they shelter and promote the terrorists that have killed American troops in Iraq as well as our allies in Israel. Syria allows them to cross their border with Iraq at will to organize, train, and hide, and Iran provides them with weapons.
What the Baker/Hamilton group proposes is nothing less than an endorsement of their tactics. By going to Teheran and Damascus to ask for their assistance, we will have proven that their terrorism and interference pays dividends -- or did the ISG believe that they would stop their terrorism if we merely asked?
Much has been made of the fact that the word "victory" only appears three times, and all in the context of an al-Qaeda victory that would result from our withdrawal. They appear on pages xiv, 52, and 56. More important, I think, is where "Israel" appears, and where it doesn't. The ISG insists that a return of the Golan Heights to Syria is all that is needed to get Damascus to abandon its opposition to Israel. It offers an American military presence to replace the strategic defense the land offers Israel, but only if both nations request it. Besides, even if Syria did allow us to position a force on the Golan Heights, why would anyone believe we would stick around if they could just send Hezbollah to push us off? That strategy seems to be working in Iraq if we take the ISG's advice.
Israel provides all of the sacrifice necessary for peace in the region, but they do wind up missing from one important part of the ISG recommendations. On page 49, recommendation 5 seems rather incomplete:
RECOMMENDATION 5: The Support Group should consist of Iraq and all the states bordering Iraq, including Iran and Syria; the key regional states, including Egypt and the Gulf States; the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council; the European Union; and, of course, Iraq itself. Other countries—for instance, Germany, Japan and South Korea—that might be willing to contribute to resolving political, diplomatic, and security problems affecting Iraq could also become members.
The Iraq Support Group, "part of the New Diplomatic Offensive", apparently excludes Jews. The report demands that we stop blindly supporting Israel and that we press them for concession after concession, all without any demand for reciprocity, but they will not have a seat at the regional conference on Iraq. That's extraordinary, especially considering that Baker, Hamilton, and Company insist that "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." If they're inextricably linked, then why isn't Israel invited?
We have to recall that James Baker has never been Israel's friend. Here he and the ISG make that very clear. The US will ask Israel to marginalize itself in order to enable Syria and Iran to dominate a regional conference comprised mainly of Israel's enemies that will supposedly deal with their territorial integrity. If that sounds a lot like Mussolini's efforts to call a regional conference together at Munich in 1938, it's not a coincidence.
Once again, the report is not entirely worthless, and some of the recommendations regarding internal Iraqi policy make a lot of sense. The rest is pure utopian nonsense, and its implementation would signal a collapse of American will in the Middle East and the beginning of the end of our protection for Israel. Our other allies in the region and elsewhere would see our retreat and reconsider their own strategic alliances with the US. It will set back American foreign policy thirty years. The White House should reject these recommendations forcefully and quickly.
Addendum: It occurred to me that the ISG didn't include Israel because it doesn't see Israel as part of the solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, which is "inextricably linked" to Iraq. Apparently the ISG sees Israel as a big part of the problem, however.Sphere It View blog reactions
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