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December 8, 2006
Not Exactly A Hit Abroad

The Iraq Study Group played well inside the Beltway yesterday, but it tanked on the road, according to the Times of London. If James Baker and Lee Hamilton expected swoons of delight from abroad, then they will have to prepare themselves for disappointment:

The recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group were broadly welcomed by most Republicans and Democrats in Washington yesterday, but received a far cooler reception in Iraq, Iran, Israel and from the US military.

The report, which calls for the withdrawal of all US combat troops from Iraq by early 2008, negotiations with Iran and Syria, and a renewed Middle East peace initiative, was a rare triumph of political compromise in Washington.

But for those directly affected by the Iraq war and the wider regional instability — the Iraqis themselves, Israel and the US troops on the ground — the report was widely seen as unrealistic and provocative. In Baghdad, it was branded by some influential Sunnis as designed to solve American, rather than Iraqi, problems.

It comes as no surprise that Israel rejects the ISG report. The only concessions it demands from anyone other than the US are from Israel, which must give up the Golan Heights just to get Syria to discuss whether or not to stop fomenting terrorism. Ehud Olmert laughed off the notion that Iraq's problems have anything to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Most of the problems described in the report have more to do with 1300 years of Sunni domination over the Shi'ites. The Palestinians are just a blip on the timeline.

If Baker expected Iran to jump with joy at the prospect of talks with The Great Satan, the Iranians made it clear that they see no reason for rejoicing. The only offer mentioned for Iran in the report was that we would stop trying to press for regime change, a concession they see as next to useless. The ISG banked its entire approach on bringing Iran and Syria into a regional conference, where they supposedly would act in their own self-interest to stop the chaos in Iraq. Instead, the Iranians indicated that they see no benefit in ending the chaos, especially since they're causing most of it themselves. That underscores the naivete of the ISG in thinking that Iran would view a stable, secure democracy that cooperates with the US on the war on terror, right on their Western border, as within their self-interest. It's easily the most risible portion of the utopian wish-list that the ISG produced.

Even the Iraqis don't want the regional conference. They don't see their internal politics as the business of their neighbors, and the majority Shi'ites see the recommendation as an attempt to use Sunni influence on their government. The Sunnis have dominated Iraq for centuries and no Arab nation has had any Shi'ite government. Now the Shi'ites want their turn, and the regional conference of Sunni nations (except Shi'ite Iran and Allawi Syria) threatens it. That should have been obvious to anyone, especially a panel of "wise men" attempting to re-engineer Iraq.

Everyone but the ISG and their cheerleaders understand that the main thrust of their report is built on fantasy. Iran and Syria will not voluntarily end their support and direction of terrorism just because we ask them to a big meeting. They have a vested interest in the collapse of the Iraqi democracy and its relationship with America. Suggesting that the situation in Iraq could be improved by the Israelis giving the Golan Heights and its strategic advantages to the Syrians for nothing is nonsense on stilts, as the saying goes, and everyone but the American political elite know it.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 8, 2006 5:13 AM

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