The Sticky Parts of the ISG Report Recommendations

As I re-read the recommendations in the Iraq Study Group (does this conjure up images of James Baker, Lee Hamilton, Sandra Day O’Connor, etc. huddled togther in the college library for anybody other than me?) Report published yesterday, several points jumped out at me that made me wonder if the members of the group realized how controversial some of their proposals might be.

All emphasis in the following quotations is mine.

The first such occurs on p. 57 in Recommendation 16:

RECOMMENDATION 16: In exchange for these actions and in the context of a full and secure peace agreement, the Israelis should return the Golan Heights, with a U.S. security guarantee for Israel that could include an international force on the border, including U.S. troops if requested by both parties.

Has the U. S. ever actually given a formal security guarantee to Israel? I know it’s been talked about from time to time and, specifically, I remember Warren Christopher broaching the subject of a U. S. security guarantee in exchange for return of the Golan Heights nearly 15 years ago, but I don’t recall anything coming of that. Although I think the U. S. has an implicit security agreement with Israel wouldn’t a formal one be something of a departure?

The second controversial item is not much farther on in Recommendation 17:

RECOMMENDATION 17: Concerning the Palestinian issue, elements of that negotiated peace should include:

  • Adherence to UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and to the principle of land for peace, which are the only bases for achieving peace.
  • Strong support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority to take the lead in preparing the way for negotiations with Israel.
  • A major effort to move from the current hostilities by consolidating the cease-fire reached between the Palestinians and the Israelis in November 2006.
  • Support for a Palestinian national unity government.
  • Sustainable negotiations leading to a final peace settlement along the lines of President Bush’s two-state solution, which would address the key final status issues of borders, settlements, Jerusalem, the right of return, and the end of conflict.

Has the “right of return”, presumably the right of pre-1948 Palestinians and their descendants to resume residence in Israel, ever been mentioned in an official U. S. document before? Since this is an existential issue for Israel, I suspect that this may cause some comment.

It seems to me that this provision:

The transfer of command and control over Iraqi security forces units from the United States to Iraq should be influenced by Iraq’s performance on milestones.

in Recommendation 18 is controversial. Either the government of Iraq is sovereign in which case command and control over its security forces is not the United States’s to determine when or if it is transferred or the United States is still occupying the country in which case it has obligations for security under the Geneva Conventions which are not contingent on the performance of the Iraqi government. Recommendations 20 and 21 have similar problems.

On page 72 is the indefinite presence of U. S. military forces in Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar, even enhancing that presence to fufill commitments in Iraq a foregone conclusion? It seems to me that the governments of these countries might be reluctant to be permanent hosts given the U. S. performance in Iraq.

I suspect that Recommendation 50 will prove controversial for the present Iraqi government:

RECOMMENDATION 50: The entire Iraqi National Police should be transferred to the Ministry of Defense, where the police commando units will become part of the new Iraqi Army.

This would effectively insulate the Iraqi National Police, presently under the control of the Ministry of the Interior, from the influence of Moqtada Al-Sadr and his militia. That is no doubt the intent but, given Al-Sadr’s influence with the present Iraqi government, this could prove difficult or even impossible.

Indeed, I found this passage a little amusing:

In order to more effectively administer the Iraqi Police Service, the Ministry of the Interior needs to undertake substantial reforms to purge bad elements and highlight best practices.

In all likelihood the “bad elements” are the Ministry of the Interior. For at least some Arab Sunnis in Iraq the Iraqi Police Service is synonymous with Shi’a death squads.

The incoming Congress has already suggested that Recommendation 64 is probably a non-starter:

RECOMMENDATION 64: U.S. economic assistance should be increased to a level of $5 billion per year rather than being permitted to decline. The President needs to ask for the necessary resources and must work hard to win the support of Congress. Capacity building and job creation, including reliance on the Commander’s Emergency Response Program, should be U.S. priorities. Economic assistance should be provided on a nonsectarian basis.

I thought that Recommendation 65 was downright silly:

RECOMMENDATION 65: An essential part of reconstruction efforts in Iraq should be greater involvement by and with international partners, who should do more than just contribute money. They should also actively participate in the design and construction of projects.

The reluctance of international partners to get involved in Iraq is due to the lousy security situation in Iraq. Resolve that and you’ll have to beat ’em off with a stick.

Some good news for the State Department:

RECOMMENDATION 74: In the short term, if not enough civilians volunteer to fill key positions in Iraq, civilian agencies must fill those positions with directed assignments. Steps should be taken to mitigate familial or financial hardships posed by directed assignments, including tax exclusions similar to those authorized for U.S. military personnel serving in Iraq.

As above with international partners if the security situation in Iraq were improved you’d have to beat ’em off with a stick. In the absence of improved security we’ll draft State Department personnel and, possibly, the personnel of other agencies to fill the gap. In all likelihood that will result in just the people we need in State leaving for their health.

There are a host of other knee-slappers that challenge Iraqi sovereignty with the attendant Catch-22 for U. S. involvement and proposals that are unacceptable to the Iraqis or the other countries in the region and some of the provisions are in direct opposition to the issues that the incoming Congress campaigned on in order to get elected. If they’re very lucky, perhaps no one will notice.

7 comments… add one
  • The recommendations that I’ve read are mostly absurd. Suddenly peace between Israel and Palestine is a precondition? Why not postulate a mass conversion of Muslims to Unitarianism while we’re wishing on a star?

    And we’re going to keep more trainers in place without combat brigades? Here’s what happens: 20 US advisers are sold out by their Iraqi Captain, rounded up and beheaded. Another 20 get caught by IED’s and can’t be evacuated to hospitals because no one’s around to secure a landing zone. With few bases Americans will have to be choppered back to the green zone to sleep at night lest they be knifed in their cots.

    The whole obsession with training is ridiculous. Train them for what? For whom are Iraqi soldiers fighting? The Peshmerga units are fighting for Kurdistan, the Shiite dominated units are fighting for their sect or clan. Somehow the Baathist terrorists and the Mahdi Army don’t seem to need the training and the equipment. They seem to do pretty well without US advisors. But our guys, the “good” Iraqis need a whole lot of training and a whole lot of equipment and still they can’t be used against anyone except their ethnic/sectarian foes.

    But never fear, Iran and Syria, who have us by the shorthairs will suddenly run to the negotiating table to save us.

    The ISG’s diagnosis of the problem? “A.” Their prescription? “D.”

    We’re not solving the problem, we’re shopping for fig leaves.

  • Funny you should mention fig leaves, MT. In the first version of my earlier post on the ISG report I put a large graphic of a fig leaf at the top.

    I agree with your grading of the report if it were intended to be a military or strategic report. This is solely a political report and for that I think it’s closer to B-. The question now is how many will salute when it’s run up the flagpole.

  • Someone mentioned that the Iraqis already are all too familiar with the art of insurgency and counterinsurgency, and they don’t need training of any sort. Just look at how effectively autonomously operating death squads, militias and cells run around carrying out sophisticated reprisal attacks and what not.

    What they need is a change in mindset, either that or we recognise that they aren’t going to change their minds about devolving state security to the militias. Everyone’s out for themselves, and they know exactly how to ensure their survival.

    Bush has to accept the ISG report or he’ll be left stranded. A commander-in-chief without his Secretary of Defence (whom regrettably sorely lacks a realistic perspective) may choose to act otherwise – the Constitution does accord him executive autonomy.

  • Great minds . . . Actually, I was lazily plagiarizing myself. But for the record it’s not just any old fig leaf — this is a leaf done for a copy of Michelangelo’s David:

  • Good post there, m. takhallus.

    I am guilty of plagiarising myself sometimes.

  • Hi Dave,
    Hope all’s well….

    The Israelis are all too familiar with `security guarantees’.

    After the 1956 war Eisenhower got the Israelis to pull back by putting a UN peacekeeping force in place to stop Egyptian raids on Israel from the Sinai.

    In 1967, that force was pulled out in less than 24 hours at the order of Nasser..without anyone informing the Israelis until the Egyptian army was already in place !

    We’ve alredy seen the fiasco of what’s gone on in Lebanon with UNIFIL – first in the 1980’s and now more recently.

    And the recent pullout from Gaza was also predicated on `security guarantees’ nogotiated between Egypt, the US, thePalestinian and Israel, NONE of which were honored in the least.

    If I were the Israekis, I wouldn’t trust any `security guarantees’ as far as I could throw them.

    As for the so-called Right of Return, the Saudi Plan (which is what the ISG essentially endorses) calls for Israel to retreat to the indefensible ceasefire lines pre-1967, including dividing Jerualem and the return not only of any ORIGINAL refugees from what’s left of Israel but all of their genocidal decendants – after which the Arabs promise undefined `normal relations’ for as long as Israel still exists.

    Not mentioned in the Saudi Plan or the ISG is the fact that (a)a large part of what you would call the `West Bank’ and I would call Judea and Samaria includes a great deal of land legally purchased through the Jewish National Fund from the Effendi landowners, like Gush Etzion and Ariel and (b) any comment on the basic fairness of addressing the 400,000 or so Arab refugees of the 1948 conflict (most of whom left voluntarily)while ignoring the claims of the over 800,000 Jews ethnically cleansed from the Arab world, who had no choice in the matter.

    The `Palestinian problem, as any sensible person knows has zip to do with anything that’s going on in Iraq.

    The entire ISG could very easily have been stamped `Approved by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’, which is apropriate considering who James Baker’s paymasters are.
    (Baker-Botts, the official legal representative of the Saudi government – even against their own countrymen. Some people will do anything for money.)

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