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Baker's Dozens

Why Iraqi President Calls ISG Recommendations An 'Insult' and 'Dangerous'

By Steve Schippert | December 11, 2006

There is something missing from the Iraq Study Group's report, and at least one Iraqi leader is mincing no words criticizing the contents chosen to inadequately fill that void. While many Americans are harshly critical of its timidity in the face of a forward-deployed al-Qaeda and its expressed desire to negotiate 'Iraq stability' with an instigating Iran, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani lashed out at the ISG report, calling it "an insult to the people of Iraq."

The UK Independent quoted Talabani as saying the report "is not fair, is not just, and it contains some very dangerous articles which undermine the sovereignty of Iraq and the constitution. It is not respecting the desire of the Iraqi people to control its army and to be able to rearm and train Iraqi forces under the leadership of the Iraqi government."

Surely at least in part, Talabani is speaking of the Iraq Study Group's definition of "milestones" that the Iraqi government must achieve (Pg. 42). While the "milestones" laid forth by the ISG report are not necessarily poorly formed, it is understandable that an Iraqi leader would interpret it as a dictation. There are few other ways for Talabani to interpret the suggestion that American assistance be tied directly to their successful implementation.

Perhaps his harshest words for the Iraq Study Group echoes a key observation that is getting relatively little attention in the United States, but one that seemed to scream out at the reader in the report. "If you read this report, one would think that it is written for a young, small colony that they are imposing these conditions on. We are a sovereign country," Talabani said.

But perhaps the proposed creation of the 'Iraq International Support Group' (Pg. 34), which would comprise all of Iraq's neighbors and other Gulf and Middle Eastern states, drives Talabani's criticism with equal vigor.

The Iraq Study Group Report states that the purpose of the 'Iraq International Support Group' is to "assist Iraq in ways the government of Iraq would desire, attempting to strengthen Iraq’s sovereignty—not diminish it." That the writers felt compelled to explicitly draw that distinction is telling, as Iraq would not come to that table from a position of pawer. It, therefore, is difficult to envision - for Talabani or anyone else - Iraq proposing to antagonist participants who they might assist Iraq in diverging from the interests of, say, Iran or Syria.

To say the least, Iraq’s neighbors (envisioned participants) are not necessarily subscribers to the view that a prosperous, secure and democratic Iraq is in their interests. Iran and Syria have directly supported the actors bringing turmoil to Iraq. Turkey has launched incursions into the Kurdish northern areas of Iraq (often in joint operations with Iran, which has done the same). Saudi Arabia has been reported to have been aiding the Sunni insurgency as a counterbalance to Iran. The Saudis surely have an eye toward exporting its own militant miscreants into Iraq and away from the House of Saud, as well.

That leaves, of Iraq's directly neighboring countries, only Kuwait and Jordan who may conceivably function within the group in the manner that the ISG envisions.

All of this reflects the wishful thinking clearly pervasive throughout the drafting of the ISG's report, seemingly detached at times from reality when weighing its recommendations, even while its assessment is widely thought to be largely accurate of the current situation. To arrive at such recommendations, says Greg Richards at American Thinker, is pure solipsism.

[O]ne of our objectives in Iraq was, by going on the offensive in the War on Terror, to make the opposition respond to our initiative rather than we responding to and being victimized by their initiative. And that has succeeded. The ISGR falls into the solipsism of blaming ourselves for the violence in Iraq whereas the primary responsibility falls on those who are attacking their fellow-religionists and citizens. And….to the extent that al Qaeda’s resources have been committed to defending in Iraq – and they have – that is a win for us in strategic terms. Yes, we have been incurring casualties in Iraq. But that is what happens in war. The opposition has had to throw in their “best” in Iraq, so far to no good purpose.

But rather than defeating al-Qaeda in Iraq, the Iraq Study Group rather chooses to ‘end the violence’ through fewer troops, less direct US force and the initiation of talks with Iraq’s neighboring antagonist states to engage them on how they can help Iraq.

Furthermore, the sectarian violence thrust center stage in recent months did not begin with the bombing of the Shi’a golden domed al-Askari mosque in Samarra. Nor did it begin with the US invasion and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. To wit, were not Sunni Hussein's Kurdish genocide - including the gassing of entire villages - or his ruthless suppression of the Shi'a Iraqis in the south not sectarian violence?

The sectarian plight of both groups is plainly seen through the numerous mass graves unearthed throughout Iraq.

'Sectarian violence' has existed among the various sects of the Muslim world for over 1,300 years and is not going to be solved by the findings and recommendations of an American commission nor through the auspices of an International Iraqi Support Group.

As it exists in Baghdad today, the sectarian violence most certainly will not be solved through direct talks with its primary instigating states, Iran and Syria, let alone by disengaging al-Qaeda in Iraq and leaving them for an inexperienced Iraqi Army spiced with a sprinkling of American special operators. al-Qaeda and Iran seek the chaos that the Sunni-on-Shi'a bloodletting creates, for it gives them the prospect of preventing an American-Iraqi success and thus the opportunity to carve out their own grand designs.

Participation in an International Iraqi Support Group and direct talks will niether entice Iran nor alter their course, and an American disengagement from al-Qaeda leaves them emboldened.

To that, the central theme of the ISG report is clearly represented by its statement that "Violence cannot end unless dialogue begins, and the dialogue must involve those who wield power, not simply those who hold political office." (Pg. 46)

Throughout the history of warfare, violence ends when one side or both have so forcefully brutalized the other as to completely sap his will to continue the fight. At that point dialogue begins, as the victor dictates the terms of disengagement.

Short of this, there will be no end to the violence that the Baker Group envisions negotiated into termination.

Is it any wonder why Iraq’s President Talabani, left wanting for something far more tangible, called the Iraq Study Group report "an insult to the people of Iraq" and "dangerous"?

It’s called victory, a term clearly not in the lexicon of America’s heralded ‘realists.’


Well at least the ISGR had something for everybody with which to disagree. The current situation in Iraq can be explained via two alternate scenarios. The first is that the insurgency was instigated and fueled from the outside (Iran, Syria, Al Quada) and therefore no matter how well the US acted in Iraq the outside influences are beyond it’s control. This is the one played up by the Bush administration which does not condemn the policies nor conduct of the “war.”

The second is that the insurgency is a direct result of internal squabbles among the several factions making up the Iraqi government and their inability to reach agreements and control events. This scenario is the one contained in the ISGR and the one Bush would rather not acknowledge.

I suppose the truth is something in between the two.

As for the concept of victory it’s all in the eye of the beholder. If the only way to secure and stablize Iraq is through talks with Iran and Syria, then the concessions to be made would assure a Pyrrhic victory!

The ISG report expects Iraqis to stabilise their nation without according them the means to do so, or even giving them the guarantee that we'll be there to support them and act as a safety net. Not only that, instead of assuring them of our commitment (or lack thereof), we're introducing foreign intervention that would undoubtedly deprive Iraqis of the means to act upon their sovereignty.

Plus, who's to enforce those restrictions on Syria and Iran, ensure that they are not violating any provision of the Versai...I mean, ISG report? Iran and Syria will inevitably monopolise the regional apparatus of coercion, intimidation and destabilisation to discourage other participants in intervening or upholding all provisions. Iraq will be left vulnerable to direct, legitimised dismemberment.

And we'll have little say at that point in time because Iraqi sovereignty would have degenerated into nothingness ala Lebanon. Expect assassinations, car bombs and Iranian Revolutionary Guard/Hezbollah/Badr/Sadr sit-ins in Baghdad.

A regional forum will eventually expose Iranian and Syrian complicity and invidious intentions in perpetuating such a conflagration to all other Arab regimes. Jordan, Egypt, the Saudis would be disinclined to work within the parameters of the forum because the ISG seems to allow Iran and Syria carte blanche to interfere and violate every inch of sovereignty of any nation in the Middle East.

Without even the other regimes ever likely to commit to upholding the provisions, the ISG report shall inevitably be relegated to the trash bin where it belongs.

[Protecting Iraqi Sovereignty]

"he ISG report expects Iraqis to stabilise their nation without according them the means to do so..."

Do the Iraqis even want to stabilize their country?

I'm not trying to be flip, I mean it. What I see is a bunch of people who want to kill each other. Maliki seems happy to have Sadr's militia on the rampage. Sen McCain and some others met with him recently, and came away doubting that he wants to help us disarm/disband the militias. Why? One explanation is that he's complicit in the ethnic cleansing that's going on.

What the placid oil markets tell us is that there will be neither an Iranian nor a U.S. assault that would interrupt the flow of petroleum through the Strait of Hormuz through which 20% of the world's traffic passes. No doubt the presence of U.S. carrier groups contributes to the calm. But the calm also rests on knowledge that Iran's leaders are not suicidal - 12th Imams or not. However, Robert Gates - ISG member who has made it to actual office - has made it plain that a responsible Iran can be a nuclear power, as are now India, Pakistan, and indeed Israel. This last nuclear state will in fact finally be responsible for its own security- as are other nations. Nuclear devolution is one of our time's inescapables. But the main geopolitical trend is the rise in the world of the nations of Asia. On its threshold, the Iranians see this well. They quarrel not but rather work with China, India and Japan, `infidels' though these may be.