The report issued late last week by the Iraq Study Group (ISG), headed by the former secretary of state James Baker and former U.S. Representative and 9/11 Commission co-chair Lee Hamilton [right], has been greeted generally well by most Americans according to recent polls. However, several of the key suggestions contained within the report have been blasted by a host of government officials, from the Bush administration to the Israeli and Iraqi governments.
Kurdish tribal chief Jalal Talabani [left], the president of Iraq, heavily criticized the report issued by the U.S. Iraq Study Group late last week. The Iraqi Kurds, who have long been the most supportive of U.S. and Coalition involvement in toppling former dictator Saddam Husayn, have enjoyed relative political autonomy since 1994 and have set up an effective quasi-state with its own political institutions and military, the 100,000-strong Peshmerga militias [right]. Talabani called the report's suggestions, "the wrong medicine for the wrong diagnosis."
Talabani was particularly critical of a proposal that suggested withdrawing tens of thousands of U.S. troops while embedding thousands with Iraqi army and police units to oversee operations. The Kurdish leader said that it was important for Iraqis to be able to participate and lead the anti-insurgency campaign. "They want to embed thousands more US army officers in Iraqi army units from small squadrons to whole divisions," he said. "If our army became a tool in the hands of foreign officers, what would that say about Iraqi sovereignty? We have many former Iraqi army officers, good patriotic professional army men who were against Saddam Husayn. Why can't we bring those people to the army, to help train and develop and lead?"
Talabani said over the weekend that he was drafting a letter to U.S. President George W. Bush listing some of his concerns over the ISG's report.
Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, leader of Iraq's largest Shi'i political party, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, has said that the Iraq Study Group based several of its findings on inaccurate information. Many Iraq Shi'i leaders see the report as favoring the minority (15-20%) Iraqi Sunni Arabs at the expense of the country's Shi'a and Kurds.
The ISG's report was also rejected by Jama'at al-Sadr al-Thani, the political movement of activist Shi'i cleric Muqtada al-Sadr [right]. "This report doesn't meet our needs, because it was written by people from outside, people who live in a normal environment, not this environment," said Abu Mojtaba, a spokesman for al-Sadr.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert [left] rejected the ISG's assertion that an immediate re-start of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks was necessary to help diffuse the tension within the Middle East, North Africa, and the wider Muslim world. He said that the two issues had no relation to each other (yeah, right) and also rebuffed calls for his government to re-start negotiations with neighboring Syria. President Bush has supported Olmert and has stated that talks with Iran and Syria are not on the U.S. agenda for the near future.