Sunday, December 10, 2006

Iraq Study Group Report Meets a Hailstorm of Criticism

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.

For analysis of the Iraq Study Group report, see:
A copy of the Iraq Study Group report can be downloaded here:

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."

"I think the Baker-Hamilton report is unfair and unjust," he said. "It contains very dangerous articles that undermine the sovereignty of Iraq and its constitution. I consider the report to be a type of insult to the Iraqi people. The report has a mentality that we are a colony where they impose their conditions and neglect our independence."

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?"

"Iraqis are the ones who daily bear the brunt of the terrorist groups' activities and we should be the ones who decide how to fight them," said Talabani, referencing the fact that full control over Iraq's security forces still remains with the U.S. military and not with the elected Iraqi government. "We want to achieve this by working as partners while the multinational forces remain in Iraq, and not simply follow their orders. At the moment our hands are crippled in handling the terrorism issue in Iraq."

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.

For more information on Jalal Talabani's criticisms, see:

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.

Departing U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld [left] was one of several Bush administration officials, including the president himself, who have critcized the ISG's report. In a surprise visit to Iraq this weekend, Rumsfeld urged the military to "stay the course" and said that failure would be "unacceptable."

For more information on Donald Rumsfeld's visit to Iraq, see:

President Bush [right] has rejected calls for talks with Iran and Syria on the future of Iraq and has said that U.S. troops will not be withdrawn immediately from that country. Although he admits that a "new path" is needed, the president has not yet outlined a new approach, likely digesting with his cabinet how to respond to an overall scatching (and vague) ISG report. In the understatement of the year, the president said, "It's bad over there," before stating that the ISG report was only one of several that he would be considering in the coming months. Reports on Iraq are also expected from the Pentagon, the Department of State, and the White House National Security Council.

For more information on the Bush administration's response to the Iraq Study Group's report, see:

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.

"The attempt to create a linkage between the Iraqi issue and the Mideast issue — we have a different view," said Olmert during a press conference in Israel. "To the best of my knowledge, President Bush, throughout the recent years, also had a different view on this."
Perhaps Mr. Olmert should recall that President Bush has held a whole host of views in recent years that later turned out to be inaccurate or flat-out untrue. By the way, how's the democratization of the Middle East and North Africa going? Are Jordan, Egypt, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrayn, and Pakistan democracies yet? Oh wait, I remember; all of those countries are U.S. allies so democracy isn't that important.
For more on Ehud Olmert's delusional response to the Iraq Study Group report, see:

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