Friday, December 15, 2006

Iraqis Reject Surrender Group Report

This comes as no surprise, as this report is basically DOA. President Bush has wisely distanced himself from the ridiculous suggestions offered up, despite pressure from the drive-by media to capitulate and declare defeat.
Iraq Study Group Chairmen Jim Baker and Lee Hamilton have spent the past week defending their report against withering criticism here in the U.S. But the more revealing reaction has been from Iraq itself: "Unrealistic," "inappropriate" and "very dangerous" are among the kinder words used by Iraq's leaders to describe the ISG's work.

Consider Jalal Talabani. A secular-minded Kurd who has probably done more than any other leader to reach out across the country's sectarian divides, Iraq's President is no doubt sympathetic to the report's calls for "national reconciliation." But he reacted strongly to the ISG's suggestion that American support for his democratically elected government be conditioned on its meeting U.S.-determined "milestones" toward that goal. That, he said, was an "insult to the people of Iraq."

Mr. Talabani was also critical of the ISG's specific ideas for achieving reconciliation. Having helped bring such Sunni leaders as Adnan Dulaimi into the political process, he clearly understands the importance of giving the Sunnis a fair deal. But he bristled at the report's idea that reconciliation should be achieved through concessions to members of Saddam's Baath Party and other Sunni rejectionists. Fellow Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani echoed that criticism, saying the ISG wanted to reward "those who are against the political process and have conducted acts of violence."
We offer this roundup not because these Iraqis are infallible on how to move their country forward, and in fact they often disagree. But their reaction exposes the flawed conception of the ISG process, which is that a group of unelected American "wise men" were going to come up with policies that would somehow save Iraq's elected government from itself. "The report has a mentality that we are a colony where they impose their conditions and neglect our independence," the pro-American Talabani said pointedly.

This Iraqi criticism also underscores that the ISG report was less about winning in Baghdad than about splitting political differences in Washington. As Mr. Bush re-examines Iraq policy with an eye toward announcing significant changes early next year, we trust he understands better than the ISG that a partnership with the Iraqi government is essential to any successful outcome.

Countering the ISG report, the Washington Times today makes the argument for additional troops.
It is increasingly clear that, absent a major change of direction, the United States could suffer a catastrophic defeat in Iraq. The debate over U.S. policy in Iraq has deteriorated into discussion of competing formulas for failure: 1) beginning to withdraw in the next four to six months, as incoming Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin suggests; 2) the Baker-Hamilton panel's plan to try to negotiate with Iran and Syria while withdrawing most combat troops by sometime in 2008; and 3) adopting the plan formulated by Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the outgoing top U.S. ground commander, to slash combat forces as soon as the spring of 2007, to move approximately half of the 15 U.S. combat brigades in Iraq away from fighting and into training Iraqi security forces. All of these plans go in the wrong direction. In the coming months, an increase of almost 25,000 troops will probably be necessary in order to stabilize Baghdad, where violence is spinning out of control.

The Pentagon's preferred alternative is getting the parties to achieve a political solution in Iraq while turning security responsibilities over to Iraqis as rapidly as possible. But the violence now enveloping Baghdad is just the latest manifestation of what is wrong with the current Pentagon approach. For the past three years, U.S. commanders have repeatedly tried to reduce American troop levels in Iraq and turn responsibilities over to the Iraqis. Each time, however, reality has intervened and forced U.S. generals to go in the opposite direction: maintaining or increasing force levels. It is also time to be honest with ourselves and realize that the political process is doomed to failure unless the Islamofascists can be defeated militarily. In the short run, this means that a larger American military presence is the only way to stabilize lawless neighborhoods of Baghdad and to protect Iraqis from the predations of terrorists and gangsters. While we agree on the need to step up efforts to train Iraqi troops to be able to control their own country, starting with Baghdad, there is no serious possibility that they will be able to do so on their own anytime soon.

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