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ISG Urges Return To Diplomacy
James Baker stated at a press conference where the report was made public,
James Baker stated at a press conference where the report was made public, "You talk to your enemies, not your friends." Baker went on to remind that during the 40 years of the Cold War the United States and the Soviet Union spoke all the time. There was even a special direct telephone link between the White House and the Kremlin called the Red Phone.
by Claude Salhani
UPI International Editor
Washington (UPI) Dec 06, 2006
The much-anticipated report from the Iraq Study Group stresses a "responsible transition" of power from U.S. to Iraqi forces, allowing for an honorable and organized retreat from Iraq. But don't expect instant results or miracles. "There is no magic formula to solve the problems of Iraq. However, there are actions that can be taken to improve the situation and protect American interests."

Those are the opening words of the ISG report chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker III and former Indiana Congressman Lee Hamilton.

The report, which took nine months to prepare, states that "many Americans are dissatisfied, not just with the situation in Iraq but with the state of our political debate regarding Iraq." Many political observers in the United States place the blame for the Republican loss in last November's midterm elections on the general public's displeasure with the war in Iraq and its management.

The bipartisan report stresses the need for the country's political leaders to "bring a responsible conclusion to what is now a lengthy and costly war."

The report offers 79 recommendations which the president can then either accept or reject. It also stresses the only way out of the Iraqi quagmire is through a bipartisan approach. "The president and Congress must work together," the ISG advised.

The report offers stark realities regarding the violence in Iraq. "No one can guarantee that any course of action in Iraq at this point will stop sectarian warfare, growing violence, or a slide toward chaos," it said. "If current trends continue, the potential consequences are severe. Because of the role and responsibility of the United States in Iraq, and the commitments our government has made, the United States has special obligations."

Among the recommendations made by the group is for the White House to accept "the new political realities in the region." Those realities include engaging all of Iraq's neighbors. That means opening a line of negotiations with Syria and Iran, two countries the Bush administration so far refuses to do on the grounds that Tehran and Damascus support terrorism.

But as James Baker stated at a press conference where the report was made public, "You talk to your enemies, not your friends." Baker went on to remind that during the 40 years of the Cold War the United States and the Soviet Union spoke all the time. There was even a special direct telephone link between the White House and the Kremlin called the Red Phone.

The other recommendation put forward is the need for an international Iraq support group and a regional conference to address the most immediate issues.

The bottom line of the 160-page study is that Iraqi troops must replace U.S. troops on the frontlines. But those Iraqi troops must train first. American combat forces should be gradually pulled back into advisory positions, embedded with Iraqi forces, but no longer assume active frontline position. Sort of America's involvement in Vietnam only in reverse. In the conflict in Southeast Asia, American military participation began with U.S. troops advising and training South Vietnamese forces and later grew into a full-fledged U.S.-led war against the communist North Vietnamese and the Vietcong. In Iraq it began with a full-fledged U.S. invasion and is being down-sized to training and embedding advisors; will it work?

Blame is partially being placed on the democratically elected Iraqi government that has replaced Saddam Hussein for "not adequately advancing the key issues of national reconciliation, providing basic security or delivering essential services."

"The current approach is not working," said Hamilton at a press conference, "and the ability of the United States to influence events is diminishing," and that despite "staggering resources" spent in human lives, equipment and funds.

Nearly 2,900 American service personnel have lost their lives in Iraq since the invasion began just over three years ago. Another 21,000 have been wounded. The financial cost is estimated at $400 billion and the end cost could rise "well over 1 trillion dollars."

"Our ship of state has hit rough waters," said Hamilton. "It must now chart a new way forward."

The report takes a sober and realistic look at the geo-political situation in the area. The tone is a very different one than that adopted by the president in the past. There is no talk of "victory," or "staying the course." Instead, the group calls for three main points of action:

First: a change in the primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq that will enable U.S. forces to begin to move combat forces out of Iraq responsibly, regrouping possibly in neighboring countries.

Two: prompt action by the Iraqi government to achieve milestones particularly in national reconciliation. Failing to achieve pre-set milestones, the group recommends sanctioning the Iraqi government.

Three: a new and enhanced diplomatic and political effort in Iraq and in the region. This last point in fact ties the Israeli-Palestinian issue to the Iraq conflict, another point which the Bush administration will not appreciate.

"A military solution alone will not end the violence in Iraq," states the report, urging a return to diplomacy.

Maybe had this group conducted a study before going to war the whole mess could have been averted.

Source: United Press International

Related Links
Iraq Study Group

Benchmarks: 22,000 US Troops Injured
Washington (UPI) Dec 06, 2006
U.S. casualties in Iraq have passed another grim benchmark: Some 22,000 U.S. troops there have now been wounded since the start of the war. As of Tuesday, Dec. 6, 22,057 U.S. soldiers had been injured in Iraq since the start of military operations to topple Saddam Hussein, according to official figures issued by the U.S. Department of Defense.

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