ISG Report - Flowers And Sweets
Some random thoughts while reading through the Iraq Study Group Report (pdf) (all following page numbers refer to the PDF pagecount). I'll probably try to come up with some less random thoughts later, but don't want to miss to communicate the first impressions.
The situations is a terrible mess in all dimensions. At this blog we have in the past picked together pieces of the picture from various press accounts and blogs. But the public has had no overview of the situation and a comprehensive listing like available in the report will help to open some eyes.
As an example of how underreported the situation really is the report notes on page 13:
The standard for recording attacks acts as a filter to keep events out of reports and databases. A murder of an Iraqi is not necessarily counted as an attack. If we cannot determine the source of a sectarian attack, that assault does not make it into the database. A roadside bomb or a rocket or mortar attack that doesn’t hurt U.S. personnel doesn’t count. For example, on one day in July 2006 there were 93 attacks or significant acts of violence reported. Yet a careful review of the reports for that single day brought to light 1,100 acts of violence.
The report does call for more unity in the government and blames a lot on Maliki and sectarian forces within the government (p19).
Iraqi people have a democratically elected government that is broadly representative of Iraq’s population, yet the government is not adequately advancing national reconciliation, providing basic security, or delivering essential services.
There is this note that obviously is in conflict with recent press reports (p25):
There are roughly 5,000 civilian contractors in the country.
The Washington Post reported yesterday: Census Counts 100,000 Contractors in Iraq. So what is it???
How not to spend money effectivly (p26):
Congress has been generous in funding requests for U.S. troops, but it has resisted fully funding Iraqi forces. The entire appropriation for Iraqi defense forces for FY 2006 ($3 billion) is less than the United States currently spends in Iraq every two weeks.
As for outsite medling in Iraq, the Iranian influence, according to the report clearly runs through al-Hakim's Badr corps, while the Sadr-movement is described as nationalistic. Also noteable (p47):
Funding for the Sunni insurgency comes from private individuals within Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, even as those governments help facilitate U.S. military operations in Iraq by providing basing and overflight rights and by cooperating on intelligence issues.
While the report notes the total number of Iraqis that have fled the country (1.8 million plus 1.6 internally displaced) and talks about the burdon this has put on Jordan (700,000 refugees), when talking about Syria, neither the numbers of refugees there nor any burden is mentioned.
Sovereign Iraq shall only have command over its own forces if it behaves as the U.S. tells it behave (p78).
The transfer of command and control over Iraqi security forces units from the United States to Iraq should be influenced by Iraq’s performance on milestones.
The report calls for much more embedded U.S. troops within Iraqi forces (p89)
Such a mission could involve 10,000 to 20,000 American troops instead of the 3,000 to 4,000 now in this role.
At the same time it notes the problem that I have pointed out a few days ago. (p110)
All of our efforts in Iraq, military and civilian, are handicapped by Americans’ lack of language and cultural understanding. Our embassy of 1,000 has 33 Arabic speakers, just six of whom are at the level of fluency. In a conflict that demands effective and efficient communication with Iraqis, we are often at a disadvantage. There are still far too few Arab language– proficient military and civilian officers in Iraq, to the detriment of the U.S. mission.
There simply are not enough translators to embed so many U.S. troops into Iraqi forces. How can you expect them to teach each other and/or fight together if they simply can not talk to each other?
One also wonders what 1,000 embassy personal are doing all day when they only have six reliable interfaces with Iraqis. But maybe the number is wrong here (see "missing" contractors above).
The report names some conditions that would have to be met for including Iran and Syria into talks. The attitude is roughly the same than Bush/Cheney have shown all along (p70).
Our limited contacts with Iran’s government lead us to believe that its leaders are likely to say they will not participate in diplomatic efforts to support stability in Iraq. They attribute this reluctance to their belief that the United States seeks regime change in Iran.
Nevertheless, as one of Iraq’s neighbors Iran should be asked to assume its responsibility to participate in the Support Group. An Iranian refusal to do so would demonstrate to Iraq and the rest of the world Iran’s rejectionist attitude and approach, which could lead to its isolation. Further, Iran’s refusal to cooperate on this matter would diminish its prospects of engaging with the United States in the broader dialogue it seeks.
There is no word of taking back "regime change", but the Iranians are "rejectionists"?
On Syria there are mostly threats but also the recommendation of negotiation over the the Golan heights and of negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel. But each time the Palestinians are named as negotiating partner the wording includes a caveat (p72):
This commitment must include direct talks with, by, and between Israel, Lebanon, Palestinians (those who accept Israel’s right to exist), and particularly Syria
This caveat obviously exludes the elected Palestinian government and will be used to sabotage any negotiation attempt even before it starts.
The most important recommendation is on page 104:
• The United States should encourage investment in Iraq’s oil sector by the international community and by international energy companies.
• The United States should assist Iraqi leaders to reorganize the national oil industry as a commercial enterprise, in order to enhance efficiency, transparency, and accountability.
• To combat corruption, the U.S. government should urge the Iraqi government to post all oil contracts, volumes, and prices on the Web so that Iraqis and outside observers can track exports and export revenues.
• The United States should support the World Bank’s efforts to ensure that best practices are used in contracting. This support involves providing Iraqi officials with contracting templates and training them in contracting, auditing, and reviewing audits.
"The Study Group has been assured that the Iraqi government and population will great the help of Mr. Wolfowitz in managing their oil contracts with flowers and sweets."