Thursday, December 14, 2006

Looking at the ISG report...

The ISG report was released more than a week ago but I didn't want to write immediately about it. The strange thing is that although the report is highly publicized and the recommendations touch on many critical topics few of ordinary Iraqis here seem interested in discussing it and the interest can be seen almost only among politicians.

It's actually not that strange; many people see this report and other political movements as an effort among politicians to make deals that can only by coincidence be in the interest of the people.
Anyway, that's not the way I feel—the report addresses both Iraq's and America's problems and needs and it did open a new dimension to the debate or at least, refreshed the debate.

Of course I'm not going to discuss or comment on every single one of the 79 recommendations but I'd like to share my general impressions about the document and will make that brief.

The External Approach; I basically do not think this can work especially when it comes to dealing with the main regional players; Syria and Iran and particularly Iran. I simply can't see a chance for the US to find common grounds with the current regime in Iran whose main goal is to extend its "Islamic revolution" throughout the middle east.
And I have no doubt that Iran, with the mullahs in power, is not willing to accept a compromise that offers the US even a marginal level of benefit. The goals and visions of the two countries are so at odds that they can't agree on anything, let alone work together.

Syria represents a rather different issue but still, what applies to Iran applies to Syria as well; the history of the middle east-one full of blood from coups-taught us not to trust clerics nor dictators.
Both never keep promises and they can come up with pretexts to feel good about their lies; clerics would say they had to do so to serve God and the community and dictators…well, they have no respect for their people in the first place, so why would we expect them to feel ashamed of not keeping promises!

But I digress…

All I want to say is that the political offensive described in the ISG report must evolve into an intensive political assault if it's to become a valid strategy.
Plus, there's big discrepancy between the internal and external approaches time-wise. While the internal approach sets deadlines sometimes as short as one month, the external approach is left with loose deadlines and the implementation of its recommendations depends largely on cooperation of states other than Iraq and America; states that are not so interested in helping us in the first place.
What I want to say is; if the external approach is really important to success then it has to go side by side with the internal one, and that I doubt would happen in the way it's presented in the report.

On the other hand and contrary to the external approach I think the Internal Approach has outlined several very thoughtful and astute recommendations for policy adjustments particularly in areas such as increasing the numbers of embedded US military advisers, the judicial system, fighting corruption, the oil sector (the meters and the way to deal with local tribes for example), putting police commandos and border guards under the defense ministry…These are good ideas that when implemented will make a difference.

I was disappointed by the reactions of some Iraqi leaders, yet not surprised I must admit; the recommendations include points where those leaders must accept making concessions; an example is the Kirkuk recommendations, the assertions on the unity of the country and Kurdish reactions to that. Honestly I also feel that Maliki has not made clear his position from the report as a whole and he has to make some clarifications soon. If he wants to show that he cares about finding solutions.

I understand that the milestones may be a little too tough on Iraqi leaders and politicians and that they might not be able to accomplish those milestones in time, but they must at least try and show their best once there's agreement on adopting some or all of the recommendations.

Bottom line, while the External Approach is of doubted feasibility and will need a lot of time to be polished and agreed upon and complex efforts to be implemented after that, the Internal Approach looks like a reasonable road-map that has good potentials for making tangible improvements.

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