THE IRAQ STUDY GROUP REPORT
TURKEY. Turkish policy toward Iraq is focused on discouraging Kurdish nationalism, which is seen as an existential threat to Turkey’s own internal stability. The Turks have supported the Turkmen minority within Iraq and have used their influence to try to block the incorporation of Kirkuk into Iraqi Kurdistan. At the same time, Turkish companies have invested in Kurdish areas in northern Iraq, and Turkish and Kurdish leaders have sought constructive engagement on political, security, and economic issues.
The Turks are deeply concerned about the operations of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK)—a terrorist group based in northern Iraq that has killed thousands of Turks. They are upset that the United States and Iraq have not targeted the PKK more aggressively. The Turks have threatened to go after the PKK themselves, and have made several forays across the border into Iraq.
JORDAN AND EGYPT. Both Jordan and Egypt have provided some assistance for the Iraqi government. Jordan has trained thousands of Iraqi police, has an ambassador in Baghdad, and King Abdullah recently hosted a meeting in Amman between President Bush and Prime Minister Maliki. Egypt has provided some limited Iraqi army training. Both Jordan and Egypt have facilitated U.S. military operations—Jordan by allowing overflight and search-and-rescue operations, Egypt by allowing overflight and Suez Canal transits; both provide important cooperation on intelligence. Jordan is currently home to 700,000 Iraqi refugees (equal to 10 percent of its population) and fears a flood of many more. Both Jordan and Egypt are concerned about the position of Iraq’s Sunni Arabs and want constitutional reforms in Iraq to bolster the Sunni community. They also fear the return of insurgents to their countries.
The international community beyond the United Kingdom and our other coalition partners has played a limited role in Iraq. The United Nations—acting under Security Council Resolution 1546—has a small presence in Iraq; it has assisted in holding elections, drafting the constitution, organizing the government, and building institutions. The World Bank, which has committed a limited number of resources, has one and sometimes two staff in Iraq. The European Union has a representative there.
Several U.S.-based and international nongovernmental organizations have done excellent work within Iraq, operating under great hardship. Both Iraqi and international nongovernmental organizations play an important role in reaching across sectarian lines to enhance dialogue and understanding, and several U.S.-based organizations have employed substantial resources to help Iraqis develop their democracy. However, the participation of international nongovernmental organizations is constrained by the lack of security, and their Iraqi counterparts face a cumbersome and often politicized process of registration with the government.
The United Kingdom has dedicated an extraordinary amount of resources to Iraq and has made great sacrifices. In addition to 7,200 troops, the United Kingdom has a substantial diplomatic presence, particularly in Basra and the Iraqi southeast. The United Kingdom has been an active and key player at every stage of Iraq’s political development. U.K. officials told us that they remain committed to working for stability in Iraq, and will reduce their commitment of troops and resources in response to the situation on the ground.
The United States has made a massive commitment to the future of Iraq in both blood and treasure. As of December 2006, nearly 2,900 Americans have lost their lives serving in Iraq. Another 21,000 Americans have been wounded, many severely.
To date, the United States has spent roughly $400 billion on the Iraq War, and costs are running about $8 billion per month. In addition, the United States must expect significant “tailcosts” to come. Caring for veterans and replacing lost equipment will run into the hundreds of billions of dollars. Estimates run as high as $2 trillion for the final cost of the U.S. involvement in Iraq.
Despite a massive effort, stability in Iraq remains elusive and the situation is deteriorating. The Iraqi government cannot now govern, sustain, and defend itself without the support of the United States. Iraqis have not been convinced that they must take responsibility for their own future. Iraq’s neighbors and much of the international community have not been persuaded to play an active and constructive role in supporting Iraq. The ability of the United States to shape outcomes is diminishing. Time is running out.
If the situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate, the consequences could be severe for Iraq, the United States, the region, and the world.
Continuing violence could lead toward greater chaos, and inflict greater suffering upon the Iraqi people. A collapse of Iraq’s government and economy would further cripple a country already unable to meet its people’s needs. Iraq’s security forces could split along sectarian lines. A humanitarian catastrophe could follow as more refugees are forced to relocate across the country and the region. Ethnic cleansing could escalate. The Iraqi people could be subjected to another strongman who flexes the political and military muscle required to impose order amid anarchy. Freedoms could be lost.
Other countries in the region fear significant violence crossing their borders. Chaos in Iraq could lead those countries to intervene to protect their own interests, thereby perhaps sparking a broader regional war. Turkey could send troops into northern Iraq to prevent Kurdistan from declaring independence. Iran could send in troops to restore stability in southern Iraq and perhaps gain control of oil fields. The regional influence of Iran could rise at a time when that country is on a path to producing nuclear weapons.
Ambassadors from neighboring countries told us that they fear the distinct possibility of Sunni-Shia clashes across the Islamic world. Many expressed a fear of Shia insurrections—perhaps fomented by Iran—in Sunni-ruled states. Such a broader sectarian conflict could open a Pandora’s box of problems—including the radicalization of populations, mass movements of populations, and regime changes—that might take decades to play out. If the instability in Iraq spreads to the other Gulf States, a drop in oil production and exports could lead to a sharp increase in the price of oil and thus could harm the global economy.
Terrorism could grow. As one Iraqi official told us, “Al Qaeda is now a franchise in Iraq, like McDonald’s.” Left unchecked, al Qaeda in Iraq could continue to incite violence between Sunnis and Shia. A chaotic Iraq could provide a still stronger base of operations for terrorists who seek to act regionally or even globally. Al Qaeda will portray any failure by the United States in Iraq as a significant victory that will be featured prominently as they recruit for their cause in the region and around the world. Ayman al-Zawahiri, deputy to Osama bin Laden, has declared Iraq a focus for al Qaeda: they will seek to expel the Americans and then spread “the jihad wave to the secular countries neighboring Iraq.” A senior European official told us that failure in Iraq could incite terrorist attacks within his country.
The global standing of the United States could suffer if Iraq descends further into chaos. Iraq is a major test of, and strain on, U.S. military, diplomatic, and financial capacities. Perceived failure there could diminish America’s credibility and influence in a region that is the center of the Islamic world and vital to the world’s energy supply. This loss would reduce America’s global influence at a time when pressing issues in North Korea, Iran, and elsewhere demand our full attention and strong U.S. leadership of international alliances. And the longert hat U.S. political and military resources are tied down in Iraq, the more the chances for American failure in Afghanistan increase.
Continued problems in Iraq could lead to greater polarization within the United States. Sixty-six percent of Americans disapprove of the government’s handling of the war, and more than 60 percent feel that there is no clear plan for moving forward. The November elections were largely viewed as a referendum on the progress in Iraq. Arguments about continuing to provide security and assistance to Iraq will fall on deaf ears if Americans become disillusioned with the government that the United States invested so much to create. U.S. foreign policy cannot be successfully sustained without the broad support of the American people.
Continued problems in Iraq could also lead to greater Iraqi opposition to the United States. Recent polling indicates that only 36 percent of Iraqis feel their country is heading in the right direction, and 79 percent of Iraqis have a “mostly negative” view of the influence that the United States has in their country. Sixty-one percent of Iraqis approve of attacks on U.S.-led forces. If Iraqis continue to perceive Americans as representing an occupying force, the United States could become its own worst enemy in a land it liberated from tyranny.
These and other predictions of dire consequences in Iraq and the region are by no means a certainty. Iraq has taken several positive steps since Saddam Hussein was overthrown: Iraq is restored full sovereignty, conducted open national elections, drafted a permanent constitution, ratified that constitution, and elected a new government pursuant to that constitution. Iraqis may become so sobered by the prospect of an unfolding civil war and intervention by their regional neighbors that they take the steps necessary to avert catastrophe. But at the moment, such a scenario seems implausible because the Iraqi people and their leaders have been slow to demonstrate the capacity or will to act.
Because of the gravity of the situation in Iraq and of its consequences for Iraq, the United States, the region, and the world, the Iraq Study Group has carefully considered the full range of alternative approaches for moving forward. We recognize that there is no perfect solution and that all that have been suggested have flaws. The following are some of the more notable possibilities that we have considered.
Because of the importance of Iraq, the potential for catastrophe, and the role and commitments of the United States in initiating events that have led to the current situation, we believe it would be wrong for the United States to abandon the country through a precipitate withdrawal of troops and support. A premature American departure from Iraq would almost certainly produce greater sectarian violence and further deterioration of conditions, leading to a number of the adverse consequences outlined above. The near-term results would be a significant power vacuum, greater human suffering, regional destabilization, and a threat to the global economy. Al Qaeda would depict our withdrawal as a historic victory. If we leave and Iraq descends into chaos, the long-range consequences could eventually require the United States to return.
Current U.S. policy is not working, as the level of violence in Iraq is rising and the government is not advancing national reconciliation. Making no changes in policy would simply delay the day of reckoning at a high cost. Nearly 100 Americans are dying every month. The United States is spending $2 billion a week. Our ability to respond to other international crises is constrained. A majority of the American people are soured on the war. This level of expense is not sustainable over an extended period, especially when progress is not being made. The longer the United States remains in Iraq without progress, the more resentment will grow among Iraqis who believe they are subjects of a repressive American occupation. As one U.S. official said to us, “Our leaving would make it worse. . . . The current approach without modification will not make it better.”
Sustained increases in U.S. troop levels would not solve the fundamental cause of violence in Iraq, which is the absence of national reconciliation. A senior American general told us that adding U.S. troops might temporarily help limit violence in a highly localized area. However, past experience indicates that the violence would simply rekindle as soon as U.S. forces are moved to another area. As another American general told us, if the Iraqi government does not make political progress, “all the troops in the world will not provide security.” Meanwhile, America’s military capacity is stretched thin: we do not have the troops or equipment to make a substantial, sustained increase in our troop presence. Increased deployments to Iraq would also necessarily hamper our ability to provide adequate resources for our efforts in Afghanistan or respond to crises around the world.
The costs associated with devolving Iraq into three semiautonomous regions with loose central control would be too high. Because Iraq’s population is not neatly separated, regional boundaries cannot be easily drawn. All eighteen Iraqi provinces have mixed populations, as do Baghdad and most other major cities in Iraq. A rapid devolution could result in mass population movements, collapse of the Iraqi security forces, strengthening of militias, ethnic cleansing, destabilization of neighboring states, or attempts by neighboring states to dominate Iraqi regions. Iraqis, particularly Sunni Arabs, told us that such a division would confirm wider fears across the Arab world that the United States invaded Iraq to weaken a strong Arab state.
While such devolution is a possible consequence of continued instability in Iraq, we do not believe the United States should support this course as a policy goal or impose this outcome on the Iraqi state. If events were to move irreversibly in this direction, the United States should manage the situation to ameliorate humanitarian consequences, contain the spread of violence, and minimize regional instability. The United States should support as much as possible central control by governmental authorities in Baghdad, particularly on the question of oil revenues.
We agree with the goal of U.S. policy in Iraq, as stated by the President: "an Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself.” In our view, this definition entails an Iraq with a broadly representative government that maintains its territorial integrity, is at peace with its neighbors, denies terrorism a sanctuary, and doesn’t brutalize its own people. Given the current situation in Iraq, achieving this goal will require much time and will depend primarily on the actions of the Iraqi people.
In our judgment, there is a new way forward for the United States to support this objective, and it will offer people of Iraq a reasonable opportunity to lead a better life than they did under Saddam Hussein. Our recommended course has shortcomings, as does each of the policy alternatives we have reviewed. We firmly believe, however, that it includes the best strategies and tactics available to us to positively influence the outcome in Iraq and the region. We believe that it could enable a responsible transition that will give the Iraqi people a chance to pursue a better future, as well as serving America’s interests and values in the years ahead.
The Way Forward—A New Approach
Progress in Iraq is still possible if new approaches are taken promptly by Iraq, the United States, and other countries that have a stake in the Middle East.
To attain the goals we have outlined, changes in course must be made both outside and inside Iraq. Our report offers a comprehensive strategy to build regional and international support for stability in Iraq, as it encourages the Iraqi people to assume control of their own destiny. It offers a responsible transition.
Externally, the United States should immediately begin to employ all elements of American power to construct a regional mechanism that can support, rather than retard, progress in Iraq. Internally, the Iraqi government must take the steps required to achieve national reconciliation, reduce violence, and improve the daily lives of Iraqis. Efforts to implement these external and internal strategies must begin now and must be undertaken in concert with one another.
This responsible transition can allow for a reduction in the U.S. presence in Iraq over time.
The United States must build a new international consensus for stability in Iraq and the region.
In order to foster such consensus, the United States should embark on a robust diplomatic effort to establish an international support structure intended to stabilize Iraq and ease tensions in other countries in the region. This support structure should include every country that has an interest in averting a chaotic Iraq, including all of Iraq’s neighbors—Iran and Syria among them. Despite the well-known differences between many of these countries, they all share an interest in avoiding the horrific consequences that would flow from a chaotic Iraq, particularly a humanitarian catastrophe and regional destabilization.
A reinvigorated diplomatic effort is required because it is clear that the Iraqi government cannot succeed in governing, defending, and sustaining itself by relying on U.S. military and economic support alone. Nor can the Iraqi government succeed by relying only on U.S. military support in conjunction with Iraqi military and police capabilities. Some states have been withholding commitments they could make to support Iraq’s stabilization and reconstruction. Some states have been actively undermining stability in Iraq. To achieve a political solution within Iraq, a broader international support structure is needed.
Iraq cannot be addressed effectively in isolation from other major regional issues, interests, and unresolved conflicts. To put it simply, all key issues in the Middle East—the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iraq, Iran, the need for political and economic reforms, and extremism and terrorism—are inextricably linked. In addition to supporting stability in Iraq, a comprehensive diplomatic offensive—the New Diplomatic Offensive—should address these key regional issues. By doing so, it would help marginalize extremists and terrorists, promote U.S. values and interests, and improve America’s global image.
Under the diplomatic offensive, we propose regional and international initiatives and steps to assist the Iraqi government in achieving certain security, political, and economic milestones. Achieving these milestones will require at least the acquiescence of Iraq’s neighbors, and their active and timely cooperation would be highly desirable.
The diplomatic offensive would extend beyond the primarily economic “Compact for Iraq” by also emphasizing political, diplomatic, and security issues. At the same time, it would be coordinated with the goals of the Compact for Iraq. The diplomatic offensive would also be broader and more far-reaching than the “Gulf Plus Two” efforts currently being conducted, and those efforts should be folded into and become part of the diplomatic offensive.
States included within the diplomatic offensive can play a major role in reinforcing national reconciliation efforts between Iraqi Sunnis and Shia. Such reinforcement would contribute substantially to legitimizing of the political process in Iraq. Iraq’s leaders may not be able to come together unless they receive the necessary signals and support from abroad. This backing will not materialize of its own accord, and must be encouraged urgently by the United States.
In order to advance a comprehensive diplomatic solution, the Study Group recommends as follows:
RECOMMENDATION 1: The United States, working with the Iraqi government, should launch the comprehensive New Diplomatic Offensive to deal with the problems of Iraq and of the region. This new diplomatic offensive should be launched before December 31, 2006.
RECOMMENDATION 2: The goals of the diplomatic offensive as it relates to regional players should be to:
i. Support the unity and territorial integrity of Iraq.
ii. Stop destabilizing interventions and actions by Iraq’s neighbors.
iii. Secure Iraq’s borders, including the use of joint patrols with neighboring countries.
iv. Prevent the expansion of the instability and conflict beyond Iraq’s borders.
v. Promote economic assistance, commerce, trade, political support, and, if possible, military assistance for the Iraqi government from non-neighboring Muslim nations.
vi. Energize countries to support national political reconciliation in Iraq.
vii. Validate Iraq’s legitimacy by resuming diplomatic relations, where appropriate, and reestablishing embassies in Baghdad.
viii. Assist Iraq in establishing active working embassies in key capitals in the region (for example, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia).
ix. Help Iraq reach a mutually acceptable agreement on Kirkuk.
x. Assist the Iraqi government in achieving certain security, political, and economic milestones, including better performance on issues such as national reconciliation, equitable distribution of oil revenues, and the dismantling of militias.
RECOMMENDATION 3: As a complement to the diplomatic offensive, and in addition to the Support Group discussed below, the United States and the Iraqi government should support the holding of a conference or meeting in Baghdad of the Organization of the Islamic Conference or the Arab League both to assist the Iraqi government in promoting national reconciliation in Iraq and to reestablish their diplomatic presence in Iraq.
This new diplomatic offensive cannot be successful unless it includes the active participation of those countries that have a critical stake in preventing Iraq from falling into chaos. To encourage their participation, the United States should immediately seek the creation of the Iraq International Support Group. The Support Group should also include all countries that border Iraq as well as other key countries in the region and the world.
The Support Group would not seek to impose obligations or undertakings on the government of Iraq. Instead, the Support Group would assist Iraq in ways the government of Iraq would desire, attempting to strengthen Iraq’s sovereignty—not diminish it.
It is clear to Iraq Study Group members that all of Iraq’s neighbors are anxious about the situation in Iraq. They favor a unified Iraq that is strong enough to maintain its territorial integrity, but not so powerful as to threaten its neighbors. None favors the breakup of the Iraqis tate. Each country in the region views the situation in Iraq through the filter of its particular set of interests. For example:
• Turkey opposes an independent or even highly autonomous Kurdistan because of its own national security considerations.
• Iran backs Shia claims and supports various Shia militias in Iraq, but it also supports other groups in order to enhance its influence and hedge its bets on possible outcomes.
• Syria, despite facilitating support for Iraqi insurgent groups, would be threatened by the impact that the breakup of Iraq would have on its own multiethnic and multiconfessional society.
• Kuwait wants to ensure that it will not once again be the victim of Iraqi irredentism and aggression.
• Saudi Arabia and Jordan share Sunni concerns over Shia ascendancy in Iraq and the region as a whole.
• The other Arab Gulf states also recognize the benefits of an outcome in Iraq that does not destabilize the region and exacerbate Shia-Sunni tensions.
• None of Iraq’s neighbors especially major countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Israel see it in their interest for the situation in Iraq to lead to aggrandized regional influence by Iran. Indeed, they may take active steps to limit Iran’s influence, steps that could lead to an intraregional conflict.
Left to their own devices, these governments will tend to reinforce ethnic, sectarian, and political divisions within Iraqi society. But if the Support Group takes a systematic and active approach toward considering the concerns of each country, we believe that each can be encouraged to play a positive role in Iraq and the region.
SAUDI ARABIA. Saudi Arabia’s agreement not to intervene with assistance to Sunni Arab Iraqis could be an essential quid pro quo for similar forbearance on the part of other neighbors, especially Iran. The Saudis could use their Islamic credentials to help reconcile differences between Iraqi factions and build broader support in the Islamic world for a stabilization agreement, as their recent hosting of a meeting of Islamic religious leaders in Mecca suggests. If the government in Baghdad pursues a path of national reconciliation with the Sunnis, the Saudis could help Iraq confront and eliminate al Qaeda in Iraq. They could also cancel the Iraqi debt owed them. In addition, the Saudis might be helpful in persuading the Syrians to cooperate.
TURKEY. As a major Sunni Muslim country on Iraq’s borders, Turkey can be a partner in supporting the national reconciliation process in Iraq. Such efforts can be particularly helpful given Turkey’s interest in Kurdistan remaining an integral part of a unified Iraq and its interest in preventing a safe haven for Kurdish terrorists (the PKK).
EGYPT. Because of its important role in the Arab world, Egypt should be encouraged to foster the national reconciliation process in Iraq with a focus on getting the Sunnis to participate. At the same time, Egypt has the means, and indeed has offered, to train groups of Iraqi military and security forces in Egypt on a rotational basis.
JORDAN. Jordan, like Egypt, can help in the national reconciliation process in Iraq with the Sunnis. It too has the professional capability to train and equip Iraqi military and security forces.
RECOMMENDATION 4: As an instrument of the New Diplomatic Offensive, an Iraq International Support Group should be organized immediately following the launch of the New Diplomatic Offensive.
RECOMMENDATION 5: The Support Group should consist of Iraq and all the states bordering Iraq, including Iran and Syria; the key regional states, including Egypt and the Gulf States; the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council; the European Union; and, of course, Iraq itself. Other countries for instance, Germany, Japan and South Korea—that might be willing to contribute to resolving political, diplomatic, and security problems affecting Iraq could also become members.
RECOMMENDATION 6: The New Diplomatic Offensive and the work of the Support Group should be carried out with urgency, and should be conducted by and organized at the level of foreign minister or above. The Secretary of State, if not the President, should lead the U.S. effort. That effort should be both bilateral and multilateral, as circumstances require.
RECOMMENDATION 7: The Support Group should call on the participation of the office of the United Nations Secretary-General in its work. The United Nations Secretary-General should designate a Special Envoy as his representative.
RECOMMENDATION 8: The Support Group, as part of the New Diplomatic Offensive, should develop specific approaches to neighboring countries that take into account the interests, perspectives, and potential contributions as suggested above.
Dealing with Iran and Syria is controversial. Nevertheless, it is our view that in diplomacy, a nation can and should engage its adversaries and enemies to try to resolve conflicts and differences consistent with its own interests. Accordingly, the Support Group should actively engage Iran and Syria in its diplomatic dialogue, without preconditions.
The Study Group recognizes that U.S. relationships with Iran and Syria involve difficult issues that must be resolved. Diplomatic talks should be extensive and substantive, and they will require a balancing of interests. The United States has diplomatic, economic, and military disincentives available in approaches to both Iran and Syria. However, the United States should also consider incentives to try to engage them constructively, much as it did successfully with Libya.
Some of the possible incentives to Iran, Syria, or both include:
i. An Iraq that does not disintegrate and destabilize its neighbors and the region.
ii. The continuing role of the United States in preventing the Taliban from destabilizing Afghanistan.
iii. Accession to international organizations, including the World Trade Organization.
iv. Prospects for enhanced diplomatic relations with the United States.
v. The prospect of a U.S. policy that emphasizes political and economic reforms instead of (as Iran now perceives it) advocating regime change.
vi. Prospects for a real, complete, and secure peace to be negotiated between Israel and Syria, with U.S. involvement as part of a broader initiative on Arab-Israeli peace as outlined below.
RECOMMENDATION 9: Under the aegis of the New Diplomatic Offensive and the Support Group, the United States should engage directly with Iran and Syria in order to try to obtain their commitment to constructive policies toward Iraq and other regional issues. In engaging Syria and Iran, the United States should consider incentives, as well as disincentives, in seeking constructive results.
IRAN. Engaging Iran is problematic, especially given the state of the U.S.-Iranian relationship. Yet the United States and Iran cooperated in Afghanistan, and both sides should explore whethert his model can be replicated in the case of Iraq.
Although Iran sees it in its interest to have the United States bogged down in Iraq, Iran’s interests would not be served by a failure of U.S. policy in Iraq that led to chaos and the territorial disintegration of the Iraqi state. Iran’s population is slightly more than 50 percent Persian, but it has a large Azeri minority (24 percent of the population) as well as Kurdish and Arab minorities. Worst-case scenarios in Iraq could inflame sectarian tensions within Iran, with serious consequences for Iranian national security interests.
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.
RECOMMENDATION 10: The issue of Iran’s nuclear programs should continue to be dealt with by the United Nations Security Council and its five permanent members (i.e., the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China) plus Germany.
RECOMMENDATION 11: Diplomatic efforts within the Support Group should seek to persuade Iran that it should take specific steps to improve the situation in Iraq.
Among steps Iran could usefully take are the following:
• Iran should stem the flow of equipment, technology, and training to any group resorting to violence in Iraq.
• Iran should make clear its support for the territorial integrity of Iraq as a unified state, as well as its respect for the sovereignty of Iraq and its government.
• Iran can use its influence, especially over Shia groups in Iraq, to encourage national reconciliation.
• Iran can also, in the right circumstances, help in the economic reconstruction of Iraq.
SYRIA. Although the U.S.-Syrian relationship is at a low point, both countries have important interests in the region that could be enhanced if they were able to establish some common ground on how to move forward. This approach worked effectively in the early 1990s. In this context, Syria’s national interests in the Arab-Israeli dispute are important and can be brought into play.
Syria can make a major contribution to Iraq’s stability in several ways. Accordingly, the Study Group recommends the following:
RECOMMENDATION 12: The United States and the Support Group should encourage and persuade Syria of the merit of such contributions as the following:
• Syria can control its border with Iraq to the maximum extent possible and work together with Iraqis on joint patrols on the border. Doing so will help stem the flow of funding, insurgents, and terrorists in and out of Iraq.
• Syria can establish hotlines to exchange information with the Iraqis.
• Syria can increase its political and economic cooperation with Iraq.
The United States will not be able to achieve its goals in the Middle East unless the United States deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict.
There must be a renewed and sustained commitment by the United States to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace on all fronts: Lebanon, Syria, and President Bush’s June 2002 commitment to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. This commitment must include direct talks with, by, and between Israel, Lebanon, Palestinians (those who accept Israel’s right to exist), and particularly Syria—which is the principal transit point for shipments of weapons to Hezbollah, and which supports radical Palestinian groups.
The United States does its ally Israel no favors in avoiding direct involvement to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict. For several reasons, we should act boldly:
• There is no military solution to this conflict.
• The vast majority of the Israeli body politic is tired of being a nation perpetually at war.
• No American administration—Democratic or Republican—will ever abandon Israel.
• Political engagement and dialogue are essential in the Arab-Israeli dispute because it is an axiom that when the political process breaks down there will be violence on the ground.
• The only basis on which peace can be achieved is that set forth in UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and in the principle of “land for peace.”
• The only lasting and secure peace will be a negotiated peace such as Israel has achieved with Egypt and Jordan.
This effort would strongly support moderate Arab governments in the region, especially the democratically elected government of Lebanon, and the Palestinian Authority under President Mahmoud Abbas.
RECOMMENDATION 13: There must be a renewed and sustained commitment by the United States to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace on all fronts: Lebanon and Syria, and President Bush’s June 2002 commitment to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.
RECOMMENDATION 14: This effort should include—as soon as possible—the unconditional calling and holding of meetings, under the auspices of the United States or the Quartet (i.e., the United States, Russia, European Union, and the United Nations), between Israel and Lebanon and Syria on the one hand, and Israel and Palestinians (who acknowledge Israel’s right to exist) on the other. The purpose of these meetings would be to negotiate peace as was done at the Madrid Conference in 1991, and on two separate tracks—one Syrian/Lebanese, and the other Palestinian.
RECOMMENDATION 15: Concerning Syria, some elements of that negotiated peace should be:
• Syria’s full adherence to UN Security Council Resolution 1701 of August 2006, which provides the framework for Lebanon to regain sovereign control over its territory.
• Syria’s full cooperation with all investigations into political assassinations in Lebanon, especially those of Rafik Hariri and Pierre Gemayel.
• A verifiable cessation of Syrian aid to Hezbollah and the use of Syrian territory for transshipment of Iranian weapons and aid to Hezbollah. (This step would do much to solve Israel’s problem with Hezbollah.)
• Syria’s use of its influence with Hamas and Hezbollah for the release of the captured Israeli Defense Force soldiers.
• A verifiable cessation of Syrian efforts to undermine the democratically elected government of Lebanon.
• A verifiable cessation of arms shipments from or transiting through Syria for Hamas and other radical Palestinian groups.
• A Syrian commitment to help obtain from Hamas an acknowledgment of Israel’s right to exist
• Greater Syrian efforts to seal its border with Iraq.
RECOMMENDATION 16: In exchange for these actions and in the context of a full and secure peace agreement, the Israelis should return the Golan Heights, with a U.S. security guarantee for Israel that could include an international force on the border, including U.S. troops if requested by both parties.
RECOMMENDATION 17: Concerning the Palestinian issue, elements of that negotiated peace should include:
• Adherence to UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and to the principle of land for peace, which are the only bases for achieving peace.
• Strong support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority to take the lead in preparing the way for negotiations with Israel.
• A major effort to move from the current hostilities by consolidating the cease-fire reached between the Palestinians and the Israelis in November 2006.
• Support for a Palestinian national unity government.
• Sustainable negotiations leading to a final peace settlement along the lines of President Bush’s two-state solution, which would address the key final status issues of borders, settlements, Jerusalem, the right of return, and the end of conflict.
At the same time, we must not lose sight of the importance of the situation inside Afghanistan and the renewed threat posed by the Taliban. Afghanistan’s borders are porous. If the Taliban were to control more of Afghanistan, it could provide al Qaeda the political space to conduct terrorist operations. This development would destabilize the region and have national security implications for the United States and other countries around the world. Also, the significant increase in poppy production in Afghanistan fuels the illegal drug trade and narco-terrorism.
The huge focus of U.S. political, military, and economic support on Iraq has necessarily diverted attention from Afghanistan. As the United States develops its approach toward Iraq and the Middle East, it must also give priority to the situation in Afghanistan. Doing so may require increased political, security, and military measures.
RECOMMENDATION 18: It is critical for the United States to provide additional political, economic, and military support for Afghanistan, including resources that might become available as combat forces are moved from Iraq.
The New Diplomatic Offensive will provide the proper external environment and support for the difficult internal steps that the Iraqi government must take to promote national reconciliation, establish security, and make progress on governance.
The most important issues facing Iraq’s future are now the responsibility of Iraq’s elected leaders. Because of the security and assistance it provides, the United States has a significant role to play. Yet only the government and people of Iraq can make and sustain certain decisions critical to Iraq’s future.
The United States should work closely with Iraq’s leaders to support the achievement of specific objectives—or milestones—on national reconciliation, security, and governance. Miracles cannot be expected, but the people of Iraq have the right to expect action and progress. The Iraqi government needs to show its own citizens—and the citizens of the United States and other countries—that it deserves continued support.
The U.S. government must make clear that it expects action by the Iraqi government to make substantial progress toward these milestones. Such a message can be sent only at the level of our national leaders, and only in person, during direct consultation.
As President Bush’s meeting with Prime Minister Maliki in Amman, Jordan demonstrates, it is important for the President to remain in close and frequent contact with the Iraqi leadership. There is no substitute for sustained dialogue at the highest levels of government.
During these high-level exchanges, the United States should lay out an agenda for continued support to help Iraq achieve milestones, as well as underscoring the consequences if Iraq does not act. It should be unambiguous that continued U.S. political, military, and economic support for Iraq depends on the Iraqi government’s demonstrating political will and making substantial progress toward the achievement of milestones on national reconciliation, security, and governance. 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 United States should also signal that it is seeking broad international support for Iraq on behalf of achieving these milestones. The United States can begin to shape a positive climate for its diplomatic efforts, internationally and within Iraq, through public statements by President Bush that reject the notion that the United States seeks to control Iraq’s oil, or seeks permanent military bases within Iraq. However, the United States could consider a request from Iraq for temporary bases.
RECOMMENDATION 19: The President and the leadership of his national security team should remain in close and frequent contact with the Iraqi leadership. These contacts must convey a clear message: there must be action by the Iraqi government to make substantial progress toward the achievement of milestones. In public diplomacy, the President should convey as much detail as possible about the substance of these exchanges in order to keep the American people, the Iraqi people, and the countries in the region well informed.
RECOMMENDATION 20: If the Iraqi government demonstrates political will and makes substantial progress toward the achievement of milestones on national reconciliation, security, and governance, the United States should make clear its willingness to continue training, assistance, and support for Iraq’s security forces, and to continue political, military, and economic support for the Iraqi government. As Iraq becomes more capable of governing, defending, and sustaining itself, the U.S. military and civilian presence in Iraq can be reduced.
RECOMMENDATION 21: If the Iraqi government does not make substantial progress toward the achievement of milestones on national reconciliation, security, and governance, the United States should reduce its political, military, or economic support for the Iraqi government.
RECOMMENDATION 22: The President should state that the United States does not seek permanent military bases in Iraq. If the Iraqi government were to request a temporary base o rbases, then the U.S. government could consider that request as it would in the case of any other government.
RECOMMENDATION 23: The President should restate that the United States does not seek to control Iraq’s oil.
Milestones for Iraq
The government of Iraq understands that dramatic steps are necessary to avert a downward spiral and make progress. Prime Minister Maliki has worked closely in consultation with the United States and has put forward the following milestones in the key areas of national reconciliation, security and governance:
By the end of 2006–early 2007:
Approval of the Provincial Election Law and setting an election date
Approval of the Petroleum Law
Approval of the De-Baathification Law
Approval of the Militia Law
By March 2007:
A referendum on constitutional amendments (if it is necessary)
By May 2007:
Completion of Militia Law implementation
Approval of amnesty agreement
Completion of reconciliation efforts
By June 2007:
SECURITY (pending joint U.S.-Iraqi review)
By the end of 2006:
Iraqi increase of 2007 security spending over 2006 levels
By April 2007: Iraqi control of the Army
By September 2007:
Iraqi control of provinces
By December 2007:
Iraqi security self-reliance (with U.S. support)
By the end of 2006:
The Central Bank of Iraq will raise interest rates to 20 percent and appreciate the Iraqi dinar by 10 percent to combat accelerating inflation.
Iraq will continue increasing domestic prices for refined petroleum products and sell imported fuel at market prices.
RECOMMENDATION 24: The contemplated completion dates of the end of 2006 or early 2007 for some milestones may not be realistic. These should be completed by the first quarter of 2007.
RECOMMENDATION 25: These milestones are a good start. The United States should consult closely with the Iraqi government and develop additional milestones in three areas: national reconciliation, security, and improving government services affecting the daily lives of Iraqis. As with the current milestones, these additional milestones should be tied to calendar dates to the fullest extent possible.
National reconciliation is essential to reduce further violence and maintain the unity of Iraq.
U.S. forces can help provide stability for a time to enable Iraqi leaders to negotiate political solutions, but they cannot stop the violence—or even contain it—if there is no underlying political agreement among Iraqis about the future of their country.
The Iraqi government must send a clear signal to Sunnis that there is a place for them in national life. The government needs to act now, to give a signal of hope. Unless Sunnis believe they can get a fair deal in Iraq through the political process, there is no prospect that the insurgency will end. To strike this fair deal, the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people must address several issues that are critical to the success of national reconciliation and thus to the future of Iraq.
Steps for Iraq to Take on Behalf of National Reconciliation
RECOMMENDATION 26: Constitution review. Review of the constitution is essential to national reconciliation and should be pursued on an urgent basis. The United Nations has expertise in this field, and should play a role in this process.
RECOMMENDATION 27: De-Baathification. Political reconciliation requires the reintegration of Baathists and Arab nationalists into national life, with the leading figures of Saddam Hussein’s regime excluded. The United States should encourage the return of qualified Iraqi professionals—Sunni or Shia, nationalist or ex-Baathist, Kurd or Turkmen or Christian or Arab—into the government.
RECOMMENDATION 28: Oil revenue sharing. Oil revenues should accrue to the central government and be shared on the basis of population. No formula that gives control over revenues from future fields to the regions or gives control of oil fields to the regions is compatible with national reconciliation.
RECOMMENDATION 29: Provincial elections. Provincial elections should be held at the earliest possible date. Under the constitution, new provincial elections should have been held already. They are necessary to restore representative government.
RECOMMENDATION 30: Kirkuk. Given the very dangerous situation in Kirkuk, international arbitration is necessary to avert communal violence. Kirkuk’s mix of Kurdish, Arab, and Turkmen populations could make it a powder keg. A referendum on the future of Kirkuk (as required by the Iraqi Constitution before the end of 2007) would be explosive and should be delayed. This issue should be placed on the agenda of the International Iraq Support Group as part of the New Diplomatic Offensive.
RECOMMENDATION 31: Amnesty. Amnesty proposals must be far-reaching. Any successful effort at national reconciliation must involve those in the government finding ways and means to reconcile with former bitter enemies.
RECOMMENDATION 32: Minorities. The rights of women and the rights of all minority communities in Iraq, including Turkmen, Chaldeans, Assyrians, Yazidis, Sabeans, andArmenians, must be protected.
RECOMMENDATION 33: Civil society. The Iraqi government should stop using the process of registering nongovernmental organizations as a tool for politicizing or stopping their activities. Registration should be solely an administrative act, not an occasion for government censorship and interference.
Steps for the United States to Take on Behalf of National Reconciliation
The United States can take several steps to assist in Iraq’s reconciliation process.
The presence of U.S. forces in Iraq is a key topic of interest in a national reconciliation dialogue. The point is not for the United States to set timetables or deadlines for withdrawal, an approach that we oppose. The point is for the United States and Iraq to make clear their shared interest in the orderly departure of U.S. forces as Iraqi forces take on the security mission. A successful national reconciliation dialogue will advance that departure date.
RECOMMENDATION 34: The question of the future U.S. force presence must be on the table for discussion as the national reconciliation dialogue takes place. Its inclusion will increase the likelihood of participation by insurgents and militia leaders, and thereby increase the possibilities for success.
Violence cannot end unless dialogue begins, and the dialogue must involve those who wield power, not simply those who hold political office. The United States must try to talk directly to Grand Ayatollah Sistani and must consider appointing a high-level American Shia Muslim to serve as an emissary to him. The United States must also try to talk directly to Moqtada al-Sadr, to militia leaders, and to insurgent leaders. The United Nations can help facilitate contacts.
RECOMMENDATION 35: The United States must make active efforts to engage all parties in Iraq, with the exception of al Qaeda. The United States must find a way to talk to Grand Ayatollah Sistani, Moqtada al-Sadr, and militia and insurgent leaders.
The very focus on sectarian identity that endangers Iraq also presents opportunities to seek broader support for a national reconciliation dialogue. Working with Iraqi leaders, the international community and religious leaders can play an important role in fostering dialogue and reconciliation across the sectarian divide. The United States should actively encourage the constructive participation of all who can take part in advancing national reconciliation within Iraq.
RECOMMENDATION 36: The United States should encourage dialogue between sectarian communities, as outlined in the New Diplomatic Offensive above. It should press religious leaders inside and outside Iraq to speak out on behalf of peace and reconciliation.
Finally, amnesty proposals from the Iraqi government are an important incentive in reconciliation talks and they need to be generous. Amnesty proposals to once-bitter enemies will be difficult for the United States to accept, just as they will be difficult for the Iraqis to make. Yet amnesty is an issue to be grappled with by the Iraqis, not by Americans. Despite being politically unpopular—in the United States as well as in Iraq—amnesty is essential if progress is to take place. Iraqi leaders need to be certain that they have U.S. support as they move forward with this critical element of national reconciliation.
RECOMMENDATION 37: Iraqi amnesty proposals must not be undercut in Washington by either the executive or the legislative branch.
The use of force by the government of Iraq is appropriate and necessary to stop militias that act as death squads or use violence against institutions of the state. However, solving the problem of militias requires national reconciliation.
Dealing with Iraq’s militias will require long-term attention, and substantial funding will be needed to disarm, demobilize, and reintegrate militia members into civilian society. Around the world, this process of transitioning members of irregular military forces from civil conflict to new lives once a peace settlement takes hold is familiar. The disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of militias depends on national reconciliation and on confidence-building measures among the parties to that reconciliation.
Both the United Nations and expert and experienced nongovernmental organizations, especially the International Organization for Migration, must be on the ground with appropriate personnel months before any program to disarm, demobilize, and reintegrate militia members begins. Because the United States is a party to the conflict, the U.S. military should not be involved in implementing such a program. Yet U.S. financial and technical support is crucial.
RECOMMENDATION 38: The United States should support the presence of neutral international experts as advisors to the Iraqi government on the processes of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration.
RECOMMENDATION 39: The United States should provide financial and technical support and establish a single office in Iraq to coordinate assistance to the Iraqi government and its expert advisors to aid a program to disarm, demobilize, and reintegrate militia members.
There is no action the American military can take that, by itself, can bring about success in Iraq. But there are actions that the U.S. and Iraqi governments, working together, can and should taket o increase the probability of avoiding disaster there, and increase the chance of success.
The Iraqi government should accelerate the urgently needed national reconciliation program to which it has already committed. And it should accelerate assuming responsibility for Iraqi security by increasing the number and quality of Iraqi Army brigades. As the Iraqi Army increases in size and capability, the Iraqi government should be able to take real responsibility for governance.
While this process is under way, and to facilitate it, the United States should significantly increase the number of U.S. military personnel, including combat troops, imbedded in and supporting Iraqi Army units. As these actions proceed, we could begin to move combat forces out of Iraq. The primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq should evolve to one of supporting the Iraqi army, which would take over primary responsibility for combat operations. We should continue to maintain support forces, rapid-reaction forces, special operations forces, intelligence units, search-and-rescue units, and force protection units.
While the size and composition of the Iraqi Army is ultimately a matter for the Iraqi government to determine, we should be firm on the urgent near-term need for significant additional trained Army brigades, since this is the key to Iraqis taking over full responsibility for their own security, which they want to do and which we need them to do. It is clear that they will still need security assistance from the United States for some time to come as they work to achieve political and security changes.
One of the most important elements of our support would be the imbedding of substantially more U.S. military personnel in all Iraqi Army battalions and brigades, as well as within Iraqi companies. U.S. personnel would provide advice, combat assistance, and staff assistance. The training of Iraqi units by the United States has improved and should continue for the coming year. In addition to this training, Iraqi combat units need supervised on-the-job training as they move to field operations. This on-the-job training could be best done by imbedding more U.S. military personnel in Iraqi deployed units. The number of imbedded personnel would be based on the recommendation of our military commanders in Iraq, but it should be large enough to accelerate the development of a real combat capability in Iraqi Army units. Such a mission could involve 10,000 to 20,000 American troops instead of the 3,000 to 4,000 now in this role. This increase in imbedded troops could be carried out without an aggregate increase over time in the total number of troops in Iraq by making a corresponding decrease in troops assigned to U.S. combat brigades.
Another mission of the U.S. military would be to assist Iraqi deployed brigades with intelligence, transportation, air support, and logistics support, as well as providing some key equipment.
A vital mission of the U.S. military would be to maintain rapid-reaction teams and special operations teams. These teams would be available to undertake strike missions against al Qaeda in Iraq when the opportunity arises, as well as for other missions considered vital by the U.S. commander in Iraq.
The performance of the Iraqi Army could also be significantly improved if it had improved equipment. One source could be equipment left behind by departing U.S. units. The quickest and most effective way for the Iraqi Army to get the bulk of their equipment would be through our Foreign Military Sales program, which they have already begun to use.
While these efforts are building up, and as additional Iraqi brigades are being deployed, U.S. combat brigades could begin to move out of Iraq. By the first quarter of 2008, subject to unexpected developments in the security situation on the ground, all combat brigades not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq. At that time, U.S. combat forces in Iraq could be deployed only in units embedded with Iraqi forces, in rapid-reaction and special operations teams, and in training, equipping, advising, force protection, and search and rescue. Intelligence and support efforts would continue. Even after the United States has moved all combat brigades out of Iraq, we would maintain a considerable military presence in the region, with our still significant force in Iraq and with our powerful air, ground, and naval deployments in Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar, as well as an increased presence in Afghanistan. These forces would be sufficiently robust to permit the United States, working with the Iraqi government, to accomplish four missions:
• Provide political reassurance to the Iraqi government in order to avoid its collapse and the disintegration of the country.
• Fight al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations in Iraq using special operations teams.
• Train, equip, and support the Iraqi security forces.
• Deter even more destructive interference in Iraq by Syria and Iran.
Because of the importance of Iraq to our regional security goals and to our ongoing fight against al Qaeda, we considered proposals to make a substantial increase (100,000 to 200,000) in the number of U.S. troops in Iraq. We rejected this course because we do not believe that the needed levels are available for a sustained deployment. Further, adding more American troops could conceivably worsen those aspects of the security problem that are fed by the view that the U.S. presence is intended to be a long-term “occupation.” We could, however, support a short-term redeployment or surge of American combat forces to stabilize Baghdad, or to speed up the training and equipping mission, if the U.S. commander in Iraq determines that such steps would be effective.
We also rejected the immediate withdrawal of our troops, because we believe that so much is at stake.
We believe that our recommended actions will give the Iraqi Army the support it needs to have a reasonable chance to take responsibility for Iraq’s security. Given the ongoing deterioration in the security situation, it is urgent to move as quickly as possible to have that security role taken over by Iraqi security forces.
The United States should not make an open-ended commitment to keep large numbers of American troops deployed in Iraq for three compelling reasons.
First, and most importantly, the United States faces other security dangers in the world, and a continuing Iraqi commitment of American ground forces at present levels will leave no reserve available to meet other contingencies. On September 7, 2006, General James Jones, our NATO commander, called for more troops in Afghanistan, where U.S. and NATO forces are fighting a resurgence of al Qaeda and Taliban forces. The United States should respond positively to that request, and be prepared for other security contingencies, including those in Iran and North Korea.
Second, the long-term commitment of American ground forces to Iraq at current levels is adversely affecting Army readiness, with less than a third of the Army units currently at high readiness levels. The Army is unlikely to be able to meet the next rotation of troops in Iraq without undesirable changes in its deployment practices. The Army is now considering breaking its compact with the National Guard and Reserves that limits the number of years that these citizen-soldiers can be deployed. Behind this short-term strain is the longer-term risk that the ground forces will be impaired in ways that will take years to reverse.
And finally, an open-ended commitment of American forces would not provide the Iraqi government the incentive it needs to take the political actions that give Iraq the best chance of quelling sectarian violence. In the absence of such an incentive, the Iraqi government might continue to delay taking those difficult actions.
While it is clear that the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq is moderating the violence, there is little evidence that the long-term deployment of U.S. troops by itself has led or will lead to fundamental improvements in the security situation. It is important to recognize that there are no risk-free alternatives available to the United States at this time. Reducing our combat troop commitments in Iraq, whenever that occurs, undeniably creates risks, but leaving those forces tied down in Iraq indefinitely creates its own set of security risks.