As was expected, the Iraq Study Group has advocated training more Iraqi forces and engaging in diplomacy with Iraq’s neighbors, Iran and Syria. The report also favors gradually getting US combat troops out of Iraq. Its assessment of the situation in Iraq as “deteriorating” and says that Bush’ policy is “not working.”

It remains to be seen what the reaction of the US executive will be to the report it commissioned. Change in policy is likely, because of President Bush’s Secretary of State nominee Robert Gates. Gates’ discourse has differed from his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, and he has said that the US is “not winning” in Iraq. That seems to be in line with the Iraq Study Group’s report, which sees the situation in Iraq as “grave and deteriorating.”

Whether the US is in a stand-off with Iran and Syria or not, it will have to welcome some sort of dialogue with Iraq’s neighbors. After all, Iran has already initiated a process of dialogue within the region, with Iraqi President Talabani visiting Iran and meeting with Iranian President Ahmadinejad and spiritual leader Khamenei. Iraq and Syria have also taken a step towards regional diplomacy by resuming diplomatic relations, which were cut off when Syria supported Iran in the Iran-Iraq war. Iran and Syria also have influence over different factions in Iraq; Iran is an influential Shi’a voice, while Syria’s population is mostly Sunni (despite its Alawite leadership). Syria may also come to play a bigger regional role, if it is successful in acting with diplomacy in the current political stand-off in Lebanon.

One of the report’s contentious points is suggesting to cut off US aid and military support if the Iraqi government does not reach certain targets. While this may be effective as putting necessary pressure on Iraq, it would also contravene with Bush’s “stay the course” dogma.

President Bush has not said if he will act on the report’s suggestions, saying that he will take them into serious consideration.

Dmitri Marine blogs on Blogue North

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