As the debate over Iraq heats up, it is striking to note that the contenders for the candidacy of the President have paid little attention to a report released in December of 2006, a report by the Iraqi Study Group on measures that the United States can take to ease the sectarian violence in Iraq and move the United States towards timely withdrawal of military forces from the country. The recommendations of the Iraq Study Group Report, chaired by James baker III and Lee Hamilton, hardly doves in any sense of the word, are worth considering again. The primary thrust of these recommendations is four-fold.
First, engage in constructive diplomacy with neighboring states to help stem the flow of militants, arms, and propaganda that is fueling the sectarian violence. Countries are propagating the violence in Iraq, and a comprehensive diplomatic effort to gain cooperation from key actors such as Iran and Syria, if it were effective, would go a long way towards helping ease tensions.

Second, push for a peaceful Arab-Israeli resolution to the aftermath of the 1967 war. President Bush has committed to the peace process in the Middle East, and now would be an ideal time to put more pressure on the states in question, including the Palestinian government, to seek a peaceful, long-term solution to the aftermath of Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights and Palestinian occupied territories. This major ideological and political stumbling block, absent some form of resolution, will continue to act as a focal point for anti-US and anti-Western sentiment in the region, hindering the peace process.

Third, shift the role of the U.S. Forces in Iraq towards supporting the Iraqi army. The Iraqi army is currently woefully under-prepared, facing crises in leadership, lack of equipment, lack of personnel and logistics/support. A strategic re-deployment of U.S. forces, including embedding more personnel in Iraqi units in support roles rather than independent U.S. batalions in primary combat roles, would both ease the burden that the U.S. has assumed for itself and help prepare the Iraqi army for assuming sole responsibility of Iraqi security.

Fourth, end the unconditional support of the Iraqi government. The U.S. should make it clear that it will not keep large numbers of troops on the ground indefinitely and that the Iraqi government must take prompt action to achieve self-sufficiency. Instead, have U.S. support of the Iraqi government contingent upon their progress towards self-sufficiency. The heavy U.S. presence on the ground is acting as a lightning rod for “anti-occupation” resistance, and shifting the burden to the Iraqis would help alleviate these tensions.

These are hardly measures that are assured to bring peace and stability to Iraq. All of them have their flaws, as the report is apt to point out, but they are a good starting point. At the very least, they deserve some amount of consideration.

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