In any case, the carrots Iran and Syria will surely seek would heavily outweigh any help they could provide in Iraq. Iran wants to develop nuclear weapons, and its president vows to seek a world without Israel and America. Syria wants to squash the investigation of its assassination last year of Rafik Hariri and to resume its control of Lebanon.
Baker and Hamilton have been labeled foreign policy "realists" in news stories and columns in the run-up to the release of the ISG report. But it doesn't seem very realistic to expect that we can get regime change in Iran and Syria through negotiations. Nor does it seem very realistic to expect that negotiations between Israel and Palestinians can reach a mutually acceptable solution when the Hamas government rejects Israel's right to exist.
The ISG report is critical of the Iraqi government, and its call for sharply reducing the U.S. troop levels there by 2008 suggests an attempt to put pressure on the Iraqi government to take more steps to reduce the violence than it has done so far.
One such step the report mentions is "equitable distribution of oil revenues." An excellent point. Since April 2003, I have been urging the creation of an Iraqi oil trust, modeled on the Alaska Permanent Fund, which would distribute a portion of oil royalties annually in equal amounts to every man, woman and child in Iraq.
The Iraqi constitution clearly allows, indeed invites, the creation of such a fund. It would be difficult to implement -- the government would have to create a workable private banking sector. But it would give every Iraqi, of whatever ethnic group or sect, an ongoing interest in the success of the government -- and an incentive to stop the attacks on oil and other infrastructure.
It's a more realistic way to improve life in Iraq than counting on negotiations to change the regimes of Iran and Syria.
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