Recommendation 16 of the Iraq Study Group's report calls upon Syria to agree to a peace deal with Israel in return for the Golan Heights. It further suggests that Syria be persuaded to end its interference in Lebanon, cease aiding Hezbollah, convince Hamas to recognize Israel's right to exist, and intervene to obtain the release of two captured Israeli soldiers.
Elsewhere the report declares that "Iran should stem the flow of arms and training to Iraq, respect Iraq's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and use its influence over Iraqi Shia groups to encourage national reconciliation." The authors of this report are supposed to be the foreign policy realists? These goals make President Bush's ambition to germinate a democracy in Arab soil look positively minimalist by comparison.
Instead of a sober new look at our options in Iraq, this report consists of platitudinous, utterly naive wishful thinking. No wonder it is being so rapturously received by the media. At a press conference the morning after the report was released, a Los Angeles Times reporter asked the president whether he didn't really agree that the ISG report was much more important than any other reports (from the State Department and the Pentagon) the president was expecting to receive.
"The United States cannot achieve its goals in the Middle East unless it deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict and regional instability." A reliable old saw, but is it true? Since 1945, the Middle East has experienced 40 wars, including civil wars and wars of attrition. Of these, 10 have involved Israel (including the first and second intifadas). The remainder have included border wars between Egypt and Libya, two civil wars in Lebanon, a war between Jordan and the PLO, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the Iran/Iraq War, several civil wars in Yemen, and the Dhofar rebellion in Oman. It is chasing a shadow to imagine that "settling" the Arab/Israeli dispute will pacify the region.
But the group chose a particularly inapposite moment to seek a solution to the Israeli/Arab dispute. In the first place, its relevance to the Iraqi conflict is remote at best. Shiites and Sunnis are not going to stop killing each other because the borders of the West Bank are redrawn. But further, the Assad family in Syria has already rejected a bona fide offer of the Golan Heights. The sticking point in 2000? Syria declined to make peace with Israel. If Syria wouldn't accept a deal that included getting back the Golan in 2000, why should she agree now?