Iraq Study Group: The 'Graveness,' the Redeployment, the Response (Updating...)

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Dec 06, 2006 8:49 AM

Well, the ISG's report is out (officially to Bush, and leaked to the AP):

That includes the blunt conclusion that "the situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating," and could trigger "the collapse of Iraq's government and a humanitarian catastrophe," according to the Associated Press, which reported obtaining portions of the document in advance of its scheduled 11 a.m. release. "Violence is increasing in scope and lethality."

AP leads with the pull-out:

A commission on the war in Iraq recommended new and enhanced diplomacy Wednesday so the United States can "begin to move its combat forces" out of the country responsibly...

The report warned that if the situation continues to deteriorate, there is a risk of a "slide toward chaos (that) could trigger the collapse of Iraq's government and a humanitarian catastrophe."

"Neighboring countries could intervene. ....The global standing of the United States could be diminished. Americans could become more polarized," commissioners said.

Not sure why pulling out troops is the solution, since the study group concedes that losing would cause a "humanitarian catastrophe." Surely the catastrophe and collapse of the government is not avoided by pulling out. Of course, there is this guy. Glimmer of hope?

TIME says the report recommends pulling out most troops within 16 months:

suggests that most U.S. combat troops should be withdrawn in the next 16 months, according to excerpts provided to TIME. Baker presented the report to President Bush this morning.

AP has excerpts, but I imagine a different picture of the report will emerge once bloggers get to look at the whole thing:

"The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating. There is no path that can guarantee success, but the prospects can be improved."

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"Our most important recommendations call for new and enhanced diplomatic and political efforts in Iraq and the region, and a change in the primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq that will enable the United States to begin to move its combat forces out of Iraq responsibly. We believe that these two recommendations are equally important and reinforce one another. If they are effectively implemented, and if the Iraqi government moves forward with national reconciliation, Iraqis will have an opportunity for a better future, terrorism will be dealt a blow, stability will be enhanced in an important part of the world, and America's credibility, interests and values will be protected."

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"If the situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences could be severe. A slide toward chaos could trigger the collapse of Iraq's government and a humanitarian catastrophe. Neighboring countries could intervene. Sunni-Shia clashes could spread. Al-Qaida could win a propaganda victory and expand its base of operations. The global standing of the United States could be diminished. Americans could become more polarized."

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"During the past nine months we have considered a full range of approaches for moving forward. All have flaws. Our recommended course has shortcomings, but we firmly believe that it includes the best strategies and tactics to positively influence the outcome in Iraq and the region."

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"The United States should immediately launch a new diplomatic offensive to build an international consensus for stability in Iraq and the region. This diplomatic effort should include every country that has an interest in avoiding a chaotic Iraq, including all of Iraq's neighbors. Iraq's neighbors and key states in and outside the region should form a support group to reinforce security and national reconciliation within Iraq, neither of which Iraq can achieve on its own."

Bush had this to say, in full:

"I just received the Iraq Study Group report, prepared by a distinguished panel of our fellow citizens. I want to thank James Baker and Lee Hamilton and the panel members for spending a lot of time on this really difficult issue. And I thank you for coming into the White House today to give me a copy of this report.

"I told the members that this report, called 'The Way Forward,' will be taken very seriously by this administration. This report gives a very tough assessment of the situation in Iraq. It is a report that brings some really very interesting proposals, and we will take every proposal seriously and we will act in a timely fashion.

"The commission is headed up to Congress, and I urge the members of Congress to take this report seriously. While they won't agree with every proposal – and we probably won't agree with every proposal – it, nevertheless, is an opportunity to come together and to work together on this important issue.

"The country, in my judgment, is tired of pure political bickering that happens in Washington, and they understand that on this important issue of war and peace, it is best for our country to work together. And I understand how difficult that is, but this report will give us all an opportunity to find common ground, for the good of the country – not for the good of the Republican Party or the Democratic Party, but for the good of the country.

"We can achieve long-lasting peace for this country, and it requires tough work. It also requires a strategy that will be effective. And we've got men and women of both political parties around this table who spent a lot of time thinking about the way forward in Iraq, and the way forward in the Middle East, and I can't thank them enough for your time. You could be doing a lot of other things, you could have had a lot more simple life than to allow your government to call you back into service. But you did allow us to call you back into service, and you made a vital contribution to the country. Our fellow citizens have got to know that it is possible for people of goodwill to come together to help make recommendations on how to deal with a very serious situation.

"And we applaud your work. We take it very seriously, and we'll act on it in a timely fashion. Thank you very much."

Official release time for the report is 11 a.m. 

Update: I was out filming HamNation, and am just getting to it,  but Allah's on the report:

It sounds like the leaks were accurate. They want a significant number of troops withdrawn soon — ideally within 16 months — and the rest redeployed to advise and support the Iraqi army. (Minor surprise: first they want a minor increase.) And of course they want us to talk to Iran and Syria, an initiative which most Americans (including most Republicans) support. Says Moran: “You will excuse me if I believe that talking to Syria while it is in the process of gobbling up its tiny Lebanese neighbor to be one of the most cynical, immoral, and ill-considered diplomatic ideas in a generation – which of course is right up Baker’s alley.” Presumably the outreach could starts as early as next week, right after Iran gets done denying the Holocaust.

Update: Download the report, here. You can also get your pessimism in really cool book form later in the week, so you're not the only D.C. dork left without a copy to flout on the Metro.  

Update: Bill Kristol on Fox:

There really do make recommendations and they dismiss the other options and four pages. It is not a serious document. They' re all charming guys, and it is nice they have reached a consensus, but it is not a serious document. They discuss the alternatives to try to win the war, getting out quickly--three pages. Quickly in three pages. There is no discussion of military strategy. If we are in a crisis, the iraqi government is not going to get up to speed in the next few months. That is the timeframe we are talking about. I did not have high expectations. Having glanced through it, I am angry. It is deeply irresponsible.

Update: Shorter Stephanopoulos (does it get shorter than Steph? Buh-duh ching!): "Oh God, please get us out! No matter what happens, just out! Out now!"

That's going to put tremendous pressure on president bush. Charlie, if I had to pick out one recommendation that could have the kind of teeth you're talking about, it's recommendation number 41, the study group says that the United States government should tell the Iraqi government that the United States is going to carry out its planned redeployments even if the Iraqi government doesn't meet the benchmarks. That is a real threat of withdrawal. That could be a significant change of course. It's going to be important to see what the President's reaction is to that single recommendation because that's the clearest one that indicates a path out of Iraq.

Update: Talk of increasing troop levels in the short run:

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.

Update: Major Garrett was wrong. The report does mention "victory," but mostly for al Qaeda:

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.

And:

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

Update: Ace on the singular wisdom of James Baker:

Does anyone get what the hell talking to Syria and Iran could possibly accomplish?

If the war in Iraq is truly lost, then fine -- it's lost. Then let's get out, but let's keep open the option of attacking the malignant cancer of Iran. Only James Baker could figure out a way to not only lose a war he believes is lost, but compound that loss by furthermore making the appeasement of the world's most dangerous state a further insult to our injury.

Update: Allah's got the "rough waters" soundbite everyone's so hype on, as he predicted.  

Katie loves it, too:

Couric: You're watching two elder statesmen, former Secretary of State James Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton talking about a broad overview of the recommendations by the iraq study group. These gentlemen did not mince words. Lee Hamilton calling the situation in Iraq very, very serious. He said he did not know if it could be turned around and that the task ahead is daunting, but it was not by any means lost, but a comprehensive approach is necessary. It's cost $400 billion so far. It could rise to well over a trillion dollars. He added, "our ship of state has hit rough waters, we must chart a new way forward."

Update: Reactions, via AP. Stay-the-course takes a whoopin':

''We do not recommend a stay-the-course solution; in our opinion, that approach is no longer viable.'' James A. Baker III, co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group.

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''The current approach is not working. And the ability of the United States to influence events is diminishing. ... Many Americans are understandably dissatisfied. Our ship of state has hit rough waters. It must now chart a new way forward.'' Lee Hamilton, co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group.

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''We acknowledge that this is a tremendous step forward, and it will change course in Iraq. It's up to the president to fulfill his obligation, in my opinion, to the country, and follow the recommendations of this study group.'' Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., Democratic leader.

Someone tell Mr. Reid that withdrawing precipitously does not a "step forward" make. In fact, it's literally a step backward. Gleeful in the promise of American defeat, are they not? 

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''Let's use this as a tool to advise the president, as all these recommendations that are coming to him from the Pentagon, from the Congress and from this study group. And let's speak with one voice as we move forward on Iraqi policy. I think that's the most important lesson and the most important track that the country could take right now.'' _ Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., House Armed Services Committee chairman.

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''I feel encouraged, and I feel the stay-the-course strategy is officially dead.'' _ Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif.

Hurrah!

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''We will not accomplish victory by setting arbitrary deadlines or negotiating with hostile governments.'' _ Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio.

Sense-talking will do you no good, Rep. Boehner. These are elder statesmen, and Iran and Syria are, like, totally capable and willing to help us in Iraq, according to them.

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''The report represents another blow at the policy of stay the course that this administration has followed. Hopefully, this will be the end of that stay-the-course policy ... . It is clearly strongly supporting changing the course in a number of ways.'' Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Update: Dean Barnett did the dirty deed and read the whole thing, so you don't have to: "a terminal lack of seriousness"