RECOMMENDS MAJOR COMBAT TROOPS OUT IN EARLY 2008
REPORT ECHOES SAUDIS WISH FOR PALESTINIANS "RIGHT OF RETURN"
The new US Secretary of Defence, Robert Gates, said yesterday that the United States is not winning the 'War On Iraq'. A new report released today confirms this fact, but also says that there is no action the US military can take that will the war in any way approaching a clear and decisive victory.
Even though much detail from the Iraq Study Group's report 'The Way Forward' was leaked to the media in the past two weeks, the impact of its release has been substantial in the US, in Iraq, and in Coalition of the Willing countries like Australia and the UK.
From recommending directly that negotiations begin with Iran and Syria to help end the war, to recognising the true cost of the war on the civilians of Iraq, from revealing that ethnic cleansing is a savage reality, to recognising that one of the chief causes of Muslim anger towards US policy is its tireless support of Israel's low-boil war against the Palestinians, from boldy stating just how much American money has been wasted on the war, to admitting that many American soldiers' lives were wasted on pointless missions, from detailing the murderous sprees undertaken by some members of the Iraqi Army and police force, to recognising the true number and power of the biggest Shiite militia force (60,000 strong) the Iraq Study Report is going to shock both supporters of the war and also its harshest critics.
While President Bush had weeks to prepare for the report, and no doubt was briefed extensively before he even thought about fronting the media, he still looked wiped out, knocked about and clearly shocked by the contents of the report.
Critics have accused Bush of being locked inside a bubble of No Bad News, a characteristic that has been widely reported where he has reacted almost violently to briefers, advisors and administration officials who tried to tell him since early 2004 that the situation on the ground in Iraq was far worse than he thought, or knew.
It is clear now that President Bush didn't want to know the reality, and allowed his inner circle to filter the news he recieved, or at least, the news he chose to believe.
Perhaps he actually read the report from cover to cover. Even for someone like myself who has spent two to four hours most days reading media coverage, unclassified reports and milblogs on the Iraq War, 'The Way Forward' report hits right between the eyes.
It is that so much of the bad news, the truth, has been gathered together in this way that shocks you. You can read fragments every day for three years, but to cop the full load in one read, well, you can understand why President Bush is so clearly devastated.
There's already an enormous amount of coverage on the report's contents, and we've linked to some key summaries and 'what happens next' articles below, but for today we'll just directly quote the parts of the report that leapt out on a first reading :
"The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating . . . [Maliki's government] is not adequately advancing national reconciliation, providing basic security, or delivering essential services."
"There is no guarantee for success in Iraq . . . There is great suffering, and the daily lives of many Iraqis show little or no improvement. Pessimism is pervasive . . . the ability of the United States to influence events (has been diminished and continues to be so)"
"Iraqis have not been convinced that they must take responsibility for their own future."
"U.S. forces seem to be caught in a mission that has no foreseeable end."
"The Iraqi government cannot now govern, sustain, and defend itself without the support of the United States."
"A collapse of Iraq's government and economy would further cripple a country already unable to meet its people's needs. Iraq's security forces could split along sectarian lines. A humanitarian catastrophe could follow..."
"(In the event of the government and ecomony collapsing)...ethnic cleansing could escalate. The Iraqi people could be subjected to another strongman who flexes the political and military muscle required to impose order amid anarchy."
"The United Nations estimates that 1.6 million are displaced within Iraq, and up to 1.8 million Iraqis have fled the country.""The United States should embark on a robust diplomatic effort to establish an international support structure intended to stabilize Iraq and ease tensions in other countries in the region. This support structure should include every country that has an interest in averting a chaotic Iraq, including all of Iraq's neighbors--Iran and Syria among them."
"There is no action the American military can take that, by itself, can bring about success in Iraq."
"Because events in Iraq have been set in motion by American decisions and actions, the United States has both a national and a moral interest in doing what it can to give Iraqis an opportunity to avert anarchy."
"Many military units are under significant strain . . . many units do not have fully functional equipment for training when they redeploy to the United States."
"Given the ability of Iran and Syria to influence events within Iraq and their interest in avoiding chaos in Iraq, the United States should try to engage them constructively."
"Iran appears content for the U.S. military to be tied down in Iraq, a position that limits U.S. options in addressing Iran's nuclear program ad allows Iran leverage over stability in Iraq."
"Iraq is a major test of, and strain on, U.S. military, diplomatic, and financial capacities. Perceived failure there could diminish America's credibility and influence in a region that is the center of the Islamic world and vital to the world's energy supply."
"[T]he Syrians look the other way as arms and foreign fighters flow across their border into Iraq, and former Baathist leaders find a safe haven within Syria.""Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states . . . for the most part have been passive and disengaged. They have declined to provide debt relief or substantial economic assistance to the Iraqi government."
"The United States cannot achieve its goals in the Middle East unless it deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict and regional instability. There must be a renewed and sustained commitment by the United States to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace on all fronts . . . [including] direct talks with, by, and between Israel, Lebanon, Palestinians...and Syria."
"Significant questions remain about the ethnic composition and loyalties of some Iraqi units--specifically, whether they will carry out missions on behalf of national goals instead of a sectarian agenda ."
"If the Iraqi government does not make substantial progress toward the achievement of milestones on national reconciliation, security, and governance, the United States should reduce its political, military, or economic support for the Iraqi government.""The problems in the Iraqi police and criminal justice system are profound."
"Terrorism could grow. As one Iraqi official told us, 'Al-Qaeda is now a franchise in Iraq, like McDonald's.'"
"Al Qaeda is responsible for a small portion of the violence in Iraq, but that includes some of the more spectacular acts . . . Al Qaeda in Iraq is now largely Iraqi-run and composed of Sunni Arabs. Foreign fighters--numbering an estimated 1,300--play a supporting role or carry out suicide operations."The Shiite militias that both defending territory inside Baghdad and executing Sunnis in revenge attacks "are fragmenting, with an increasing breakdown in command structure . . . The prevalence of militias sends a powerful message: political leaders can preserve and expand their power only if backed by armed force. The Mahdi Army . . . may number as many as 60,000 fighters."
"Sunni Arabs feel displaced because of the loss of their traditional position of power in Iraq."
"The Shia, the majority of Iraq's population, have gained power for the first time in more than 1,300 years."
It is well worth reading the entire report if you want to get a preview of how the 'War On Iraq' is unlikely to unfold in the next 12 to 24 months. It remains to be seen, however, whether or not Bush Co. will act on the key recommendations.Should they fail to act, however, and should the ready-to-fire Democrat majority in the US Senate keep its pre-election promises, Bush Co. may find themselves in a civil war of their own, right in the heart of Washington DC.
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