Peace Institute Recommends 5 Years of War
Swimming against the tide of sentiment urging rapid U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, a new blue ribbon report urges committing to five more years of military intervention. No, it wasn’t funded by the Project for the New American Century but rather the U.S. Institute for Peace.
In a report to be released Sunday, a panel of experts assembled by the U.S. Institute of Peace calls for a 50 percent reduction in U.S. forces in Iraq within three years and a total withdrawal and handover of security to the Iraqi military in five years. “The United States faces too many challenges around the world to continue its current level of effort in Iraq, or even the deployment that was in place before the surge,” the report says. ” . . . It is time to chart a clearer path forward.”
The recommendations in “Iraq: A Time for Change,” the last of several reports published in the run-up to the Bush administration’s assessment of Iraq this week, also call on the United Nations to immediately begin “intense negotiations” among Iraq’s squabbling politicians. The talks should not be allowed to adjourn without agreements on power-sharing, revising the constitution, oil resources, local elections, easing a ban on former Baath Party members and the future of Kirkuk, the report urges. A similar model was used to broker an end to the war in Bosnia.
With some recent security improvements, the biggest problem facing the Bush administration and Iraq is the failure of politicians in Baghdad to reconcile Sunni and Shiite factions and pass critical laws to secure the fledgling new democracy. “The situation remains fluid, but a window has opened, fleetingly, for Iraq to proceed with political reconciliation. Iraq’s national politicians have been unable to take full advantage of this opportunity,” says the report, authored by USIP vice president Daniel Serwer.
The Baker-Hamilton report was most contentious because of its recommendations on diplomatic outreach to Iran and Syria. The new report says the United States should block Iranian attempts to control Iraqi politics and interdict its arms supplies to Iraqi militias, while also continuing to talk to Tehran directly and accommodating some Iranian interests in a neighboring state. “As long as the U.S. and Iran engage in a zero sum context for influence, Iraq will remain in turmoil and the U.S. will be bogged down,” the report warns.
This would seem to be a non-starter. Militarily, we could sustain a smaller force in Iraq for years, barring a major war elsewhere. Politically, though, neither the public nor the political class has the stomach for another five years.
Moreover, while having the U.N. broker peace talks is likely to offer more prospect for success than doing it under U.S. auspices, there’s no sign that the underlying problems are anywhere near ready to be resolved. It may take a lot more fighting and dying before now-unthinkable compromises start to look comparably palatable.