The Sticky Parts of the ISG Report Recommendations

As I re-read the recommendations in the Iraq Study Group (does this conjure up images of James Baker, Lee Hamilton, Sandra Day O’Connor, etc. huddled together in the college library for anybody other than me?) Report published yesterday, several points jumped out at me that made me wonder if the members of the group realized how controversial some of their proposals might be.

All emphasis in the following quotations is mine.

The first such occurs on p. 57 in Recommendation 16:

RECOMMENDATION 16: In exchange for these actions and in the context of a full and secure peace agreement, the Israelis should return the Golan Heights, with a U.S. security guarantee for Israel that could include an international force on the border, including U.S. troops if requested by both parties.

Has the U. S. ever actually given a formal security guarantee to Israel? I know it’s been talked about from time to time and, specifically, I remember Warren Christopher broaching the subject of a U. S. security guarantee in exchange for return of the Golan Heights nearly 15 years ago, but I don’t recall anything coming of that. Although I think the U. S. has an implicit security agreement with Israel wouldn’t a formal one be something of a departure?

The second controversial item is not much farther on in Recommendation 17:

RECOMMENDATION 17: Concerning the Palestinian issue, elements of that negotiated peace should include:

  • Adherence to UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and to the principle of land for peace, which are the only bases for achieving peace.
  • Strong support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority to take the lead in preparing the way for negotiations with Israel.
  • A major effort to move from the current hostilities by consolidating the cease-fire reached between the Palestinians and the Israelis in November 2006.
  • Support for a Palestinian national unity government.
  • Sustainable negotiations leading to a final peace settlement along the lines of President Bush’s two-state solution, which would address the key final status issues of borders, settlements, Jerusalem, the right of return, and the end of conflict.

Has the “right of return”, presumably the right of pre-1948 Palestinians and their descendants to resume residence in Israel, ever been mentioned in an official U. S. document before? Since this is an existential issue for Israel, I suspect that this may cause some comment.

It seems to me that this provision:

The transfer of command and control over Iraqi security forces units from the United States to Iraq should be influenced by Iraq’s performance on milestones.

in Recommendation 18 is controversial. Either the government of Iraq is sovereign in which case command and control over its security forces is not the United States’s to determine when or if it is transferred or the United States is still occupying the country in which case it has obligations for security under the Geneva Conventions which are not contingent on the performance of the Iraqi government. Recommendations 20 and 21 have similar problems.

On page 72 is the indefinite presence of U. S. military forces in Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar, even enhancing that presence to fufill commitments in Iraq a foregone conclusion? It seems to me that the governments of these countries might be reluctant to be permanent hosts given the U. S. performance in Iraq.

I suspect that Recommendation 50 will prove controversial for the present Iraqi government:

RECOMMENDATION 50: The entire Iraqi National Police should be transferred to the Ministry of Defense, where the police commando units will become part of the new Iraqi Army.

This would effectively insulate the Iraqi National Police, presently under the control of the Ministry of the Interior, from the influence of Moqtada Al-Sadr and his militia. That is no doubt the intent but, given Al-Sadr’s influence with the present Iraqi government, this could prove difficult or even impossible.

Indeed, I found this passage a little amusing:

In order to more effectively administer the Iraqi Police Service, the Ministry of the Interior needs to undertake substantial reforms to purge bad elements and highlight best practices.

In all likelihood the “bad elements” are the Ministry of the Interior. For at least some Arab Sunnis in Iraq the Iraqi Police Service is synonymous with Shi’a death squads.

The incoming Congress has already suggested that Recommendation 64 is probably a non-starter:

RECOMMENDATION 64: U.S. economic assistance should be increased to a level of $5 billion per year rather than being permitted to decline. The President needs to ask for the necessary resources and must work hard to win the support of Congress. Capacity building and job creation, including reliance on the Commander’s Emergency Response Program, should be U.S. priorities. Economic assistance should be provided on a nonsectarian basis.

I thought that Recommendation 65 was downright silly:

RECOMMENDATION 65: An essential part of reconstruction efforts in Iraq should be greater involvement by and with international partners, who should do more than just contribute money. They should also actively participate in the design and construction of projects.

The reluctance of international partners to get involved in Iraq is due to the lousy security situation in Iraq. Resolve that and you’ll have to beat ’em off with a stick.

Some good news for the State Department:

RECOMMENDATION 74: In the short term, if not enough civilians volunteer to fill key positions in Iraq, civilian agencies must fill those positions with directed assignments. Steps should be taken to mitigate familial or financial hardships posed by directed assignments, including tax exclusions similar to those authorized for U.S. military personnel serving in Iraq.

As above with international partners if the security situation in Iraq were improved you’d have to beat ’em off with a stick. In the absence of improved security we’ll draft State Department personnel and, possibly, the personnel of other agencies to fill the gap. In all likelihood that will result in just the people we need in State leaving for their health.

There are a host of other knee-slappers that challenge Iraqi sovereignty with the attendant Catch-22 for U. S. involvement and proposals that are unacceptable to the Iraqis or the other countries in the region and some of the provisions are in direct opposition to the issues that the incoming Congress campaigned on in order to get elected. If they’re very lucky, perhaps no one will notice.

Cross-posted at The Glittering Eye


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Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.


  1. legion says:

    In order to more effectively administer the Iraqi Police Service, the Ministry of the Interior needs to undertake substantial reforms to purge bad elements and highlight best practices.

    And in order to more effectively fly, I need to undertake a substantial program to grow wings.

    In all likelihood the “bad elements” are the Ministry of the Interior. For at least some Arab Sunnis in Iraq the Iraqi Police Service is synonymous with Shi’a death squads.

    Seriously. Even friggin’ Fox News knows the Iraqi forces are not capable of being ‘turned over’ to yet. And may not ever be.

  2. This is like the horse designed by committee.

    Let’s assume a “right of return”. How will you verify the “right”? Last census numbers I saw for Israel was about 5.7M Jews and non-Arabs, 1.4M Arabs. The Palestinian census varies from 2.5 to 4M depending who you believe. The Palestinian government is touting the 4M, so lets assume that. Suddenly you have two camps, one of 5.7M and the other of 5.4M. And we are supposed to guarantee the security of Israel. One sides negotiating position is the other side has to be wiped out. So to “bring peace” to the middle east and end sectarian violence in Iraq we should arrange for roughly equal sides to be put in place for a civil war in Israel. And of course, we would guarantee the security of the country when we do this.

    Even Murtha makes more sense than this. At least redeploying to Okinawa would only encourage those fighting to go on, it wouldn’t start a new civil war.

  3. just me says:

    I am trying to figure out why they need the recommendations regarding Israel anyway with regard to the situation in Iraq, not to mention, that these things are more Isreali policy decisions.

    As for the Golan Heights-while this is territory in dispute, I am trying to figure out why putting troops between Israel and Syria, and how/why this would be a wise move on Israel’s part.

  4. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Baker is an idiot in the mold of Chamberlain. Negotiating with Iran and Syria must be done as an ultimatum. Stop or die. Where does that committee get off recommending anything concerning Israel? Baker is and was a fool. He is not to be taken seriously.