The Iraq Study Group, a 10-member bipartisan panel headed by former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker III and former Congressman Lee Hamilton (D-IL), released a 160-page report, The Iraq Study Group Report: The Way Forward - A New Approach (PDF 1.3MB), on Dec. 6, 2006 detailing 79 recommendations on what the United States should do in Iraq.
A summary of the report, pro and con reactions to it, and links to related information (including biographies of the study's authors) are all provided below.
I. Executive Summary of the Dec. 6, 2006 Iraq Study Group (ISG) Report
The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating. There is no path that can guarantee success, but the prospects can be improved.
In this report, we make a number of recommendations for actions to be taken in Iraq, the United States, and the region. 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 Americaï¿½s credibility, interests, and values will be protected.
The challenges in Iraq are complex. Violence is increasing in scope and lethality. It is fed by a Sunni Arab insurgency, Shiite militias and death squads, al Qaeda, and widespread criminality. Sectarian conflict is the principal challenge to stability.
The Iraqi people have a democratically elected government, yet it is not adequately advancing national reconciliation, providing basic security, or delivering essential services. Pessimism is pervasive.
If the situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences could be severe. A slide toward chaos could trigger the collapse of Iraqï¿½s government and a humanitarian catastrophe. Neighboring countries could intervene. Sunni-Shia clashes could spread. Al Qaeda 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.
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.
The policies and actions of Iraqï¿½s neighbors greatly affect its stability and prosperity. No country in the region will benefit in the long term from a chaotic Iraq. Yet Iraqï¿½s neighbors are not doing enough to help Iraq achieve stability. Some are undercutting stability.
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 Iraqï¿½s neighbors. Iraqï¿½s 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.
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. In seeking to influence the behavior of both countries, the United States has disincentives and incentives available. Iran should stem the flow of arms and training to Iraq, respect Iraqï¿½s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and use its influence over Iraqi Shia groups to encourage national reconciliation. The issue of Iranï¿½s nuclear programs should continue to be dealt with by the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany. Syria should control its border with Iraq to stem the flow of funding, insurgents, and terrorists in and out of Iraq.
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: Lebanon, Syria, and President Bushï¿½s June 2002 commitment to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. This commitment must include direct talks with, by, and between Israel, Lebanon, Palestinians (those who accept Israelï¿½s right to exist), and Syria.
As the United States develops its approach toward Iraq and the Middle East, the United States should provide additional political, economic, and military support for Afghanistan, including resources that might become available as combat forces are moved out of Iraq.
The most important questions about Iraqï¿½s future are now the responsibility of Iraqis. The United States must adjust its role in Iraq to encourage the Iraqi people to take control of their own destiny.
The Iraqi government should accelerate assuming responsibility for Iraqi security by increasing the number and quality of Iraqi Army brigades. While this process is under way, and to facilitate it, the United States should significantly increase the number of U.S. military personnel, including combat troops, imbedded in and supporting Iraqi Army units. As these actions proceed, U.S. combat forces could begin to move out of Iraq.
The primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq should evolve to one of supporting the Iraqi army, which would take over primary responsibility for combat operations. By the first quarter of 2008, subject to unexpected developments in the security situation on the ground, all combat brigades not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq. At that time, U.S. combat forces in Iraq could be deployed only in units embedded with Iraqi forces, in rapid-reaction and special operations teams, and in training, equipping, advising, force protection, and search and rescue. Intelligence and support efforts would continue. A vital mission of those rapid reaction and special operations forces would be to undertake strikes against al Qaeda in Iraq.
It is clear that the Iraqi government will need assistance from the United States for some time to come, especially in carrying out security responsibilities. Yet the United States must make it clear to the Iraqi government that the United States could carry out its plans, including planned redeployments, even if the Iraqi government did not implement their planned changes. The United States must not make an openended commitment to keep large numbers of American troops deployed in Iraq.
As redeployment proceeds, military leaders should emphasize training and education of forces that have returned to the United States in order to restore the force to full combat capability. As equipment returns to the United States, Congress should appropriate sufficient funds to restore the equipment over the next five years.
The United States should work closely with Iraqï¿½s leaders to support the achievement of specific objectivesï¿½or milestonesï¿½ on national reconciliation, security, and governance. Miracles cannot be expected, but the people of Iraq have the right to expect action and progress. The Iraqi government needs to show its own citizensï¿½and the citizens of the United States and other countriesï¿½that it deserves continued support.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, in consultation with the United States, has put forward a set of milestones critical for Iraq. His list is a good start, but it must be expanded to include milestones that can strengthen the government and benefit the Iraqi people. President Bush and his national security team should remain in close and frequent contact with the Iraqi leadership to convey a clear message: there must be prompt action by the Iraqi government to make substantial progress toward the achievement of these milestones.
If the Iraqi government demonstrates political will and makes substantial progress toward the achievement of milestones on national reconciliation, security, and governance, the United States should make clear its willingness to continue training, assistance, and support for Iraqï¿½s security forces and to continue political, military, and economic support. 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.
Our report makes recommendations in several other areas. They include improvements to the Iraqi criminal justice system, the Iraqi oil sector, the U.S. reconstruction efforts in Iraq, the U.S. budget process, the training of U.S. government personnel, and U.S. intelligence capabilities.
It is the unanimous view of the Iraq Study Group that these recommendations offer a new way forward for the United States in Iraq and the region. They are comprehensive and need to be implemented in a coordinated fashion. They should not be separated or carried out in isolation. The dynamics of the region are as important to Iraq as events within Iraq.
The challenges are daunting. There will be difficult days ahead. But by pursuing this new way forward, Iraq, the region, and the United States of America can emerge stronger. Dec. 6, 2006 Iraq Study Group
II. Pro and Con Reactions to the ISG's Dec. 6, 2006 Report
General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
ProCon.org contacted the White House Public Liaison on Dec. 14, 2006 who stated that the President has "no official position." He offered that a position will be made public in "late January ." Dec. 14, 2006 White House Offices, Office of Public Liaison
PRO Iraq Study Group Report
CON Iraq Study Group Report
Sadiq al-Rikabi, Ph.D., a political adviser to Nuri al-Maliki, Iraqi Prime Minister, in a Dec. 7, 2006 interview with Al Jazeera stated:
"...the report's recommendations were 'positive on the whole'...
[Sadiq al-Rikabi] said they conformed with the government's own plans to deal with the rampant violence engulfing the country since 2003.
Saeb Erekat, Head of Palestine Liberation Organization's (PLO) Negotiations Affairs Department, as quoted by Al Jazeera.com in a Dec. 8, 2006 article titled "Reactions to the Long-awaited Iraq Study Group Report":
"We welcome the Hamilton-Baker report and hope the U.S. administration will translate it into deeds...
The region needs peace, the region needs dialogue and we have always stuck to dialogue toward a comprehensive peace." Dec. 8, 2006 Saeb Erekat
Harry Reid, U.S. Senator (D-NV) and Democratic leader, issued the following statement on Dec. 7, 2006:
"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." Dec. 7, 2006 Harry Reid
Adnan al-Dulaimi, leader of the General Council for the People of Iraq, the Iraqi parliament's largest Sunni Arab bloc, according to a Dec. 9, 2006 Associated Press article titled "Panel Response Mirrors Iraqi Divisions," stated:
"There are many very positive recommendations, but this government will not be able to carry out any of them." Dec. 9, 2006 Adnan al-Dulaimi
Buthaina Shaaban, Ph.D., Syria's Expatriate Affairs Minister, in a Dec. 7, 2006 interview with Al Jazeera stated:
"We welcome this report and regard it as a very important step.
It means, God willing, the end of this era of American intervention in the region and the American occupation of Iraq which brought catastrophic ramifications on the whole region." Dec. 7, 2006 Buthaina Shaaban
Lawrence Korb, Ph.D. and Max Bergmann, of the Center for American Progress, in a Dec. 6, 2006 article titled "Time to Act: Iraq Study Group Offers Way Forward" write that the report:
"...closely replicates the plan that the Center for American Progress first released in September 2005 called 'Strategic Redeployment,' offers a new, pragmatic approach to the war in Iraq and worsening crises across the Middle Eastï¿½one that even its authors concede may not stave off defeat, but that still presents realistic options in the face of a deteriorating set of circumstances." Dec. 6, 2006 Lawrence KorbMax Bergmann
Jalal Talabani, President of Iraq, as quoted by Al Jazeera.com in a Dec. 10, 2006 article titled "Talabani Slams 'Insulting' Iraq Report":
"I think that the Baker-Hamilton report is not fair and not just, and it contains dangerous articles which undermine the sovereignty of Iraq and its constitution...
If you read this report one would think that it is written for a young, small colony that they are imposing conditions on, neglecting the fact that we are a sovereign country." Dec. 10, 2006 Jalal Talabani
Ehud Olmert, Prime Minister of Israel, commenting on the report's recommendation for direct talks between Israel and its neighbors, is quoted by the Associated Press on Dec. 7, 2006:
"The attempt to create a linkage between the Iraqi issue and the Mideast issue - we have a different view...
To the best of my knowledge, President Bush, throughout the recent years, also had a different view on this." Dec. 7, 2006 Ehud Olmert
John McCain, U.S. Senator (R-AZ), at a Dec. 8, 2006 Senate hearing regarding the recommendation of the ISG report for the U.S. to withdraw the bulk of its combat forces by 2008, as quoted by a Dec. 8, 2006 Washington Times article titled "McCain Hits Report as 'Recipe' for Defeat":
"I believe that this is a recipe that will lead to, sooner or later, our defeat in Iraq...
I don't believe that a peace conference with people who are dedicated to your extinction has much short-term gain." Dec. 8, 2006 John McCain
Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, President of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, Iraq's largest Shia party, stated, according to a Dec. 9, 2006 Associated Press article titled "Panel Response Mirrors Iraqi Divisions":
"The report includes inaccurate information that's based on dishonest sources." Dec. 9, 2006 Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim
Massoud Barzani, President of the Kurdistan region of Iraq, issued a Dec. 7, 2006 statement, stating the Kurdistan officials believe the ISG:
"...made some unrealistic and inappropriate recommendations for helping the U.S. to get out of these difficulties.
If under this pretext, these inappropriate recommendations are imposed on us; we declare, on behalf of the people of Kurdistan, that we reject anything that is against the constitution and the interest of Iraq and Kurdistan." Dec. 7, 2006 Massoud Barzani
Anthony Cordesman, Ph.D., Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy for the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) in his Dec. 6, 2006 editorial titled "The Baker-Hamilton Study Group Report: The Elephant Gives Birth to a Mouse" stated:
"It is going to take time to make a full appraisal of all the annexes and content of the full report, but the principle recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton Commission are very unlikely to produce success...
This does not mean that there are not many good ideas and a great deal of useful and thoughtful material embedded in the main body of the report. But, this is not a good or workable plan for the future." Dec. 6, 2006 Anthony Cordesman