Iraq Study Group Report Released: "Situation Grave and Deteriorating"

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6, 2006 -- "The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating. There is no path that can guarantee success, but the prospects can be improved."  This is the opening sentence in the Executive Summary of the Iraq Study Group Report.  The Group was co-chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton.

In the Executive Summary of the Report the Group calls 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..."

The summary says the sectarian conflict in the country is the "principal challenge to stability" and warns that if the "situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences could be severe" and warns that the 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 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..."

The Group suggests

  • "...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."

As to Iran and Syria the summary says

  • "the United States should try to engage them constructively.
  • " the United States has disincentives and incentives available.
  • Iran should stem the flow of arms and training to Iraq, respect Iraq's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and use its influence over Iraqi Shia groups to encourage national reconciliation.
  • The issue of Iran's 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 panel says not dealing with the Arab-Israeli conflict will result in the United States not being able to achieve its goals.

  • "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 Bush's 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 Israel's right to exist), and Syria."

And the summary says  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."

It says the most important questions about the future of Iraq are 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."
  • The United States must not make an openended commitment to keep large numbers of American troops deployed in Iraq.
  • The United States should work closely with Iraq's leaders to support the achievement of specific objectives-or milestones-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 citizens-and the citizens of the United States and other countries-that 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 Iraq's 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.

Other recommendations 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.

The report summary concludes by saying the recommendations "need to be implemented in a coordinated fashion. They should not be separated or carried out in isolation."