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The Annotated Iraq Study Group Recommendations

What makes sense, what made sense then but doesn't now, and what never made sense.

12:00 AM, Jun 2, 2007 • By FREDERICK W. KAGAN
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RECOMMENDATION 5: The Support Group should consist of Iraq and all the states bordering Iraq, including Iran and Syria; the key regional states, including Egypt and the Gulf States; the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council; the European Union; and, of course, Iraq itself. Other countries--for instance, Germany, Japan and South Korea--that might be willing to contribute to resolving political, diplomatic, and security problems affecting Iraq could also become members.

These nations and groups have met in various forums on several occasions to discuss Iraq. It is unclear how attempting to mold them into a formal body--which several would probably resist at this stage--would be helpful.

RECOMMENDATION 6: The New Diplomatic Offensive and the work of the Support Group should be carried out with urgency, and should be conducted by and organized at the level of foreign minister or above. The Secretary of State, if not the President, should lead the U.S. effort. That effort should be both bilateral and multilateral, as circumstances require.

Secretary of State Rice has been party to several of these talks, and the president has made it clear that the diplomatic initiative is a priority for him. The effort has been both bilateral and multilateral.

RECOMMENDATION 7: The Support Group should call on the participation of the office of the United Nations Secretary-General in its work. The United Nations Secretary-General should designate a Special Envoy as his representative.

It is no more feasible to order the U.N. around than to order a sovereign state around. The U.N. Secretary General no doubt read this report. It is up to him to decide how to proceed.

RECOMMENDATION 8: The Support Group, as part of the New Diplomatic Offensive, should develop specific approaches to neighboring countries that take into account the interests, perspectives, and potential contributions as suggested above.

Surely--in other words, it should be an intelligent rather than stupid diplomatic approach. Agreed.

RECOMMENDATION 9: Under the aegis of the New Diplomatic Offensive and the Support Group, the United States should engage directly with Iran and Syria in order to try to obtain their commitment to constructive policies toward Iraq and other regional issues. In engaging Syria and Iran, the United States should consider incentives, as well as disincentives, in seeking constructive results.

The U.S. has engaged directly with both Iran and Syria, including just-completed talks between the U.S. and Iranian ambassadors in Iraq. So far, the results have been a dramatic escalation in Iranian support for violence in Iraq and continued Syrian support for al Qaeda. As for incentives and disincentives, this issue merits some more detailed consideration.

The U.S. has interests in contact with Iran in four main areas: Iraq, Lebanon (Iranian support for Hezbollah), Iran itself (the nuclear program), and Afghanistan. Iranian involvement in Afghanistan, initially trumpeted as evidence of Tehran's benignity, has become malignant. Iran is actively supporting all elements in Iraq that aim to defeat the United States, regardless of sect or political objective. Iran continues to support Hezbollah in Lebanon. Iran continues to flout the international inspections regime (a violation of international law and norm even if it is not developing nuclear weapons). When a diplomat speaks of incentives in proposing such negotiations, what is meant is concessions. One would normally seek to trade one interest for a more important one, giving up, say, pressure on Iran to stop supporting Hezbollah in return for a reduction in Iranian support for violence in Iraq.