1.06.2007

Rice Stresses Middle East Democracy after Baker Report

After Mr. Baker's funny study which missed its time of pre-9/11 and its world of Cold War and studied not this Middle East but a past Middle East of Mr. Baker's time, Dr. Rice reasserted the U.S. commitment to Middle East democracy.

Here is a related report followed by the executive summery of the Baker-Hamilton report (Iraq Study Group):

Rice Says U.S. Support for Middle East Democracy Is Nonnegotiable

By David McKeeby
USINFO Staff Writer
15 December 2006

Washington -- Responding to calls for the United States to engage Iran and Syria to help secure Iraq, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said December 14 that even though diplomatic negotiation may be built on artful compromise, Iran and Syria must understand that U.S. support for democracy in the region is nonnegotiable.

“If they have an interest in a stable Iraq, they'll do it anyway,” Rice told the Washington Post editorial board, and should not expect “compensation,” such as support for Syria’s hope of international acceptance of a rollback of Lebanon's democratic government by Hezbollah, or for Iran’s desire to end U.N. deliberations over sanctions on Tehran’s suspected nuclear weapons program.

Rice also said that although the White House continues its comprehensive review of U.S. policy in Iraq and any new course might be a departure and an evolution in current operations, there will be no change in the Bush administration’s central objective: a democratic Iraq that can sustain, govern and defend itself.

To this end, she said, Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish political leaders are working with Iraq's prime minister to build a moderate center and to move together to confront the forces of extremism perpetrating sectarian violence in and around Baghdad, Iraq.

“Iraqis are really the only ones, ultimately, who can solve the sectarian problem,” Rice said. “We can help. We can support. We can do a lot of things. But ultimately they are the ones who can solve it.”

The region’s new strategic context also gives rise to another top U.S. priority, Rice said: the pursuit of a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians.

“We're going to go to the Middle East a lot next year,” Rice said.

Today, she said, mainstream Arab states would like to see a resolution to the long-standing conflict, and President Bush’s policy since 2001 of a two-state solution, which also has been accepted by Israel, is the way to move forward.

It will be a long road of tough negotiations, Rice said, but “in the next two years nothing would be better than to really put the time and energy into trying … to show people in the international community that this new strategic context has the capability of being a truly more stable and democratic one than the one that was left.”

U.S. COMMITMENT TO DEMOCRACY IN REGION UNCHANGED

The United States remains committed to supporting people across the Middle East who reject extremism and embrace democracy, Rice said.

Across the region, she said, a “new strategic context” is taking shape from the convergence of greater political freedoms and a debate within Islam about the role of religion in politics and society.

As a result, mainstream states such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and the Gulf states that are committed to progressive reforms now find themselves confronted by more extreme views from countries such as Iran and Syria as well as from groups like Hezbollah and Hamas.

This new strategic context unites several seemingly disparate conflicts in the region, Rice said, including the ongoing violence between Iraq’s Shiites and Sunnis, efforts to topple Lebanon’s democratically elected government, and moves to block a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians.

In contrast to these products of extremism, democratic reforms, such as municipal elections in Saudi Arabia, qualifying women to vote in Kuwait, and similar developments in Bahrain, Oman, Morocco and Jordan, are bringing greater stability and prosperity to mainstream Arab states.

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Iraq Study Group Report: Executive Summary

(begin text)

[Report of the Iraq Study Group]
6 December 2006
Executive Summary

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 America’s 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 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.

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.

External Approach

The policies and actions of Iraq’s neighbors greatly affect its stability and prosperity. No country in the region will benefit in the long term from a chaotic Iraq. Yet Iraq’s 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 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.

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 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 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 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.

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.

Internal Approach

The most important questions about Iraq’s 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 open-ended 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 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.

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.

Conclusion

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.

(end text)
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Nassim Yaziji's Neo-Internationalism

Nassim Yaziji's perspective

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