The Baker – Hamilton report of the “Iraq Studying Group” (ISG) published in Washington Thursday, 07/12/2006, cause worry not because its’ contents but because of its’ lack of relevancy to the problems it concerns with. The main recommendations are:
A. To reduce the fighting units presence of US in Iraq and to speed up the hand-over of the burden of fighting to the Iraqi troops themselves and support them by a stronger American training corps ( a method that failed in Vietnam and other places in the world and is failing every day again in Iraq)
B. To shift the fighting units out of Iraq to Kuwait or Saudi Arabia and transfer it to a quick intervening force in Iraq.
D. To calm down the other conflicts and tensions in the Middle East and to restore the undermined position of the US through a regional peace conference where, under American pressure, all the traditional conflicts will be resolved such as the conflict with the Palestinians and the “occupation” of the Golan height.
Several wars are taking place and coincide at the same time in Iraq and the Baker – Hamilton recommendations do not cope with even one of them. The first war is between Iran and the U.S and lasts, according to some American commentators, in different ways since 1979 and the take over of the American embassy in Teheran. That war is carried out through Iran’s proxies –“Mahdi army”, “Bader corps” in Iraq and Hizbullah in Lebanon. The Iranian goal is declared and clear: to push US, “the Big Satan”, out from any influence in the Middle East and to become the regional hegemony nuclear superpower. A power that controls directly or indirectly half of the oil reserves in the world. It is indeed possible to reach a temporary agreement with Iran on the basis of “ Iraq in place for nuclear power” meaning, in fact, a nuclear Iran at the end. A situation that will ignite a wild nuclear race in the Middle East, a sense of betrayal in the Arab countries that rely on the US such as Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia and a fast deterioration in the relation with the U.S. In this situation the chance that dangerous nuclear material will some how drip to extreme Islamic organizations will be multiplied and the anxiety that Europe and US will face to the threat of Islamic nuclear terror will be very concrete. Any regional peace conference, in which Israel is forced to give up its assets, can not influence this aspect of the war in Iraq.
The strengthening of Iran renews the Sunnite – Shiite confrontation in Islamic world. This is what king Abdullah from Jordan named “the Shiite Arc”. While Iran is supporting the Shiite militias all over the Middle East we learned from the media that Sunnite insurgence in Iraq is financed also by donations from the wealthy in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. That Sunnite-Shiite war in Iraq is not affected by the existence or nonexistence of Israel. Its roots are in the long historical discrimination of the Shiites and the deep grievance that the Sunnite Muslims feel towards Shiites. Indeed most of the Al Qaeda operations in Iraq targeted Shiite population.
The third war in Iraq is between the global Sunnite “Jihad” (holy war) and the West in general, with the US in particular, and Israel considered as its’ outpost. Any concession that Israel can do, even to wipe itself from the map, can not reduce the deep hatred to the western culture or to stop its momentum. At most the destroying of Israel will be considered as another defeat for the West on the way to liberate Andalusia (Spain) and to expel the West from the Middle East.
The fourth war is the war of the secular Baath’ party in Iraq, that once ruled Iraq with an iron fist, and prospered from the Iraqi regime but became a negligible political and economical factor in Iraq. That struggle, too, has nothing to do with Israel.
There is indeed some logic to dissociate Alawite Syria, a central part in the “Axis of Evil” from the Iranian influence and to try to combine her with the moderate, Sunnite, pro western, Arab country. In a cynical, but not a new approach, the ISG is willing to pay the Syrians with ISRAELI currency – the Golan Heights.
The Baker – Hamilton report reflects a deep confusion. The report is an effort to design a strategy to pull out from Iraq and is ready to compromise with the strengthening of Iran on the expense of the other Arab countries in the region. The spirit of the report decreases the chance that Syria will switch sides from Iran, a regional superpower, on the verge of nuclear ability, to U.S, that already admitted being on the losing side and even ready to abandon Israel.
The last Lebanon War proved that the traditional conflict between Israel and the Palestinians causes less worry in the Arab world then the Iranian nuclear strengthening and the Shiite awakening that follow. After all not Israel is undermining the stability of the entire region and is really a threat to her neighbors. Iran is doing so all the time. The report proves to the Arab countries that the U.S policy is collapsing and suggests, seriously, as a sleeping pill, to solve the problems of the past that lost their importance instead of dealing with the much more important problems of the present and the future.
Four important, tough and creative alternatives that address the situation in Iraq where not discussed seriously and therefore made the report into a defeatist declaration.
A. To triple the American force in Iraq for a long period of time. US never had the sufficient force to really cope with the security situation there, and to fight directly all the anarchy without any discrimination. The price in life of American soldiers will be, undoubtedly, high but there will be a good chance to stabilize the situation, to deter Iran and to pull out later without a humiliating defeat to the US.
B. To abandon the vision of democracy in Iraq, this can not succeed in any case under Iranian influence, and to rebuild the power of the secular Baath Party. To leave the American’s troops only the mission of sealing the border with Iran. The Baath have the cruelty, determination and the ability, even though with terrible blood shed, to stabilize the country. It means a total moral bankruptcy of US and the war from its beginning but it has a good chance to contain the Iranian threat and to reconcile with the moderate Arab world.
C. Since Iran fuels the Iraqi war, aims to nuclear weapon and destabilizes the region –it is imperative to attack Iran vigorously and to destroy Iran’s nuclear and military technology. It will give a chance to the Iraqi democracy to evolve without Iranian influence. US will regain the trust of the moderate Arab world and remove the risk of a nuclear Middle East and reduce the threat of nuclear terror. But in wars complications are inevitable.
D. To divide Iraq, that is already divided, into two or three states: a Shiite country in the south which will be probably under Iranian influence; a Sunnite country in the west and a Kurdish in the North could be in a federal structure and with a strong American support. This partition will enable to contain the Iranian and Shiite threat with a price less horrendous then the other options.
The above does not mean that there are no other alternatives and that one of these is recommended.
To sum it up: the Baker – Hamilton report failed to diagnose the real problems of the Middle East and offered solutions from previous irrelevant diplomatic experience. It lacks any creativity and initiative and recycles old paradigms that already failed in the past. The report does not offer a real solution that can be implemented. It only amplifies the confusion among all the countries in the Middle East. It is very sad that such a prestigious team and the US produce such an irrelevant and superficial report.