Monday, November 13, 2006

Baker Panel Should Recommend a Federalized Iraq

After a weekend of seemingly constant violence in Iraq, President Bush couldn’t have been anything but relieved to meet Monday with the bipartisan group that might be the last best chance to save his presidential legacy. The Iraq Study Group, headed by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Representative Lee Hamilton, is spending the day meeting with Bush and his national security team, including Dick Cheney, Stephen Hadley, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, John Negroponte, Michael Hayden and Gen. George Casey.

The group is expected to release its findings and recommendations before the end of the year. One of those recommendations should include implementing the Biden-Gelb proposal of federalizing Iraq into three regions: Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish. Each of these regions, or states, would share the country’s oil wealth and would be responsible for administering their own regions. More importantly, from a security perspective, Iraqi and Coalition forces would be better positioned to help stem the sectarian slaughter.

It is clear, and the study group will confirm, that “victory” in Iraq, specifically the type of victory that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld have been trumpeting for the last four years, is impossible. Also, the notion that Iraq will be able to function as a democracy, western-style or otherwise, and will have a military that will be able to address security issues without the assistance of Coalition forces in twelve to eighteen months is a fantasy.

The White House has consistently said that any plan to split Iraq is a “non-starter” but there are rumors that the Biden-Gelb plan may have some strong support within the study group and it will be difficult, if not impossible, for President Bush to dismiss the plan if the bipartisan panel recommends it. The Iraqi parliament currently has in place a general outline of how the regions would look based on the Biden-Gelb proposal.

As presented by Senator Biden to the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, the Biden-Gelb plan has five specific points:

1. One Iraq with three regions.
2. A viable Sunni region with shared oil revenues.
3. More aid, but tied to the protection of minority and women’s rights.
4. Maintain Iraq’s territorial integrity and engage its neighbors.
5. A responsible U.S. drawdown and a residual force.

Point four is certain to be a recommendation of the study group. For months now, President Bush has been adamant in his reluctance to engage Iran and Syria. James Baker and incoming Secretary of Defense Robert Gates have both openly questioned the administration’s policy of isolating of these two countries, a policy forcefully endorsed by Cheney and Rumsfeld.

Three autonomous regions would also allow Coalition forces to concentrate on two specific objectives: first, allow Coalition forces to be deployed to enforce the borders of the regions and second, allow Coalition forces to be deployed to enforce the borders between Turkey and northern Iraq, Iran and eastern Iraq and Syria and western Iraq. Reducing the flow of foreign fighters and their ever-increasing military arsenal streaming over Iraq’s borders would greatly help in protecting our troops.

The results of the mid-term elections have clearly shown the reluctance on the majority of Americans--Republican, Democrat and Independent--to escalate the war in Iraq. Any proposal, such as the one being floated by Senator John McCain to increase troop levels in order quell the violence, will never get off the ground. That does not mean that an increase in troop levels may not be one of the recommendations of the study group. A recommendation of such may be the last gasp of the neo-conservatives inside and outside of the Bush administration.

James Baker has said that he wants a consensus from the ten-person commission on whatever recommendations they present to President Bush. The Biden-Gelb plan contains the elements that allow the United States and its allies to implement a realistic plan that, although it doesn’t achieve the lofty expectations championed by President Bush, it offers the hope of at least reducing the death toll which shows no sign of slowing down. That, at a minimum, would be a victory on which we could build.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

great post. I think you're right with the Biden plan making sense...

5:53 PM  

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