Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Bloody October In Iraq
The Baker Mission * Surprise Around the Corner ?
- A radical change in US policy over Iraq after the November elections appeared increasingly likely yesterday after reports that a bipartisan commission headed by a Bush family confidant will recommend an approach to Iran and Syria for help or a withdrawal to bases outside Iraq.
- The Iraq Study Group is chaired by James Baker, who was the first President Bush's secretary of state. It is not due to deliver its findings until after the congressional elections on November 7 because of their potentially explosive political impact, but the panel's proceedings have been leaked to the press.
- In recent interviews, Mr Baker said the group has taken no firm decisions but made it clear that the current US strategy was no longer an option. "There'll probably be some things in our report that the administration might not like," Mr Baker predicted in a TV interview. He said: "Our commission believes there are alternatives between the stated alternatives, the ones that are out there in the political debate of 'stay the course' and 'cut and run'."
- He made it clear he believed there should be approaches to Iraq's neighbours, including those the White House has accused of fomenting the insurgency. "I believe in talking to your enemies," he said. "Neither the Syrians nor the Iranians want a chaotic Iraq ... so maybe there is some potential for getting something other than opposition from those countries."
- In a BBC interview yesterday, the Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, expressed support for such a move, saying it would "be the beginning of the end of terrorism".
- Mr Baker has also suggested that the US might have to give up its long-term war aim of democracy across the Middle East. Instead he suggested that the US define success as achieving "representative government, not necessarily democracy".
- According to leaks published first in the New York Sun and then in the Los Angeles Times, the Iraq Study Group, which has consulted 150 outside experts including Syrian and Iranian representatives, is focusing on two broad options.
- One is entitled "Stability First" and it would involve focusing the military effort on pacifying Baghdad while attempting to draw some insurgent groups into the political process and opening talks with Syria and Iran.
- The second has been called "Redeploy and Contain", pulling US troops back to bases outside Iraq and conducting military operations from there in support of Iraqi government forces.
- However they were spun, both would represent a measure of defeat for President Bush, but with a American death toll fast approaching 3,000, the new report may reflect a realisation he has no choice.
...or more like finally listening to the critics that have been saying this for two years.
Comments shed light on views of readers. Not all of them support my position and that is how it should be. I was amongst those who opposed the the war before the first pair of boots landed in Iraq. We feel vindicated but the costs -- especially in human terms -- give no cause for joy.