A new diplomatic offensive cannot be successful unless it includes the active participation of the countries that have a critical stake in preventing Iraq from falling into chaos. To encourage their participation, the United States should immediately seek the creation of The Iraq International Support Group. The support group should also include all countries that border Iraq as well as other key countries in the region and the world.
The Support Group would not seek to impose obligations or undertakings on the government of Iraq. Instead, the Support Group would assist Iraq in ways the government of Iraq would desire, attempting to strengthen Iraq’s sovereignty – not diminish it.
It is clear to Iraq Study Group members that all of Iraq’s neighbors are anxious about the situations in Iraq. They favor a unified Iraq that is strong enough to maintain its territorial integrity, but not so powerful as to threaten its neighbors. None favors the breakup of the Iraq state. Each country in the region views the situation in Iraq through the filter of its particular set of interests. For example:
- Turkey opposes an independent or even highly autonomous Kurdistan because of its own national security considerations.
- Iran backs Shia claims and supports various Shia militias in Iraq, but it also supports other groups in order to enhance its influence and hedge its bets on possible outcomes.
- Syria, despite facilitating support for Iraq insurgent groups, would be threatened by the impact that the breakup of Iraq would have on its own multiethnic and multiconfessional society.
- Kuwait wants to ensure that it will not once again be the victim of Iraqi irredentism and aggression.
- Saudi Arabia and Jordan share Sunni concerns over Shia ascendancy in Iraq and the region as a whole.
- The other Arab Gulf states also recognize the benefits of an outcome in Iraq that does not destabilize the region and exacerbate Shia-Sunni tensions.
- None of Iraq’s neighbors – especially major countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Israel – see it in their interest for the situation in Iraq to lead to aggrandized regional influence by Iran. Indeed, they may take active steps to limit Iran’s influence, steps that could lead to an intraregional conflict.
Left to their own devices, these governments will tend to reinforce ethnic, sectarian, and political divisions within Iraqi society. But if the Support Group takes a systematic and active approach toward considering the concerns of each country, I believe that each can be encouraged to play a positive role in Iraq and the region.
Saudi Arabia – Saudi Arabia’s agreement not to intervene with assistance to Sunni Arab Iraqis could be an essential quid pro quo for similar forbearance on the part of other neighbors, especially Iran. The Saudis could use their Islamic credentials to help reconcile differences between Iraqi factions and build broader support in the Islamic world for a stabilization agreement, as their recent hosting of a meeting of Islamic leaders in Mecca suggests. If the government in Baghdad pursues a path of national reconciliation with the Sunnis, the Saudis could help Iraq confront and eliminate al Qaeda in Iraq. They could also cancel the Iraqi debt owed them. In addition, the Saudis might be helpful in persuading the Syrians to cooperate.
Turkey – As a major Sunni Muslim country on Iraq’s borders, Turkey can be a partner in supporting the national reconciliation process in Iraq. Such efforts can be particularly helpful given Turkey’s interest in Kurdistan remaining an integral part of a unified Iraq and its interest in preventing a safe haven for Kurdish terrorists (the PKK).
Egypt – Because of its important role in the Arab world, Egypt should be encouraged to foster the national reconciliation process in Iraq with a focus on getting the Sunnis to participate. At the same time, Egypt has the means and indeed has offered, to train groups of Iraqi military and security forces in Egypt on a rotational basis.
Jordan – Jordan, like Egypt, can help in the national reconciliation process in Iraq with the Sunnis. It too has the professional capability to train and equip Iraqi military and security forces.
Recommendation – As an instrument of a New Diplomatic Offensive, an Iraq International Support Group should be organized immediately following the launch of the New Diplomatic Offensive.
The New Diplomatic Offensive – Iraq cannot be addressed effectively in isolation from other major regional issues, interests, and unresolved conflicts. To put it simply, all key issues in the Middle East – the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iraq, Iran, the need for political and economic reforms, and extremism and terrorism – are inextricably linked. In addition to supporting stability in Iraq, a comprehensive diplomatic offensive – the New Diplomatic Offensive – should address these key regional issues. By doing so, it would help marginalize extremists and terrorists, promote U.S. values and interests, and improve America’s global image.
Under the diplomatic offensive, I propose regional and international initiatives and steps to assist the Iraqi government in achieving certain security, political, and economic milestones. Achieving these milestones will require at least the acquiescence of Iraq’s neighbors, and their active and timely cooperation would be highly desirable.
The diplomatic offensive would extend beyond the primarily economic “Compact for Iraq” by also emphasizing political, diplomatic, and security issues. At the same time, it would be coordinated with the goals of the Compact for Iraq. The diplomatic offensive would also be broader and more far-reaching then the “Gulf Plus Two” efforts currently being conducted, and those efforts should be folded into and become part of the diplomatic offensive.
States included within the diplomatic offensive can play a major role in reinforcing national reconciliation efforts between Iraqi Sunnis and Shia. Such reinforcement would contribute substantially to legitimizing of the political process in Iraq. Iraq’s leaders may not be able to come together unless they receive the necessary signals and support from abroad. This backing will not materialize of its own accord, and must be encouraged urgently by the United States.
Recommendation – As a compliment to the diplomatic offensive, and in addition to the Support Group, the United States and the Iraqi government should support the holding of a conference or meeting in Baghdad of the Organization of the Islamic Conference or the Arab League both to assist the Iraqi government in promoting national reconciliation in Iraq and to reestablish their diplomatic presence in Iraq.
Recommendation – Assist Iraq in establishing active working embassies in key capitals of the region (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, etc.). Help Iraq reach a mutually acceptable agreement on Kirkuk. Assist the Iraqi government in achieving certain security, political, and economic milestones, including better performance on issues such and equitable distribution of oil revenues, and appropriations of militias.
Recommendation – 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; and the European Union. Other countries – for instance Germany, Japan, and South Korea – that might be willing to contribute to the resolve could also become members.
Dealing with Iran and Syria – Dealing with Iran and Syria is controversial. Nevertheless, it is my view that in diplomacy, a nation can and should engage its adversaries and enemies to try to resolve conflicts and differences consistent with its own interests. Accordingly, the Support Group should actively engage Iran and Syria in its diplomatic dialogue, without preconditions.
The Study Group recognizes that U.S. relationships with Iran and Syria involve difficult issues that must be resolved. Diplomatic talks should be extensive and substantive, and they will require a balancing of interests. The United States has diplomatic, economic, and military disincentives available in approaches to both Iran and Syria. However, the United States should also consider incentives to try to engage them constructively, much as it did successfully with Libya.
Some of the possible incentives to Iran, Syria, or both include:
- An Iraq that does not disintegrate and destabilize it’s neighbors and the region.
- The continuing role of the United States in preventing the Taliban from destabilizing Afghanistan.
- Accession to international organizations, including the World Trade Organization.
- Prospects for enhanced diplomatic relations with the United States.
- The prospect of a U.S. policy that emphasizes political and economic reforms instead of (as Iran now perceives it) advocating regime change.
- Prospects for a real, complete, and secure peace to be negotiated between Israel and Syria, with U.S. involvement as part of a broader initiative on Arab-Israeli peace.
Recommendation – 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, to achieve constructive relations and results.
Iran – Engaging Iran is problematic, especially given the state of the U.S.-Iranian relationship. Yet the United States and Iran cooperated in Afghanistan, and both sides should explore whether this model can be replicated in the case of Iraq. Although Iran sees it in its interest to have the United States bogged down in Iraq, Iran’s interests would not be served by a failure of U.S. policy in Iraq that led to chaos and the territorial disintegration of the Iraqi state. Iran’s population is slightly more than 50 percent Persian, but it has a large Azeri minority (24 percent of the population) as well as Kurdish and Arab minorities. Worst-case scenarios in Iraq could inflame sectarian tensions within Iran, with serious consequences for Iranian national security interests.
Limited contacts with Iran’s government lead us to believe that its leaders are likely to say they will not participate in diplomatic efforts to support stability in Iraq. They attribute this reluctance to their belief that the United States seeks regime change in Iran.
Nevertheless, as one of Iraq’s neighbors Iran should be asked to assume its responsibility to participate in the Support Group. An Iranian refusal to do so would demonstrate to Iraq and the rest of the world Iran’s rejectionist attitude and approach, which could lead to its isolation. Further, Iran’s refusal to cooperate on this matter would diminish its prospects of engaging with the United States in the broader dialogue it seeks.
Recommendation – The issue of Iran’s nuclear programs should continue to be dealt with by the United Nations Security Council and its five permanent members (i.e., the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China) plus Germany.
Diplomatic efforts within the Support Group should seek to persuade Iran that it should take specific steps to improve the situation in Iraq. Among steps Iran could usefully take are;”:
- Iran should stem the flow of equipment, technology, and training to any group resorting to violence in Iraq.
- Iran should make clear its support for the territorial integrity of Iraq as a unified state, as well as its respect for the sovereignty of Iraq and its government.
- Iran can use its influence, especially over Shia groups in Iraq, to encourage national reconciliation.
- Iran can also, in the right circumstances, help in the economic reconstruction of Iraq.
Syria – Although the U.S.-Syrian relationship is at a low point, both countries have important interests in the region that could be enhanced if they were able to establish some common ground on how to move forward. This approach worked effectively in the early 1990s. In this context, Syria’s national interests in the Arab-Israeli dispute are important and can be brought into play.
Syria can make a major contribution to Iraq’s stability in several ways. Accordingly, the Study Group should consider:
- The United States and the Support Group should encourage and persuade Syria of the merit of contributions such as: Syria can control its border with Iraq to the maximum extent possible and work together with Iraqis on joint patrols on the border. Doing so will help stem the flow of funding, insurgents, and terrorists in and out of Iraq. Next, Syria can establish hotlines to exchange information with the Iraqis. And lastly, Syria can increase its political and economic cooperation with Iraq.
The Wider Regional Context – The United States will not be able to achieve its goals in the Middle East unless the United States deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict.
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 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 particularly Syria – which is the principal transit point for shipments of weapons to Hezbollah, and which supports radical Palestinian groups.
The Unites States does its ally Israel no favors in avoiding direct involvement to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict. For several reasons, acting boldly should be considered:
- There is no military solution to this conflict.
- The vast majority of the Israeli body politic is tired of being a nation perpetually at war.
- No American administration – Democratic or Republican – will ever abandon Israel.
- Political engagement and dialogue are essential in the Arab-Israeli dispute because it is an axiom that when the political process breaks down there will be violence on the ground.
- The only basis on which peace can be achieved is that set forth in the UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and in the principle of “land for peace.”
- The only lasting and secure peace will be a negotiated peace such as Israel has achieved with Egypt and Jordan.
This effort would strongly support moderate Arab governments in the region, especially the democratically elected government of Lebanon, and the Palestinian Authority under President Mahmoud Abbas.
Recommendation – There must be a renewed and sustained commitment by the United States to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace on all fronts: Lebanon and Syria, and President Bush’s 2002 commitment to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.
Recommendation – This effort should include – as soon as possible – the unconditional calling and holding of meetings, under the auspices of the United States or the Quartet (i.e., the United States, Russia, European Union, and the United Nations), between Israel and Lebanon and Syria on the one hand, and Israel and Palestinians (who acknowledge Israel’s right to exist) on the other. The purpose of these meetings would be yes negotiate peace as was done at the Madrid Conference in 1991, and on two separate tracks – one Syrian/Lebanese, and the other Palestinian.
Recommendation – Concerning Syria, some elements of that negotiated peace should be:
- Syria’s full adherence to UN Security Council Resolution 1701 of August 2006, which provides the framework for Lebanon to regain sovereign control over its territory.
- Syria’s full cooperation with all investigations into political assassinations in Lebanon, especially those of Rafik Hariri and Pierre Gemayel.
- A verifiable cessation of Syrian aid to Hezbollah and the use of Syrian territory for transshipment of Iranian weapons and aid to Hezbollah. (This step would do much to solve Israel’s world problem with Hezbollah.)
- Syria’s use of its influence with Hamas and Hezbollah for the release of the captured Israeli Defense Force soldiers.
- A verifiable cessation of Syrian efforts to undermine the democratically elected government of Lebanon.
- A verifiable cessation of arms shipments from or transiting through Syria for Hamas and other radical Palestinian groups.
- A Syrian commitment to help obtain from Hamas an acknowledgement of Israel’s right to exist.
- Greater Syrian efforts to seal its border with Iraq.
Recommendation – In exchange for these actions and in the context of a full and secure peace agreement, the Israelis should return the Golan Heights, with a U.S. security guarantee for Israel that could include an international force on the border, including U.S. troops if requested by both parties.
Concerning the Palestinian issue, elements of that negotiated peace should include:
- Adherence to UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and to the principle of land for peace, which are the only bases for achieving peace.
- Strong support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority to take the lead in preparing the way for negotiations with Israel.
- A major effort to move from the current hostilities by consolidating the cease-fire reached between the Palestinians and the Israelis in November 2006.
- Support for a Palestinian national unity government.
- Sustainable negotiations leading to a final peace settlement along the lines of President Bush’s two-state solution, which would address the key final status issues of borders, settlements, Jerusalem, the right of return, and the end of conflict.
Afghanistan – At the same time, we must not lose sight of the importance of the situation inside Afghanistan and the renewed threat posed by the Taliban. Afghanistan’s borders are porous. If the Taliban were to control more of Afghanistan, it could provide al The Qaeda the political space to conduct terrorist operations. This development would destabilize the region and have national security implications for the United States and other countries around the world. Also, the significant increase in poppy production in Afghanistan fuels the illegal drug trade and narco-terrorism.
The huge focus of U.S. political, military, and economic support on Iraq has necessarily diverted attention from Afghanistan. As the United States develops its approach toward Iraq and the Middle East, it must also give priority to the situation in Afghanistan. Doing so may require increased political, security, and military measures.
It is critical to provide additional political, economic, and military support for Afghanistan, including resources that might become available as combat forces are moved from Iraq.
Hope this was insightful and meaningful to you as it was writing it to me.
🖤 your leader, $ATAN.