Self-evaluation: What do Arab Reformers Think of ISG Report?

Key points from this are that Iran and Syria are treated as part of the solution in the ISG report and they are truly (part of) the problem.  Given that men cross the Syrian border to foment chaos in Iraq and men and material (IED explosives, technology, etc.) are imported from Iran, how can we ignore this?

Excerpts: from Memri.org, Omran Salman reporting:

Special Dispatch-Iraq December 12, 2006 No. 1387 Editor of Arabic Reformist Website AAFAQ Criticizes Recommendations of the Iraq Study Group To view this Special Dispatch in HTML, visit: http://www.memri.org/bin/opener_latest.cgi?ID=SD138706 . The following is the translation of an editorial titled “The Poisonous Report” that was posted on the Arabic reformist website www.aafaq.org on December 8, 2006. It was written by website editor Omran Salman.(1) “We may summarize the Iraq Study Group’s report chaired by former secretary of state James Baker in one sentence: ‘Handcuff the hands and free the tongue.’ This conclusion went hand in hand with the common wisdom that says: ‘When people sit to talk to one another, they forget their fighting.’ This can be explained by realizing that the Iraq Study Group wanted to divert the conflict from the military and security side to the diplomatic and political side, in the hope that this diversion will reduce the pressure on the U.S. and allow – with the passage of time – the redistribution of power in Iraq.

“The report, which was made public Wednesday [12/6/06] after keeping everyone guessing about its content, did not say how this diversion could solve the security and military conflict in Iraq. Surely the report was unable to answer this question, simply because no one knows the answer. If any of the Group’s members knew the answer, he or she would have whispered it a long time ago to the U.S. administration or to its adversaries. But the transition to what the Group referred to as ‘The Political and Diplomatic Combat,’ which aims at involving Iran and Iraq in the determination of Iraq’s destiny, would require a price which the U.S. will have to pay. “Here lies the essence of this whole report. The price is to completely abandon the spreading of democracy in the Middle East, and to begin a dialogue with the dictatorial regimes of Damascus and Tehran.

“In other word, the cost of bringing the Syrians and Iranians to the negotiating table on Iraq and of making them participate in finding a solution to its crisis is to grant them the honor of partnership in finding a solution – while they are conspiring and allowing militants and weapons to pass through into Iraq. “This partnership means equity and the freedom of exchange of ideas and information, and possibly cooperation on other issues. If this happens, the current and any future administration won’t be able to demand that these two regimes change their behaviors.

“The Study Group on Iraq realizes that this price is very high, and that President Bush will not accept it. Therefore, to make it a more comprehensive report about the Middle East, they proposed solutions with other issues, such as the peace negotiations between Israel and each of Syria, Lebanon and Palestinians, with the hope that this will make the deal relatively acceptable by making its expected advantages more attractive.

“The other possibility, about which the Group did not think deeply, was the extent to which the other side would accept the deal, particularly Iran. And, if Iran accepted it, what would its conditions be? The report attempted to respond to this point by indicating that if Iran rejects the deal, it will be proof that Tehran is not cooperating, and is involved intentionally in sabotaging the situation in Iraq – and this will expose and further isolate it internationally! Oh, really? God only knows what the Iranians thought when they read those words. For sure they laughed out loud about the naiveté of the report and its authors.

“What the authors of the report did not know, or may have neglected, is the fact that the moment they started talking about the U.S.’s need for Iranian assistance in containing the Iraqi situation, they in fact handcuffed the Bush administration, depriving it of any cards to pressure Iran, now and in the future. “It took the U.S. and the international community a decade to rectify the mistake (and it is still not yet rectified) of the previous Bush (the father) administration, which had James Baker as one of its pillars, of handing Lebanon over to the Syrian regime in exchange for Syrian participation in the Gulf War of 1991.

“It’s true that the situation in Iraq is bad. All agree that the previous policy has failed and that it must change. But it is important that such change should not be allowed to cause new catastrophes. “In this context, three catastrophes are looming on the horizon: “The first is accepting the Syrian and Iranian regimes as part of the solution to the Middle East problems, after everyone including the American political establishment has indeed considered them part of the problem. This change simply means the total failure of the American policy in the region.

“The second is putting Iraq’s destiny in the hands of these regimes, which, at the least, are considered criminals, and have no credibility or moral values. “The third is the total abandonment of the goal of spreading democracy and reforms in the region. It was striking to note that the report, with its 142 pages, did not mention democracy at all. “In other words, the report of the Study Group on Iraq, besides the fact that it did not present any real solution to the Iraq’s problem, throws the baby out with the bathwater.

The report’s final outcome is the solution of the Syrian and Iranian regimes’ problem – not America’s problems. Therefore, this report is more poison than cure.” Endnotes: (1) For more articles by Omran Salman see, MEMRI Special Dispatch No 1202, July 12, 2006, “New Arabic Reformist Website: ‘The Arab World Doesn’t Have to Choose Between Islamists and Dictators; There is a Third Way – the Way of Reform, Liberalism, and Democracy,'” http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=sd&ID=SP120206

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