Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Iraqi Study Group - Recommendations 40 - 79

This is the second installment of a review of the Iraqi Study Group. The first review was to be a quick study but transformed into a longer post. With the work started, this post will try to finish the observations.

At recommendation 40, the report adopts changes in military strategy for U.S. forces present in the country today. The group does not suggest adding any further troops (their purview was that it would not lessen the violence country-wide, nor was there a sufficient reserve of unused forces to deploy) but focusing more personnel into Iraqi battalions and brigades. The purpose is to increase combat readiness of Iraqi units and further expand their logistics and security capabilities.
RECOMMENDATION 40: The United States should not make an open-ended commitment to keep large numbers of American troops deployed in Iraq.

RECOMMENDATION 41: The United States must make it clear to the Iraqi government that the United States couldcarry out its plans, including planned redeployments, even if Iraq does not implement its planned changes. America’s other security needs and the future of our military cannot be made hostage to the actions or inactions of the Iraqi government.

RECOMMENDATION 42: We should seek to complete the training and equipping mission by the first quarter of 2008, as stated by General George Casey on October 24, 2006.

RECOMMENDATION 43: Military priorities in Iraq must change, with the highest priority given to the training, equipping, advising, and support mission and to counter-terrorism operations.

RECOMMENDATION 44: The most highly qualified U.S. officers and military personnel should be assigned to the imbedded teams, and American teams should be present with Iraqi units down to the company level. The U.S. military should establish suitable career-enhancing incentives for these officers and personnel.

RECOMMENDATION 45: The United States should support more and better equipment for the Iraqi Army by encouraging the Iraqi government to accelerate its Foreign Military Sales requests and, as American combat brigades move out of Iraq, by leaving behind some American equipment for Iraqi forces.
To the extent that most of these recommendations have been taken up in varying forms to date, the sense is that they must be first and foremost in the operations of the American military inside Iraq. This becomes the new strategy for military operations rather than the current path of moving U.S. troops around to fight battles with insurgents and patrolling trouble spots indefinitely. This is another finding based on the reality that American forces cannot stay there forever, and that there needs to be solid training and a corps of disciplined security forces inside Iraq removed from sectarian division. It cannot be known if such a task is even feasible, but it was deemed worthy enough to try.

Moving away from the Iraqi security forces, the panel next took up the steps involved with resetting of American forces. President Bush campaigned in 2000 on a platform of strengthening the military (claiming that two entire divisions were not ready for service), but the Pentagon will have many serious issues when budgeting for the next two to four years considering the nature of the occupation and the amount of equipment loss not to mention the difficulties in terms of recruiting for the long-term. Hence recommendations 46 through 49 assess what the Administration should entertain as its next series of goals for defense.
RECOMMENDATION 46: The new Secretary of Defense should make every effort to build healthy civil-military relations, by creating an environment in which the senior military feel free to offer independent advice not only to the civilian leadership in the Pentagon but also to the President and the National Security Council, as envisioned in the Goldwater-Nichols legislation.

RECOMMENDATION 47: As redeployment proceeds, the Pentagon leadership should emphasize training and education programs for the forces that have returned to the continental United States in order to “reset” the force and restore the U.S. military to a high level of readiness for global contingencies.

RECOMMENDATION 48: As equipment returns to the United States, Congress should appropriate sufficient funds to restore the equipment to full functionality over the next five years.

RECOMMENDATION 49: The administration, in full consultation with the relevant committees of Congress, should assess the full future budgetary impact of the war in Iraq and its potential impact on the future readiness of the force, the ability to recruit and retain high-quality personnel, needed investments in procurement and in research and development, and the budgets of other U.S. government agencies involved in the stability and reconstruction effort.
Of this set of suggestions, the general premise is that there has been substantial damage to the military from the past three years of occupation. Those elements need to be mended, most likely into the next Presidential term.

The report moves from what the U.S. should do and steps into the internal affairs of the Iraqi government when point 50 comes up:
RECOMMENDATION 50: The entire Iraqi National Police should be transferred to the Ministry of Defense, where the police commando units will become part of the new Iraqi Army.
As was mentioned in a Morning Edition report on NPR on the 7th, moving the INP into the Ministry of Defense is moving a force that had been overseen by the Shiite-dominated Ministry of the Interior into the Defense Ministry which was ceded to the Sunnis during the government formation period. That alone may not be even possible, yet the idea that a more para-military force which the Iraqi National Police represents become a part of Defense makes sense, and the report goes further to say that the Iraqi Border Police also move into the department. The Ministry of the Interior would maintain control over the Iraqi Police Service but this may not be enough to sate Shiite government leaders.
RECOMMENDATION 51: The entire Iraqi Border Police should be transferred to the Ministry of Defense, which would have total responsibility for border control and external security.
Once the amount of civil war tones down, it would be necessary to invigorate the criminal justice of Iraq, and recommendation 52 goes to this point:
RECOMMENDATION 52: The Iraqi Police Service should be given greater responsibility to conduct criminal investigations and should expand its cooperation with other elements in the Iraqi judicial system in order to better control crime and protect Iraqi civilians.

Recommendation 53 and 54 deal with the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior itself:
RECOMMENDATION 53: The Iraqi Ministry of the Interior should undergo a process of organizational transformation, including efforts to expand the capability and reach of the current major crime unit (or Criminal Investigation Division) and to exert more authority over local police forces. The sole authority to pay police salaries and disburse financial support to local police should be transferred to the Ministry of the Interior.

RECOMMENDATION 54: The Iraqi Ministry of the Interior should proceed with current efforts to identify, register, and control the Facilities Protection Service.
Some of these changes asked of the Interior Ministry point to pulling power away from the local governments and placing it at a higher level, making the operation run from a more federal level. These ideas seem to run into the fine line of altering a sovereign country from afar, but there is little doubt that Interior Ministry has taken on a negative image among Sunnis and international observers as an infiltrated organization run to exact revenge. If that were indeed the case (as press stories continually indicate), then there is a need to revamp the organization and clean out those elements that will sabotage security. Much like other recommendations, the chances of success seem remote at this stage.

Items 55 to 61 stress the U.S. defense and criminal investigation agencies continuance of training roles within the Iraqi Police forces.
RECOMMENDATION 55: The U.S. Department of Defense should continue its mission to train the Iraqi National Police and the Iraqi Border Police, which should be placed within the Iraqi Ministry of Defense.

RECOMMENDATION 56: The U.S. Department of Justice should direct the training mission of the police forces remaining under the Ministry of the Interior.

RECOMMENDATION 57: Just as U.S. military training teams are imbedded within Iraqi Army units, the current practice of imbedding U.S. police trainers should be expanded and the numbers of civilian training officers increased so that teams can cover all levels of the Iraqi Police Service, including local police stations. These trainers should be obtained from among experienced civilian police executives and supervisors from around the world. These officers would replace the military police personnel currently assigned to training teams.

RECOMMENDATION 58: The FBI should expand its investigative and forensic training and facilities within Iraq, to include coverage of terrorism as well as criminal activity.

RECOMMENDATION 59: The Iraqi government should provide funds to expand and upgrade communications equipment and motor vehicles for the Iraqi Police Service.

RECOMMENDATION 60: The U.S. Department of Justice should lead the work of organizational transformation in the Ministry of the Interior. This approach must involve Iraqi officials, starting at senior levels and moving down, to create a strategic plan and work out standard administrative procedures, codes of conduct, and operational measures that Iraqis will accept and use. These plans must be drawn up in partnership.

RECOMMENDATION 61: Programs led by the U.S. Department of Justice to establish courts; to train judges, prosecutors, and investigators; and to create institutions and practices to fight corruption must be strongly supported and funded. New and refurbished courthouses with improved physical security, secure housing for judges and judicial staff, witness protection facilities, and a new Iraqi Marshals Service are essential parts of a secure and functioning system of justice.
Many of these suggestions are presumed to already have been ongoing from the start of the American occupation, but apparently there is a dire need to go back to the basics in terms of training forces and bringing the current judicial system to a competent level. If that is the case, many Americans would be surprised at this deficit.

Oil. Not surprisingly, this received more than just a passing comment from the ISG. One of the longer recommendations in the report, there are two sections to it comprising ten points for action. They have been broken down into Short Term and Long Term goals.

Short Term
• As soon as possible, the U.S. government should provide technical assistance to the Iraqi government to prepare a draft oil law that defines the rights of regional and local governments and creates a fiscal and legal framework for investment. Legal clarity is essential to attract investment.
• The U.S. government should encourage the Iraqi government to accelerate contracting for the comprehensive well work-overs in the southern fields needed to increase production, but the United States should no longer fund such infrastructure projects.
• The U.S. military should work with the Iraqi military and with private security forces to protect oil infrastructure and contractors. Protective measures could include a program to improve pipeline security by paying local tribes solely on the basis of throughput (rather than fixed amounts).
• Metering should be implemented at both ends of the supply line. This step would immediately improve accountability in the oil sector.

In conjunction with the International Monetary Fund, the U.S. government should press Iraq to continue reducing subsidies in the energy sector, instead of providing grant assistance. Until Iraqis pay market prices for oil products, drastic fuel shortages will remain.
Long Term
• The United States should encourage investment in Iraq’s oil sector by the international community and by international energy companies.
• The United States should assist Iraqi leaders to reorganize the national oil industry as a commercial enterprise, in order to enhance efficiency, transparency, and accountability.
• To combat corruption, the U.S. government should urge the Iraqi government to post all oil contracts, volumes, and prices on the Web so that Iraqis and outside observers can track exports and export revenues.
• The United States should support the World Bank’s efforts to ensure that best practices are used in contracting. This support involves providing Iraqi officials with contracting templates and training them in contracting, auditing, and reviewing audits.
• The United States should provide technical assistance to the Ministry of Oil for enhancing maintenance, improving the payments process, managing cash flows, contracting and auditing, and updating professional training programs for management and technical personnel.
Some items are certain to be unpopular, but the many bullet points regarding Iraq's oil management allude to efficiency gains and a lean towards free market ideals. Possible sticking points would be: raising the price of gasoline on regular Iraqis via reducing energy subsidies, providing a structure to disburse oil revenues, the U.S. removing financial support for further infrastructure projects. Under the long term items there is an appearance of condescension in tone regarding the Iraqi system of management with regards to the oil industry. From the ISG's investigation though, it appears that transparency is lacking in the current system and it sees establishing an open system as a means to attract outside investment for the oil industry.

Further support is requested in general infrastructure and makes up recommendations 64 to 66.
RECOMMENDATION 64: U.S. economic assistance should be increased to a level of $5 billion per year rather than being permitted to decline. The President needs to ask for the necessary resources and must work hard to win the support of Congress. Capacity building and job creation, including reliance on the Commander’s Emergency Response Program, should be U.S. priorities. Economic assistance should be provided on a nonsectarian basis.

RECOMMENDATION 65: An essential part of reconstruction efforts in Iraq should be greater involvement by and with international partners, who should do more than just contribute money. They should also actively participate in the design and construction of projects.

RECOMMENDATION 66: The United States should take the lead in funding assistance requests from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and other humanitarian agencies.
There was talk throughout 2006 that the funding requests for further infrastructure support within Iraq was going to be phased down if not out completely in the near term. Recommendation 64 explicitly states that the opposite should be instituted, and an increase be requested to assist the economy of Iraq. The amount of $5 billion is approximate to the support given Israel in economic and military assistance today. Suggestion 65 depends on the security situation within the country, and 66 allows for humanitarian aid.
RECOMMENDATION 67: The President should create a Senior Advisor for Economic Reconstruction in Iraq.
The language preceding this recommendation is as follows:
"A lack of coordination by senior management in Washington still hampers U.S. contributions to Iraq’s reconstruction. Focus, priority setting, and skillful implementation are in short supply. No single official is assigned responsibility or held accountable for the overall reconstruction effort."
At this stage, the need for a representative inside Iraq to further coordinate reconstruction efforts demonstrates many of the pitfalls that the U.S. occupation created for itself. With the Democratic majority in Congress more than likely to address some of the grosser neglect for oversight of reconstruction efforts, the creation of a Senior Advisor for Economic Reconstruction will place any further efforts under the guise of some form of oversight within Iraq.

Under the heading Improving the Effectiveness of Assistance Programs, the ISG supports an office that is responsible for quickly dispersing and rescinding funds for to projects that "promote national reconciliation." These bureaucratic suggestions essentially deal with several details of funding and supporting programs in Iraq.
RECOMMENDATION 68: The Chief of Mission in Iraq should have the authority to spend significant funds through a program structured along the lines of the Commander’s Emergency Response Program, and should have the authority to rescind funding from programs and projects in which the government of Iraq is not demonstrating effective partnership.

RECOMMENDATION 69: The authority of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction should be renewed for the duration of assistance programs in Iraq.

RECOMMENDATION 70: A more flexible security assistance program for Iraq, breaking down the barriers to effective interagency cooperation, should be authorized and implemented.

RECOMMENDATION 71: Authority to merge U.S. funds with those from international donors and Iraqi participants on behalf of assistance projects should be provided.

Under number 70, the ISG included a description referencing the difficulties of employing the State Department and the Defense Department to promote and fund programs that may have competing or crossing priorities and different oversight committees back in Congress. Such difficulties may not have had top headlines in the past several years, but it is a positive sign to see it identified and placed on the list of to-do's.

Funding the Iraq occupation in the United States is an interesting subject in that the executive branch has yet to include a full accounting of the cost when requesting monies for the following budget year. Instead, the White House typically will make emergency funding requests throughout the year for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. This act makes it more difficult for the public at large to determine the ongoing costs of both operations, and what the dollars are going towards. Hence:
RECOMMENDATION 72: Costs for the war in Iraq should be included in the President’s annual budget request, starting in FY 2008: the war is in its fourth year, and the normal budget process should not be circumvented. Funding requests for the war in Iraq should be presented clearly to Congress and the American people. Congress must carry out its constitutional responsibility to review budget requests for the war in Iraq carefully and to conduct oversight.
The only thing preventing this from taking place is Commander-in-Chief himself.

Personnel issues make up ideas 73 through 76. A quote that stands out is, "Our embassy of 1,000 has 33 Arabic speakers, just six of whom are at the level of fluency. In a conflict that demands effective and efficient communication with Iraqis, we are often at a disadvantage."
RECOMMENDATION 73: The Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, and the Director of National Intelligence should accord the highest possible priority to professional language proficiency and cultural training, in general and specifically for U.S. officers and personnel about to be assigned to Iraq.

RECOMMENDATION 74: In the short term, if not enough civilians volunteer to fill key positions in Iraq, civilian agencies must fill those positions with directed assignments. Steps should be taken to mitigate familial or financial hardships posed by directed assignments, including tax exclusions similar to those authorized for U.S. military personnel serving in Iraq.

RECOMMENDATION 75: For the longer term, the United States government needs to improve how its constituent agencies—Defense, State, Agency for International Development, Treasury, Justice, the intelligence community, and others - respond to a complex stability operation like that represented by this decade’s Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the previous decade’s operations in the Balkans. They need to train for, and conduct, joint operations across agency boundaries, following the Goldwater-Nichols model that has proved so successful in the U.S. armed services.

RECOMMENDATION 76: The State Department should train personnel to carry out civilian tasks associated with a complex stability operation outside of the traditional embassy setting. It should establish a Foreign Service Reserve Corps with personnel and expertise to provide surge capacity for such an operation. Other key civilian agencies, including Treasury, Justice, and Agriculture, need to create similar technical assistance capabilities.
These suggestions are reasonable. The amount of time required to put these types of resources inside Iraq must be in excess of 12 months given the training involved and the dearth of probable volunteers. The odds of this coming true seem remote.

Lacking solid intelligence makes up the last of the recommendations by the group, essentially outlining a failing in learning and understanding the society in general and the resistance in particular. Citing the amount of money spent by the Pentagon in protecting soldiers and marines from roadside bombs, the team notes that there is little comparable funding to gaining intelligence on why the insurgency continues to build and deploy these devices.

RECOMMENDATION 77: The Director of National Intelligence and the Secretary of Defense should devote significantly greater analytic resources to the task of understanding the threats and sources of violence in Iraq.

RECOMMENDATION 78: The Director of National Intelligence and the Secretary of Defense should also institute immediate changes in the collection of data about violence and the sources of violence in Iraq to provide a more accurate picture of events on the ground.

RECOMMENDATION 79: The CIA should provide additional personnel in Iraq to develop and train an effective intelligence service and to build a counterterrorism intelligence center that will facilitate intelligence-led counterterrorism efforts.
Additionally, recommendation 78 makes a special point of how the United States is collecting and distributing information in Iraq with a specific note that the Defense department under-reported violent acts for a single day in July of 2006 by a factor of over one hundred. The reporting appears devised to put as positive a light on events, and the ISG would rather this be put to rest and opt for actual figures to be reported as they occur.

Recommendation 79 is a tricky situation in that allowing the CIA to provide support and assistance in intelligence gathering could quickly be used for sectarian purposes and place greater burden on the Iraqi government in terms of violent and unrest.

After the 79th recommendation, the report ends. At that point, it might be best to return to the executive summary and re-read the conclusion therein.
It is the unanimous view of the Iraq Study Group that these recommendations offer a new way forward for the United States in Iraq and the region. They are comprehensive and need to be implemented in a coordinated fashion. They should not be separated or carried out in isolation. The dynamics of the region are as important to Iraq as events within Iraq.

The challenges are daunting. There will be difficult days ahead. But by pursuing this new way forward, Iraq, the region, and the United States of America can emerge stronger.

The end result of this document could be read as the most bitter pill of George Bush's presidency thus far. It denudes him of the warrior-hero visage, asks that he actually talk to other people by way of diplomacy, and by its sheer existence admit that his oversight and leadership have failed. To a person who at one time could not think of a single mistake he had made (only the weak admit such things), this report summarizes a concrete record of failure.

Beyond the mere political ramifications for the President (and an initial review of his statements make the adoption of all 79 proposals far from likely), the general proposition is that this adventure by America in Iraq is at its best on a tenuous footing. The general region is in danger of falling into ethnic war as is mentioned in the report and this was a large motivating factor for stressing the diplomatic accord for all interested parties. The chilling thought is that these specific proposals are being submitted to an Executive known for being dismissive of international diplomacy.

Even with some of the less spectacular recommendations within the report, there is at least a basis now for the American public to understand the very real and monstrous threat that this preventative war has created. While events on the ground in Baghdad are bad, the problem is no longer confined to a 50 mile radius around the city. If the ISG's report does only one thing it should heighten all of our concerns about what happens next in the region. Will the U.S. continue to house 140,000 troops and support staff in the country for five more years? Will all the troops be home by Christmas 2008? Can the U.N. and the New Diplomatic Offensive find peaceful compromise for Sunni, Shia, and Kurds alike? All of these are incredibly difficult questions, and only a strong American public voice will likely move Congress and the President to act along the lines of these recommendations.

Unfortunately, one "must dance with the one who brung ya" as the old saying goes. The White House has put forward a wildly optimistic view of Iraq for so long that it must sting the eyes of aides and Presidents alike to read this report. Even if (a large if) the President adopted some of these measures it would be a decent start and a long overdue beginning to changing the outcome of the occupation. Yet as stated before here, the odds of this happening are dishearteningly slim. The first milestones that the ISG lists is approval of several laws as suggested in the report; increased Iraqi security funding; a raise in interest rates by the Central Iraqi Bank - all by the end of 2006 or early 2007. While those would be governed by the Iraqi Parliament and not President Bush, if these are not even brought it up will be an excellent indicator of how events will go for the rest of next year.

Anything appears to be better than what is happening now. Let us hope that by January 2008 there isn't another commission assembled to figure out how to stop the great Middle East War.

The Iraqi Study Group - Recommendations 1 - 39

Several months in the development, and with a panel of citizens outside of partisan warfare, the Iraqi Study Group created at the behest of Congress released their findings to the White House, the Congress, and now the American public. The executive summary begins: "The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating. There is no path that can guarantee success, but the prospects can be improved." A markedly different tone than President Bush's statements on October 25th, 2006. He stated at the time, "We're winning, and we will win, unless we leave before the job is done," when speaking of Iraq.

So now the report from the commission is ready for consumption after an election where the clear signal was an utter dissatisfaction with the present occupation of Iraq. The quick summary on the report is encouraging diplomacy with most of Iraq's neighbors where feasible, and for adding new vigor to the training of Iraqi security forces. All of this with milestones to measure progress along the way placed on an actual calendar (page 80 of the document issued by the ISG).

A unique caveat to the second major point of the commission's finding is that if the security level does not improve, then "the United States should reduce its political, military, or economic support for the Iraqi government." By its very implication, the ISG would have the United States set sail if the Iraqi government doesn't play ball to a new policy as adopted from the report. A dramatic pronouncement indeed. In Recommendation 41:
The United States must make it clear to the Iraqi government that the United States could carry out its plans, including planned redeployments, even if Iraq does not implement its planned changes. America's other security needs and the future of our military cannot be made hostage to the actions or inactions of the Iraqi government.

This certainly does not mesh with the "stay the course" rhetoric of President Bush, that is certain. It would also make clear that the more one drags the process along inside the government of Iraq, the bigger risk they run of having a thoroughly unstable country rather than a somewhat unstable country.

What is somewhat refreshing is to hear a ten-person panel place statements such as this in their report: "There is no action the American military can take that, by itself, can bring about success in Iraq. But there are actions that the U.S. and Iraqi governments, working together, can and should take to increase the probability of avoiding disaster there, and increase the chance of success." This may sadden Senator John McCain somewhat for his support of sending even more troops into Iraq. The premise is that this is a political dilemma that a military, any military, cannot solve by itself. A private can't force one person to love another through the business end of a rifle. One might call this a refreshing bit of reality added to the conversation if it weren't so late in coming due to the Administration's posture on the affair.

There are many, many different options here, but as the ISG states at the end of the executive summary, the recommendations, "should not be separated or carried out in isolation." This states unequivocally that the proprietor of this entanglement not pick and choose the least difficult options to implement. Seventy-nine recommendations and not one of them offers a fig leaf of cover for the debacle that President Bush founded.

Update: Further Thoughts
Upon a more thorough review of the Iraq Study Group's findings, there are some key issues which may create several problems with the implementation of these 79 recommendations (aside from the most obvious obstacle being the President and his officials).

The initial recommendations focus on the "New Diplomatic Offensive" (page 44 of the report / page 62 of the PDF) and the "Iraq International Support Group" (pg. 46 / pg. 64) to be created in order to address regional concerns (the Israel/Palestinian issue, Lebanon and Syria, Iran as examples) and assist in the regional participation of border countries and others at large respectively. The sheer difficulty of pulling this many countries together (an initial count of more than a dozen) to focus on the stability of Iraq with many of the players at odds with others or elements inside Iraq is quite a tall drink of water. Adding the diplomatic contortionist work involved in progressing towards a lasting peace process in Israel and addressing the Sunni-Shiite divide unleashed inside Iraq (while laudable as a goal can be) is an incredibly monstrous hurdle.

RECOMMENDATION 1: The United States, working with the Iraqi government, should launch the comprehensive New Diplomatic Offensive to deal with the problems of Iraq of the region. This new diplomatic offensive should launched before December 31, 2006.

RECOMMENDATION 2: The goals of the diplomatic offensive as it relates to regional players should be to:
i. Support the unity and territorial integrity of Iraq.
ii. Stop destabilizing interventions and actions by Iraq’s neighbors.
iii. Secure Iraq’s borders, including the use of joint patrols with neighboring countries.
iv. Prevent the expansion of the instability and conflict beyond Iraq’s borders.
v. Promote economic assistance, commerce, trade, political support, and, if possible, military assistance for the Iraqi government from non-neighboring Muslim nations.
vi. Energize countries to support national political reconciliation in Iraq.
vii. Validate Iraq’s legitimacy by resuming diplomatic relations, where appropriate, and reestablishing embassies in Baghdad.
viii. Assist Iraq in establishing active working embassies in key capitals in the region (for example, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia).
ix. Help Iraq reach a mutually acceptable agreement on Kirkuk.
x. Assist the Iraqi government in achieving certain security, political, and economic milestones, including better performance on issues such as national reconciliation, equitable distribution of oil revenues, and the dismantling of militias.

RECOMMENDATION 3: As a complement to the diplomatic offensive, and in addition to the Support Group discussed below, 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.

RECOMMENDATION 4: As an instrument of the New Diplomatic Offensive, an Iraq International Support Group should be organized immediately following the launch of the New Diplomatic Offensive.

RECOMMENDATION 5: 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; the European Union; and, of course, Iraq itself. Other countries—for instance, Germany, Japan and South Korea—that might be willing to contribute to resolving political, diplomatic, and security problems affecting Iraq could also become members.

RECOMMENDATION 6: The New Diplomatic Offensive and the work of the Support Group should be carried out with urgency, and should be conducted by and organized at the level of foreign minister or above. The Secretary of State, if not the President, should lead the U.S. effort. That effort should be both bilateral and multilateral, as circumstances require.

RECOMMENDATION 7: The Support Group should call on the participation of the office of the United Nations Secretary-General in its work. The United Nations Secretary-General should designate a Special Envoy as his representative.

RECOMMENDATION 8: The Support Group, as part of the New Diplomatic Offensive, should develop specific approaches to neighboring countries that take into account the interests, perspectives, and potential contributions as suggested above.

Recommendations 1 through 8 lay the international groundwork. The main thrust is to build a coalition of those with real stakes in the outcome of Iraq which should have been contemplated at the outset yet never came to fruition. The report notes that each country has its own purview to tend to, and states:
Left to their own devices, these [border] 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, we believe that each can be encouraged to play a positive role in Iraq and the region.
It would appear that this coalition will look right on paper, but may yield results not to anyone's particular liking.

The report moves forward to express the sentiment that while it may be unpleasant to some within the United States, some strides must be taken in order to bring Syria and Iran to the table where Iraq is concerned. This is absolutely a step in the right direction. Recommendations 9 through 12 concern how Iran and Syria may be brought in and how the United States ought to handle dicey international relations outside of Iraq.

Recommendations 13 to 17 try and push forward a two-state solution to the Israeli / Palestinian conflict and several demands on Syria to resist the temptation to interfere in Lebanon. These feel somewhat out of place with the general findings of the group, but the impetus is to try to add further calm in Middle East. The likelihood of Syria to convince Hamas to acknowledge Israel's right to exist has a slim chance of coming true in the near-term, if ever.

RECOMMENDATION 18: It is critical for the United States to provide additional political, economic, and military support for Afghanistan, including resources that might become available as combat forces are moved from Iraq.

This is obviously outside of Iraq, but Afghanistan has the distinct look of a pre-2001 invasion country. If ever a redeployment of forces were possible within a year or two from Iraq, it should be to shore up the government in the capital of Kabul as well as the larger countryside.

Many of the commentaries so far of the report discuss the following recommendations on internal improvements made by the Iraqi government itself. Recommendation 21 is going to be cited more often than most as it states fairly clearly that without internal improvements, the United States would be under less and less obligation to sustain its current troop level and political support. It does not say however what would replace this support; it is probably seen as a threat or an incentive to move Iraqi leaders forward.

RECOMMENDATION 19: The President and the leadership of his national security team should remain in close and frequent contact with the Iraqi leadership. These contacts must convey a clear message: there must be action by the Iraqi government to make substantial progress toward the achievement of milestones. In public diplomacy, the President should convey as much detail as possible about the substance of these exchanges in order to keep the American people, the Iraqi people, and the countries in the region well informed.

RECOMMENDATION 20: If the Iraqi government demonstrates political will and makes substantial progress toward the achievement of milestones on national reconciliation, security, and governance, the United States should make clear its willingness to continue training, assistance, and support for Iraq’s security forces, and to continue political, military, and economic support for the Iraqi government. As Iraq becomes more capable of governing, defending, and sustaining itself, the U.S. military and civilian presence in Iraq can be reduced.

RECOMMENDATION 21: If the Iraqi government does not make substantial progress toward the achievement of milestones on national reconciliation, security, and governance, the United States should reduce its political, military, or economic support for the Iraqi government.

RECOMMENDATION 22: The President should state that the United States does not seek permanent military bases in Iraq. If the Iraqi government were to request a temporary base or bases, then the U.S. government could consider that request as it would in the case of any other government.

RECOMMENDATION 23: The President should restate that the United States does not seek to control Iraq’s oil.

Is it a timetable or isn't it a timetable? At this stage within America, there is probably a small minority that would not be in favor of a set timetable. Citizens here (and certainly there in Iraq) do not wish an indefinite tenure for U.S. Marines and Army troops on the ground in Baghdad or Mosul or Nineveh.

By the end of 2006–early 2007:
- Approval of the Provincial Election Law and setting an election date
- Approval of the Petroleum Law
- Approval of the De-Baathification Law
- Approval of the Militia Law

By March 2007:
- A referendum on constitutional amendments (if it is necessary)

By May 2007:
- Completion of Militia Law implementation
- Approval of amnesty agreement
- Completion of reconciliation efforts

By June 2007:
- Provincial elections

SECURITY (pending joint U.S.-Iraqi review)
By the end of 2006:
- Iraqi increase of 2007 security spending over 2006 levels

By April 2007:
- Iraqi control of the Army

By September 2007:
- Iraqi control of provinces

By December 2007:
- Iraqi security self-reliance (with U.S. support)

By the end of 2006:
- The Central Bank of Iraq will raise interest rates to 20 percent and appreciate the Iraqi dinar by 10 percent to combat accelerating inflation.
- Iraq will continue increasing domestic prices for refined petroleum products and sell imported fuel at market prices.
Recommendations 24 and 25 just reiterate that the milestones are a start.

Recommendations 26 through 33 are suggestions for the internal affairs of Iraq. They run the gamut from reviewing and amending their constitution (a sore point for the Sunni population at the time of its adoption), to holding the lid on the "powder keg" of Kirkuk, to amnesty proposals and minority rights. All of these proposals will be at the whim or the will of Iraqi leaders in Parliament, but they are all linked to restraining the civil war tendencies already apparent within the borders of Iraq.

RECOMMENDATION 34: The question of the future U.S. force presence must be on the table for discussion as the national reconciliation dialogue takes place. Its inclusion will increase the likelihood of participation by insurgents and militia leaders, and thereby increase the possibilities for success.

This has been repeated by the Administration that there are no long-term plans on the oil or the country as a military base of operations for the U.S. A reiteration on this claim can bring no harm.

RECOMMENDATION 35: The United States must make active efforts to engage all parties in Iraq, with the exception of al Qaeda. The United States must find a way to talk to Grand Ayatollah Sistani, Moqtada al-Sadr, and militia and insurgent leaders.

RECOMMENDATION 36: The United States should encourage dialogue between sectarian communities, as outlined in the New Diplomatic Offensive above. It should press religious leaders inside and outside Iraq to speak out on behalf of peace and reconciliation.

RECOMMENDATION 37: Iraqi amnesty proposals must not be undercut in Washington by either the executive or the legislative branch.
These are rational and reasonable expectations for all sides. Again, the likelihood of all of these camps coming together to stop the retribution killings that have run unabated for months on end shows little signs of occurring. Amnesty may not even be a popular path within Iraq, but it may provide cover for those who have performed the violence to date to not continue further still for fear of comeuppance.

RECOMMENDATION 38: The United States should support the presence of neutral international experts as advisors to the Iraqi government on the processes of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration.

RECOMMENDATION 39: The United States should provide financial and technical support and establish a single office in Iraq to coordinate assistance to the Iraqi government and its expert advisors to aid a program to disarm, demobilize, and reintegrate militia members.
These are common sense recommendations though there are no details regarding the depth or duration of financial and technical support to be provided.

More to come on the next forty recommendations.