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Iraq Study Group Recommendations and the European Union

[UPDATE: Dialog International translates parts of the German press coverage.]

In presenting the Iraq Study Group report, James A. Baker III. (video) made a blunt assessment:
Struggling in a world of fear, the Iraqis themselves dare not dream. They have been liberated from the nightmare of a tyrannical order only to face the nightmare of brutal violence.
The bi-partisan panel made 79 recommendations (pdf), some of them involve the European Union (and Germany specifically):
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.
• The Iraq Study Group states that the European Union and others "need to become hands-on participants in Iraq's reconstruction."
The report calls for a Middle East peace conference (like the Madrid Conference in 1991) with two separate tracks (Israel-Palestine and Israel-Syria/Lebanon) that could possibly by under the auspices of the Quartett, of which the EU is a member. 
The report discusses what is at stake for the US and mentions: "A senior European official told us that failure in Iraq could incite terrorist attacks within his country." Only one?

The Associated Press writes about the Iraq Study Group report in general:
After nearly four years of war and the deaths of more than 2,900 U.S. troops, the situation is "grave and deteriorating" and America's ability "to influence events within Iraq is diminishing," the commission warned. It recommended the U.S. reduce "political, military or economic support" for Iraq if the government in Baghdad cannot make substantial progress toward providing for its own security. The report said Bush should put aside misgivings and engage Syria, Iran and the leaders of insurgent forces in negotiations on Iraq's future, to begin by year's end. It urged him to revive efforts at a broader Middle East peace. Barring a significant change, it warned of a "slide toward chaos." In a slap at the Pentagon, the commission said there is "significant underreporting" of the actual level of violence in the country. It also faulted the U.S. intelligence effort, saying the government "still does not understand very well either the insurgency in Iraq or the role of the militias."
Related post in the Atlantic Review: German President Koehler Calls for more European Help to Stabilise Iraq

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Fischer on :

" The Iraq Study Group states that the European Union and others "need to become hands-on participants in Iraq's reconstruction." " Meaning we are expected to foot a significant part of the bill of cleaning up America's mess. Thanks but no thanks. As long as Pres. Bush wants to dictate who is talked to and who isn't, there won't be much we can do diplomatically either.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Thanks for your comment, Fischer. I am curious, if Pres Bush will implement the most crucial recommendations of the ISG group, like talking to Syria and Iran (incl. restarting the Israel-Syria peace talks). Question: Do you think President Bush could do anything to convince Germany or the EU as a whole to send troops or a large number of reconstruction teams (engineers, public health specialists etc) to Iraq? Let's imagine for a second that President Bush is prepared to give a lot of power to this contact group and indeed invites both the EU and Germany separately to join this groups with equal say. Do you think our politicians are prepared to participate and take responsibility for Iraq's future? (I doubt it.)

Fischer on :

"I am curious, if Pres Bush will implement the most crucial recommendations of the ISG group, like talking to Syria and Iran (incl. restarting the Israel-Syria peace talks)." It's possible, but I doubt it. " Question: Do you think President Bush could do anything to convince Germany or the EU as a whole to send troops or a large number of reconstruction teams (engineers, public health specialists etc) to Iraq? " I don't think so. There are two good reasons not to: 1) If 150000 American Soldiers can't do anything about the insurgency, what makes you think a few Euro soldies would do the trick? The idea is utterly ridiculous. The only purpose it would serve is to give some appearance of international support for the occupation. Why should we spill our blood for Bushs political benefit alone? 2) Reconstruction teams would only be killed or kidnapped. What for? Again, anything Europeans could try there has already been tried by the Americans - without success. " Do you think our politicians are prepared to participate and take responsibility for Iraq's future? " Excuse me, you must be hallucinating. Our politicians "taking responsibility for Iraq's future"? We are deep in "white man's burden" territory here, I think. It is about time western countries stopped "taking responsibility", i.e. trying to make them serve our interests, "of everyone else's future". "Taking responsibility", meaning "bringing civilisation to inferior natives", is exactly what made the middle east the mess it is today. What makes you think more of the same will result in a completely different outcome this time round? Except, of course, wishful thinking? No, our European politicians should bloody well take responsibility for Europe's future, that's what the term "european politician" means. They rule Europe. Not the rest of the world.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

"We are deep in "white man's burden" territory here, I think." You are misreading my comment. What is your opinion about Europeans involvements in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Lebanon, Georgia, Macedonia etc? Do you call that "white men's burden territory" as well? "No, our European politicians should bloody well take responsibility for Europe's future" Agreed. Do you think the deteriorating and possible spread of civil war in Iraq will not affect "Europe's future"? No, I am not advocating that we send troops.

Godwael on :

"You are misreading my comment." I don't think so. You talked about our "responsibility" for iraq. Where does that responsibility come from, if not the implicit assumption that we can get it a lot more right than the natives? Iraq is ultimately the responsibility of the iraqis. We have no part in that unless we are specifically asked to assist - by the iraqi people or their representatives, that is. Not the current elected bunch of losers, mind you, but someone who actually is in charge somehow. "What is your opinion about Europeans involvements in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Lebanon, Georgia, Macedonia etc? Do you call that "white men's burden territory" as well?" Actually I do. It's not that I don't support stabilising the balkans by force, I'm just sick of all this "humanitarian" and "responsibility" talk. Skip that. We're not there to help those poor people. We don't want chaos across our borders, as simple as that. What do we want in Afghanistan? Nothing. What can we achieve there in the long run? Nothing. Same with Lebanon. "Do you think the deteriorating and possible spread of civil war in Iraq will not affect "Europe's future"?" It will certainly. Problem is, we can't do anything about it, and if we try things just get worse. Tough luck. Of course it would be wonderful if we Europeans could ride everyvere on a shiny white horse and bring everyone peace and prosperity. But that ist just wishful thinking. The experiences of the last fifty years show that we can't. Wherever we messed around with local politics and economy we made things worse. Time for a hands-off-approach. It's worth a try. And don't give me the usual if-we-leave-them-to-themselves-they-will-do-horrible-things-to-each-other-litany, please. The Americans I know are all currently going through that routine. Disgusting.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

> I don't think so. You talked about our "responsibility" for > iraq. I wasn't. I did not say that we have responsibility. I did not write about "our" responsibility. I was just asking if the EU and Germany would join the Iraq Support group, which sounds similar to the contact groups about Bosnia in the 90s. Joining this group would give us some responsibility for Iraq's future: [i]Let's imagine for a second that President Bush is prepared to give a lot of power to this contact group and indeed invites both the EU and Germany separately to join this groups with equal say. Do you think our politicians are prepared to participate and take responsibility for Iraq's future?[/i] > Where does that responsibility come from, You misunderstood me. I just wrote that we would be responsible for Iraq's future, if we would joint this contact group. > We have > no part in that unless we are specifically asked to assist - > by the iraqi people or their representatives, that is. They have repeatedly asked for help. > Not the current elected bunch of losers, mind you, Why not? Sure, the Maliki government is irresponsible. Iraq won't get a significantly better government, I fear. > but someone > who actually is in charge somehow. [b]You mean the insurgents and militias? [/b]Or do you mean nobody, because nobody is in charge? > "What is your opinion about Europeans involvements in > Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Lebanon, Georgia, Macedonia etc? > Do you call that "white men's burden territory" as well?" > Actually I do. It's not that I don't support stabilising the > balkans by force, I'm just sick of all this "humanitarian" > and "responsibility" talk. Skip that. We're not there to help > those poor people. We don't want chaos across our borders, as > simple as that. I never claimed that we are involved for humanitarian reasons. Again, you are reading stuff into what I actually wrote. > Of course it would be wonderful if we Europeans could ride > everyvere on a shiny white horse and bring everyone peace and > prosperity. But that ist just wishful thinking. The > experiences of the last fifty years show that we can't. European integration has let to quite a bit of peace and prosperity to many parts of Europe in the last fifty years.

Don S on :

"Time for a hands-off-approach. It's worth a try." A 'hands-off approach' is just more of the same from Europe, and encourages the US to do the same the next time Europe wants or needs something important. If you really want to make a change try something other than a hands off approach....

David on :

Don S., We all know how you feel about Germany and Europeans in general. But what is your take on the ISG Report (the original topic here)?

Don S on :

It's a combination of the banal and the downright stupid. Oh, it would be great if Syria or Iran were to take a positive role in this - but why would they want to do that? I can't see one salitary reason why they would. Right now we have no credibility with either of them; they hate us but don't fear us. I think a solution to the 'problem' is either a US-instigated bloodbath or a withdrawal - no middle ground. If the problem is Moqtada al-Sadr and the Mahdi army - remove Moqtada al-Sadr and the Mahdhi army. Without half-measures and with the full understanding that thousands of relatively innocent lives will be lost. Does that involve fighting military operation in Sadr City? Yes. It will make Fallujah look like a tea party; but it csn be done if we don;t allow our scruples and squemishness to get in the way. With Moqtada al-Sadr and the Mahdhi army taken out the path may be cleared for the other faction of Shia's to take over. Given the likelihood that the al-Sadr faction will attempt to commit genocide upon the Sunnis when we go it would even be the less bloody course to take. But our hands will be stained, and I expect explosive protests in the US and Europe which will make the Vietnam-era protests look tame.

Don S on :

"No, our European politicians should bloody well take responsibility for Europe's future, that's what the term "european politician" means. They rule Europe. Not the rest of the world." Good idea - were you (the EU countries) capable of doing it! Exhibit one - the Kosovo war in which the US had to come into the backyard of the German army and do most of the fighting. US national interest in Balkan events is derisory, particularly compared to the German, Austrian, Italian, French, Greek, and even Spanish interest. Nevertheless NATO was duely invoked and the US came and fought your stupid war for you - and not with 2933 troops keeping shop hours and walled in at night either! Only to have the epithet 'war criminals' hung on US soldiers by *good* Germans. If that is what Germans mean by calling themselves friends and allies - then god save us from friends and allies!

David on :

Finally a realistic analysis of the situation in Iraq. Even though the ISG report is a compromise document, I am impressed with its blunt assessment. I haven't read all 79 recommendations yet, but the ones I've looked at seem far more rational than the deceptive rhetoric we've gotten from the Bush administration for the past 4 years. I sadly have to agree with what Al Gore said this morning on national television: "This is an utter disaster," Gore told Today show host Matt Lauer. "This was the worst strategic mistake in the entire history of the United States. And now we, as a nation, have to find a way, in George Mitchell's words, to manage a disaster."

Yank on :

That about sums it up. Next I suppose we'll hear about how much you Euros "care" about the other people of the world and about how "selfish" those Americans are. Like I said, the transatlantic alliance is in the toilet.

Anonymous on :

"Euros" avoiding making matters worse. American Neocons don't. They prefer wishful thinking. And when they fail they blame other people.

Anonymous on :

Correction: Europeans don't want to make matters worse. They try to avoid quagmires.

clarence on :

"Next"?? Yank, the Europeans have been prattling about their compassion and moral superiority since somewhere around 1776. How much the Europeans care can be found in the graveyards at Srebrenica: the cowardice of the Dutch troops, the refusal of the French to provide air cover.....and in this week's newspapers, the medals awarded to those same troops.

Zyme on :

If someone is to blame here, it is the respective governments. You cannot blame the troops, when they have not been ordered to act.

clarence on :

Zyme, I will give you an edge in this debate: choose any EU English-language (please; so we can both read it) account of that massacre. (Wikipedia and the BBC might do for a start.) The Dutch troops were under UN command, and were charged with defending the town. They stood aside, in many instances witnessed murder and rape of the civilian population, and did...nothing. It is clear that the decision to stand aside was made by the Dutch commander on site. This week, the Dutch gov't is awarding them a medal (see BBC for details). p.s. I do not mean to deflect the discussion from the ISG's clever plan for Vietnam II, but Yank's normally perceptive comments seemed a bit off target.

said on :

November 28, 2006 I cannot sleep. My seething anger keeps my eyes wide open. But you are sleeping safely in your home, holding your partner or your child and you know in all probability that you will awake tomorrow. And tomorrow, you will open your eyes, step into your bathroom and you will find running water. You will fix yourself a coffee and you will find electricity, you will open your kitchen cupboard and you will find food. Then you will get dresse , and you have clothes for winter and if you catch the flu, you can always call up your doctor or run to a hospital. Hey, you can even take flowers to your beloved ones if they happen to fall il,or just check to make sure that the surgery of Uncle Tom was successful. Oh yes, you can afford to do so. Then you will get into your car, drive merrily or maybe not so merrily to your work place , or go shopping worrying about what to cook for your sweet family, or meet with your friends for a morning cup and rant neurotically about how miserable your life is. Your day is probably filled with things to do. Most likely you have a job and you know you have an income at the end of the month. And you can give yourself the luxury of planning for your future. You plan everything don't you? What you will be getting for your kids at Christmas, how many parties you have booked on your agenda , your next vacation trip, your one year plan, your five year plan , when your goverment will be invading another country. You are in fact a great planner. If you have kids , then you know they are getting an education . You can buy them pads, pencils, drawing books , toys and even take them for a stroll in a park free from Depleted Uranium and you can fly kites and raise your eyes to the sky and not see fire jets hovering above your little head . You can do that. I know you can. And if you are walking about, you know that no bomb or bullet is going to blow you or blow your loved ones away. You will neither be kidnapped nor abducted never to be seen again. You feel queasy at the sight of blood . Yes I know that. Even the blood you watch on your TV screen when you get back home safely in the evenings is censored so as not to disturb your sensitivities. You don't see limbs , bowels, and brains blown away, you are really cared for and so protected . And if per chance you come across such scenes, you conveniently zap or ask your kids to run upstairs. You don't want them traumatized . Yes violence is bad for you . It disturbs your peace of mind . I really sympathize. And when Saturday or Sunday comes, you go to your worship place, and praise the Lord for being born in the greatest country ever. Yes I know you enjoy your rights and freedoms. During weekends, you can take time for your leisure, tend your garden , go to a gym, invite your friends, barbecue, go dancing , party. You can have fun . But of course, it is natural, it is written in your constitution "the pursuit of happiness" is just for you, and only for you. I don't need to remind you . You already know it by heart. And when you are with your friends you can be so very interesting . You can tell them how fucked up the world is , how people can't get along . You will point your finger in our direction and hold us as an example . Oh yes, you know so much . Your press told you all about it. And when you are done with all of the above, you will go back to sleep in your cozy bed, switch the lights off and snore in total oblivion. All the way to that state you are so familiar with, all the way back into your usual comatose indifferent self. And we are still here,counting the minutes, the seconds and hoping we will taste life again. A life we had before you and your ilk took it all away. Iraqi Artist Rafa Nasiri

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Said, What are your recommendations? What should Europe and the US do?

clarence on :

Jörg, Just for the record, the quote has nothing to do with the artist whose name appears below it; see this blog for the original source: http://arabwomanblues.blogspot.com/ Incidentally, why not ask what the Iraqis can do for themselves? The warfare between Shiite and Sunni isn't our creation.

Layla Anwar on :

Hello , I have noticed that some of my writings copied from my blog have been posted here and attributed to Al Nasiri. Al Nasiri is the name of an Iraqi artist of whom I copied a painting and attached it to the article that you have quoted at length without RESPECTING AUTHORSIP. All of Iraq's wealth is being plundered , do you also want to plunder what is left , a bit of writing to save us from insanity. I ask you to please mention the author which happens to be myself now and in the future if you are going to quote anything from my blog. With thanks and regards Layla Anwar

Trobert on :

"A life we had before you and your ilk took it all away." You had it if you were a Ba'ath party intellectual perhaps. Everything Mister Nasiri hates the Americans for having is what his countrymen never had in the first place for a very long time. There was none of that peace and prosperity to take away. Did he forget the Iran-Iraq war, Saddam's reign and the invasion of Kuwait? Get off it. One can have sympathy for the Iraqi people, but that guy needs to get his accusations straight.

Anonymous on :

"Did he forget the Iran-Iraq war, Saddam's reign and the invasion of Kuwait?" No, he did not. He just thinks that life was better under Saddam in the 90s than it is now. Tell me, how many people got killed in Iraq in the ten years before the Iraq war in 2003? How would you compare the quality of life in Iraq in the ten years before the Iraq war with the quality of life now? Remember: Safety, a job, clean drinking water, electricity, etc are more important for the quality of life than freedom of the press and voting for sectarian parties. Elections in themselves are not of any value.

Zyme on :

"Safety, a job, clean drinking water, electricity, etc are more important for the quality of life than freedom of the press and voting for sectarian parties. Elections in themselves are not of any value." I have to note this - it perfectly summarizes the main error of american foreign politics since 2001!

Zyme on :

Actually there is a European way to handle politics in the third world which can´t be described as a "hands-off approach". And this way is working much better than the american regime-change approach. One needs only to look at africa: Most of their countries are being governed by non-democratic leaders. They usually have close diplomatic ties to one european country, which usually supports their government by money, diplomatic assistance and in some cases by forces. Of course it is not a coincidence that in many cases the protective european power such an african government relies on, is the former colonial power. It is a nice gentlemen´s agreement: The European part assures assistance and economical support of the respective african government while the latter will support companies and settlers from that particular European country. When you look at the Congo for example, you could see that these natives would love to see german forces to be stationed in the country permanently. They do not even have to be heavily armed. Their simple presence is restoring order. In a few african countries like in Sudan, that controlling European influence is threatened by unresponsible Chinese influence. This is a problem we need to adress in a more determined way. Btw: All that talk about "responsibility" sounds odd to me too, but in times of international law you have to find some odd way to justify your actions.

Bill on :

Zyme, Your ignorance of European post-colonial foreign policy impacts on African societies and countries is appalling. Or is it that you are intentionally attempting to skew the picture in favor of a superior European approach to developing countries vs. the foreign policies and programs of the U.S. government toward these nations. What makes you think that these foreign policies (European, U.S.) have been so vastly different over the past 6 decades? I would suggest that you spend more time studying the work of prominent Africans and Africa experts writing about these issues before you blurt out some nonsense like you have written above. If you want to point to an example of exemplary European diplomacy in Africa then look no further than the leadership of Tony Blair over the past several years, especially his Commission for Africa and Extraction Industries Transparency initiatives. Both of these fine initiatives by Blair are being undermined and weakened by other EU member states and European businesses working in developing countries. U.K. Commision for Africa http://www.commissionforafrica.org/english/about/story.html In regards to the "natives" in the DR Congo being so happy about the recent EUFOR RDC mission during the historic presidential and parliamentary elections there, let us not forget that the bulk of those EU security troops remained stationed in President Omar Bongo's Gabon, a shining example of successful "European Diplomacy" under the caring hand of France. Gabon is one of the most corrupt and least democratic, oil-rich countries in sub-Saharan Africa according to Berlin-based Transparency International. The "natives" (what kind of person would even use such a deragatory term today?) of the DRC never had a chance to see or benefit from the European EUFOR RDC mission as the security ring was confined to the capital Kinshasa and NOT extended to the areas that have been experiencing upspeakable violence and intimidation from any number of rival militias and the Congolese national police and army (trained and supported by Brussels no less). The DRC MONUC mission (17,000+ UN troops) is financed primarily by the United States government and is headed by special UN Ambassador William Swing, a seasoned U.S. diplomat who is certainly not following a European model of diplomacy in the Congo. MONUC.org - Interview with UN Special Representative William Swing at Radio Okapi - Dec 02, 2006 http://www.monuc.org/News.aspx?newsID=13323 As far as those that use the term "white man's burden", is it not true that many citizens of your respective countries are non-white and/or non-Europeans and just may have a different perspective on problems in developing countries (including the Middle East) than your own? Don't these European citizens have a right to demand that their governments get involved with helping to solve problems that affect us all? Or are these new immigrants simply a bunch of "ignorant natives" that should be happy and thankful to be able to live in your comfortable and generous corner of paradise? White man's burden indeed! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_White_Man's_Burden The White Man's Burden by William Easterly (Penguin Press 2006) http://www.amazon.com/Mans-Burden-Wests-Efforts/dp/1594200378 Review at Foreign Affairs Magazine March/April 2006 The Man Without a Plan by Amartya Sen http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20060301fareviewessay85214/amartya-sen/the-man-without-a-plan.html Meanwhile, back at the Iraq Study Group report dialogue...

Zyme on :

Bill I think I know the reason for our disagreement: It is a different ranking of priorities. Your main intention in foreign politics is to make life better for the people in those countries. When speaking of successful foreign politics I rather think of keeping vital economical processes running. Especially the flow of raw materials out of these countries must not be endangered, otherwise we quickly run out of fuel for our economy. That´s why it got about time that this point was announced officially in germany´s foreign politics strategy book. Especially France and Russia behave no different in their area of influence. Another primary duty for our governments is the protection of European settler´s rights in africa. By proceeding to achieve these goals, you do not need a massive army to secure the election process in a huge country like Congo. All you need to do is to make sure that our favorable candidates are out of harm. And in contrast to the american approach of overthrowing entire governmental structures, this method has kept working for decades since the days of the end of colonialism. Again: We seem to have different priorities. I respect your point of view, and hope you will not become personal out of an objective discussion. As regards the term "natives": Is it considered to be offensive in english language? At least it does not sound so in german.

2020 on :

Too late. The Bush-Administration has only strengthend America's enemies - and behind those enemies stands Russia. The middle east is Russia's natural sphere of interest and it's official since years: Russia wants to recommend itself as a security broker in Israel. Be it Syria, be it Iran, be it Hamas, be it the Hezbollah: The key to peace talks is in Moscow. The U.S.A. aren't a security factor in the middle east anymore, they ran completely out of options - except withdrawal from combat. It will take decades for the U.S.A. to recover from that disaster. The doors to the middle east are wide open now and the question for Europe shouldn't be how the US-Army can withdraw in dignity but how much of the middle east may be left to the Russians. European diplomacy has already adopted to that and so has the American. Europe is the broker of American interests in the middle east now, in Tehran, Damascus and Beirut. Unfortunatley, as long as the US-Army is in Iraq, time is ticking away for both Europe and the U.S.A.

Don S on :

Fischer replied to this: " The Iraq Study Group states that the European Union and others "need to become hands-on participants in Iraq's reconstruction." " Fischer: "Meaning we are expected to foot a significant part of the bill of cleaning up America's mess. Thanks but no thanks." Fischer, do understand that every single clever little phrase which you spout WILL be thrown back in your face - in the fullness of time. I have a little book I'm keeping in my mind. I know whom I owe - and those to whom I owe nothing. You and your country (I assume you are German) fall in the latter category. The poet Rudyard Kipling described the behavior thus in 'Tommy': "makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep" NATO did not back the US this time -after the US backed NATO for 50 years. I see no point to NATO. NATO has made itself into an irrelevancy. The recent 'summit' should be seen as an attempt to put life back into the dessicated corpse of NATO. I fear it is doomed to failure.

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