IRAQ WAR: by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
Bush runs out of options
, November 25, 2006
Many Americans hope that a solution to the Iraq War will emerge from the recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker, writes Peter Westmore.Many Americans hope that a solution to the Iraq War will emerge from the recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, chaired by James Baker, who was Secretary of State during the Presidency of George Bush Snr.
Baker has been a critic of current U.S. policy on Iraq. Last April, shortly after the Study Group was formed, Baker said, "We ought not to think we're going to see a flowering of Jeffersonian democracy along the banks of the Euphrates."
The Iraq Study Group has the difficult task of seeking a consensus when the Democrats and Republicans are deeply divided on the issues, and when public opinion in America, which drove the election result, wants an end to U.S. military involvement.
Many observers believe there are no easy options left, because the alternatives are either politically unpalatable (e.g., increasing the deployment of U.S. troops), or have been tried and failed (e.g., a rapprochement between Iraq's Sunni and Shi'ite sects, greater emphasis on training Iraqi troops and police, etc).
Weakened by the election outcome, President Bush has no option but to go along with the Iraq Study Group, although its conclusions could well see a reversal of current policy.
A clear sign of a change of direction was the appointment of Robert Gates to replace Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense. Gates, a former CIA Director in the earlier Bush Administration, was a member of the Iraq Study Group until his appointment as Defense Secretary.
The mood in Washington has hardened as the situation in Iraq continues to spiral out of control. On one day early in November, 159 people were reported assassinated, along with three American and four British troops.
The Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, a Shi'a Muslim, is dependent for his hold on power on both the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, with its Badr Brigade militia, and on radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr who controls the Mahdi Army.
It is believed that the Interior Ministry, which controls police and other security forces, has been infiltrated by both the Badr Brigade and the Mahdi Army.
The armed Shi'ite and Sunni militias have killed tens of thousands of Iraqis, and greatly contributed to the deaths of nearly 3,000 American troops.
While many people hope that the Iraq Survey Group will come up with a way out of the Iraq mess, the preferred solutions - co-operation between Sunnis and Shia in Iraq, and engagement with Syria and Iran to reduce the bloodshed - have already been tried and failed.
Whatever happens, President Bush's options have narrowed considerably.- Peter Westmore