Thursday, December 07, 2006

Too late

A lot has already been written on the Iraq Study Group's thoughtful report, published yesterday. The report is an honest appreciation of the crisis in Iraq made all the more stark by the contrast of its tone and depth with the hallucinatory quality of previous statements on the prospects for Iraq made by politicians on both sides of the Atlantic.

Yet the report still has a slightly otherworldly feel to it. Its recommendations - external diplomatic initiatives designed to involve neighbouring countries which have a significant stake in Iraq's future, and internal efforts to achieve national reconciliation - all sound sensible yet still imply that the United States and legislation can play a role which events so far simply do not support. I cannot see Iran and Syria sitting down around a table at a meeting organised by the US government. The easiest way to persuade Iran and Syria to engage themselves would be for the US to withdraw, yet the report rules out this drastic option. After Recommendation 23 the report sets out a series of milestones involving legislation to achieve, for example, amnesties and Iraqi control of its army by the end of next year. And yet earlier, the report clearly states that the army is already divided along regional (and therefore probably sectarian) lines and that the government has favoured Shia over Sunni areas. If that is the consequence of democracy, it is hard to see how any legislation enacted within the Baghdad green zone will have any tangible effect beyond it. With the violence increasing every week and the country's institutions corrupted seemingly beyond repair, I suspect that the report's suggestions have simply come too late.

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