Morning Report: December 7, 2006

Dictators and the politicians who love them. Thousands of Iranian students demonstrate against dictatorship, while an Iraqi ambassador defends the US and Afghans say life is getting better. India gets missile defenses, and a rocket attack brings death sentences. Oh, and some guys in Washington wrote some kind of Iraq report thingy.

Fernandez on Baker's small stick. Richard Fernandez at Pajamas Media has an analysis of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group report. Fernandez critiques the report's overly broad and ambitious scope: 'There are two obvious problems with this approach. First is that Iraqi diplomatic success becomes dependent on the contingent. How can the ISG group have any reasonable expectation of promising the Iraqi International Support Group a lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace? Waiting to spend a check that’s been in the mail for decades is testimony to optimism, perhaps more optimism than Iraq has been allowed. Second, and of more concern, is that a regional forum runs the risk of regionalizing the national conflicts in Iraq. Each party, Turkey, the Gulf States, Iran and Syria, will seek to maximize its interests within the new framework the ISG wants to establish.' Full article at the link, and it's well worth reading. (PJM)

IFTC on ISG: The old is new again. Spook86 at In From the Cold comments on the Iraq Study Group report:
Thanks to a wave of pre-release media leaks and public statements by group members, there's really nothing in the report (and its recommendations) that we haven't heard before.

In fact, key portions of the security strategy are nothing more than existing policies--on an accelerated timetable. Consider these four "main" military missions for U.S. and Iraqi forces, as outlined in the ISG report; they are essentially the same tasks our armed forces have been performing since the overthrow of Saddam's government in 2003.

Provide political reassurance to the Iraqi government in order to avoid its collapse and prevent disintegration of the country.
Fight Al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations in Iraq
Train, equip and support Iraqi security forces
Deter even more destructive interference in Iraq by Syria and Iran.

Spook is concerned with the reports lack of interest in taking the fight to the enemy, and its insistence on an "arbitrary, accelerated deadline". The post concludes that 'Mr. Baker, Mr. Hamilton and other members of the group are focused on the short-term, outlining their "New Diplomatic Offensive" as the centerpiece of their strategy, and emphasizing engagment of our regional foes. It's a classicly American, "bipartisan," bureaucratic "solution" for complex issues that require vision, fortitude, and patience.' Read the whole thing at the link. (IFTC)

Walid Phares: "Iraqization is right, but surrendering to fascist regimes is wrong."
Walid Phares at Counterterrorism Blog: 'Phares told Al Muharer al Arabi that the global recommendation "to engage Iran and Syria's regimes positively and constructively means that they were mistreated before. My first question to the authors of the report is this: how was the United States mistreating these regimes in the past? Was asking Ahmedinejad to stop making a nuclear bomb and asking Assad of Syria to withdraw from Lebanon following a UN resolution signs of bad treatment? Were these demands wrong in their essence? Do they give Iran and Syria the right to feel victimized? If one perceives US action in this way, then all what Washington has to do is to release pressure on the Mullah to build their weapons and ask Assad to send his Army back to Lebanon." Phares added, "the public in America and the people in the region are not as naive as they were before 9/11. They will ask the hard questions when the time comes. The so-called engagement recommendation is a relic from the past and sounds like a suicidal idea. For surrendering to fascist regimes - regimes that are rejected by their own people - is utterly wrong." However on the Iraq restructuring suggestions, Phares told Radio Iraq and other radio shows that "the idea of the Iraqization process is a right one and has always received a consensus among Iraqis and Americans. General Abizaid and many others have voiced these suggestions in the past in the US and in Iraq."' (CTB)

Iranians: "Death to dictators!" While we're waiting for CNN and the New York Times to pounce on this story (and Morning Report suspects we may be waiting for some time), here's Or Does It Explode on the latest student demonstrations in Iran: 'The protest yesterday at Tehran University was apparently announced in advance by the national student union, Tahkim Vahdat. One blog carried live updates on the protest and noted that despite riot police present to make arrests, students reportedly broke open the gates to enter the campus. Gooya News also covered the protests (scroll down for photos). The protest followed a similar rally the day before at Sahand University in Tabriz, and smaller rallies were held on campuses across Iran. 4,000 students marched in Tehran. "Death to Dictators" was chanted by some. One speaker declared to the crowd: "Our struggle is fighting against internal oppression and outside imperialist threats."' (ODIE)

Iraqi ambassador defends US, attacks IRI. ThreatsWatch: 'Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki blamed the presence of US troops for Iraq’s current instability and for creating a security problem for Iran and the entire region. That’s when the Iraqi Ambassador to the Netherlands [Siamand Banaa] rose and challenged his “hypocrisy” and reminded him that the removal of Saddam Hussein “has been, I think, a great advance for you.” ' Fox News carries a report on the incident. (TW, Fox)

Things that suck. The Spirit of Man links US Army Sergeant T. F. Boggs: 'The Iraq Survey Group’s findings or rather, recommendations are a joke and could have only come from a group of old people who have been stuck in Washington for too long. The brainpower of the ISG has come up with a new direction for our country and that includes negotiating with countries whose people chant “Death to America” and whose leaders deny the Holocaust and call for Israel to be wiped from the face of the earth. Baker and Hamilton want us to get terrorists supporting countries involved in fighting terrorism! If I am the only one who finds something wrong with that then please let me know because right now I feel like I am the only person who feels this way. ... One of the main recommendations of the ISG is to send more troops to Iraq in order to train Iraqis so they can secure their own country, but they don’t feel that we are doing a good job of that right now because training Iraqis isn’t an attractive job for soldiers to do because it isn’t a “career advancing” job. As someone who trained Iraqis from time to time I take personal offense to this remark. In my experience soldiers clamored for the chance to train Iraqis. ...Talking doesn’t solve anything with a crazed people, bullets do and we need to be given a chance to work our military magic. Like I told a reporter buddy of mine: War sucks but a world run by Islamofacists sucks more.' (T.F. Boggs via TSOM)

Breaking: Israel won't pull out of Golan. Stratfor (subscription) reports: 'Israel will not withdraw from the Golan Heights, and U.S. President George W. Bush does not want Israel to withdraw either, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Dec. 7 in response to the Dec. 6 release of the report by the Iraq Study Group (ISG). One of the ISG's recommendations was to persuade Israel to return the Golan Heights to Syria.' (Stratfor)

Indo-Israeli anti-missile system. Strategy Page: 'December 7, 2006: Israel has sold India anti-ballistic missile radars. This equipment was used last month in a successful Indian test, where one ballistic missile was fired at another, incoming, one. The technology in question is from the Israeli Green Pine radar, which was originally developed for Israel's Arrow anti-ballistic missile system. Arrow was built, in cooperation with the United States, to defend Israel from Iranian and Syrian ballistic missiles. Now, this Israeli technology will help protect India from Pakistani missiles.' (Strategy Page)

Afghans: Life better post-Taliban. Telegraph: 'Despite fears of rising violence, three quarters of Afghans believe their quality of life has improved since the fall of the Taliban, according to a new poll. Violence continues to play a prominent role in the daily lives of Afghans, with four in 10 reporting experiencing insurgent attacks, including bombings, arson, and killings, in their areas. The poll, which comes on the fifth anniversary of the invasion of the country by coalition forces, found that confidence in the current security situation was deteriorating, with the number of Afghans saying security was better now than under the Taliban dropping to 58 per cent from 75 per cent last year. However, overall there still seems to be broad backing for the coalition's action to depose the former regime. Across the country 70 per cent say they are "grateful" rather than "unhappy" with the presence of Nato troops in the country.' (Telegraph)

Four get death sentences for attack on US ships. MSNBC: 'AMMAN, Jordan - A Jordanian military court on Thursday sentenced three Syrians and one Iraqi to death for firing rockets at two U.S. warships in August 2005. One of the Syrians, Mohammed Hassan Abdullah al-Sihly, is in police custody, but the other two Syrians, Abdul-Rahman al-Sihly and Abdullah al-Sihly, and the Iraqi, Amar al-Samera’i, remain at large and were tried in absentia.' (MSNBC)

Commentary. Today's big story is the release of the Baker-Hamilton report; which is to say, it's a slow news day. Stratfor's analysis (subscription) argues that the report "symbolizes a plan -- even if it isn't one". Fredrick Kagan at The Standard reiterates other commentators' assesment that the report offers little in the way of original ideas, and seems to want to talk about every problem in the Middle East except Iraq.
The report basically punts on the most important issue of the day--establishing security in Iraq. All of the pious exhortations to get Iraqis to sit down with one another, to engage Iran and Syria and to find political compromises are meaningless if we are unable to stem the tide of bloodshed that now engulfs much of Baghdad and Anbar province.

Yet the Baker Report devotes scant space (8 pages out of 56 in the proposals section) to the security problem and its recommendations are unoriginal: Increase the number of American soldiers embedded in Iraqi units as trainers by stripping them out of the combat brigades now working to fight insurgents.

Kagan doesn't like this: 'It takes time to train military forces to be effective in counterinsurgency operations. It takes months to train American units--which, from the start, are stocked with experienced volunteer soldiers. In the violent situation in Iraq today, with the fledgling Iraqi forces, it takes more time. And right now, time is the one thing we don't have.'

I'm not going to devote much more space to the report, except to say that it may be useful as a microcosm - or a Rohrshcach - of the Iraq debate. Perhaps, too, it will give the public a chance to consider, and reject, the empty and failed policies of the past.