Ramifications of the Baker-Hamilton Report

The timetable for a US troop withdrawal from Iraq, as suggested by the Baker-Hamilton Report makes it unlikely that the US will be successful in stabilizing Iraq before it leaves. The Reut Institute identifies a number of likely regional consequences of such a policy.

Yesterday, the Iraq Study Group (ISG), chaired by James Baker and Lee Hamilton published its report on the future of American involvement in Iraq.

The report suggests a timetable for US withdrawal stating that "by the first quarter of 2008… all combat brigades not necessarily for force protection could be out of Iraq." In the context of continued internecine violence, it is unlikely that Iraq will be fully stable before the US withdrawal. An American withdrawal from an unstable Iraq is liable to have strategic ramifications for Israel in the following areas:

Strengthening of the Resistance NetworkAn American withdrawal will likely strengthen and encourage the many non-state actors currently fighting in Iraq. Moreover, as warned by the ISG, "a chaotic Iraq could provide a still stronger base of operations for terrorists who seek to act regionally or even globally." (See: Terror is an Existential Threat).

Undermining Arab Regimes – A chaotic Iraq and the strengthening of the Resistance Network poses a threat to the moderate Arab states, including Egypt and Jordan with which Israel has peace agreements.

Defeat of Israel's ally - The perceived defeat of Israel's principle ally - the US - may further erode the perception of Israel's military strength and its deterrence capability and may encourage sustained resistance from those groups who strive to bring to Israel's destruction.

A change in International Involvement– As America's involvement in the Middle East decreases, other actors - both international and regional - are likely to take its place. These developments may replace the US as the chief mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with mediators who are less favorable to Israel.

Iran and Syria – The ISG suggests 'actively engag[ing] Iran and Syria in diplomatic dialogue without preconditions'. Regarding Syria, Israel may be pressured to compromise on the Golan Heights. Regarding Iran, Israel may have to reexamine its options as any dialogue between Iran and the US is likely to undermine the possibility of American military action against Iran.