12.17.06

The Baker-Hamilton Report

The term Baker Hamilton Report, also known as the Iraqi Study Group (ISG), refers to a 10 person Bipartisan committee charged by Congress with assessing new ideas for the US presence in Iraq.

Definition

The term Baker Hamilton Report, also known as the Iraqi Study Group (ISG), refers to a 10 person Bipartisan committee charged by Congress with assessing new ideas for the US presence in Iraq. The Committee led by former secretary of state James A. Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton published its findings on December 6th 2006.

Background

In March 2006, against the background of continued instability, increased violence and perceived political deadlock in Iraq, Congress created the Iraqi Study Group to analyze the U.S. war effort and to make (non obligatory) policy recommendations to both Capitol Hill and the White House. The 10 man Bipartisan Committee was to be chaired by James Baker, former Secretary of State and Lee Hamilton, a former US representative.1 The document was to be just one among several other studies being prepared by the State Department, the Pentagon and the National Security Council.

In total, the Committee met with 170 people in the process of preparing the Report which numbers 160 pages and makes 79 recommendations. It examined key challenges to enhancing Iraqi security, economy and political structure and suggests creating a 'New Diplomatic Offensive' and ways to 'Help Iraqis Help Themselves.' In addition, the Report claims a linkage between stability in Iraq and regional stability on the whole.

Within Iraq

The Report focuses on stabilizing Iraq politically, economically and security wise by using milestones and also discusses different timetables for American troop withdrawal.
  • Milestones: With regards to the internal situation within Iraq, the Baker Hamilton Report recommends putting in place policies that would 'help Iraqis help themselves' by setting milestones for improving the situation in the areas of National Reconciliation, Governance and Security. The Report posits that continued US political, economic and military support should be conditional on the Iraqi government 'showing political will and making substantial progress' in meeting these milestones.

  • Troop Withdrawal: The Report recommends the gradual withdrawal of US troops from Iraq with the full withdrawal of all troops to take place by the first quarter of 2008.

Regional Political Package

Basing itself on the assumption that no country in the region wants chaos in Iraq, the Report suggests building an international consensus to deal with the problems in Iraq.
  • Iraq International Support Group – An International Support Group, including all the regional players, should be created to discuss problems in Iraq. The Group will include the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council, as well as all of Iraq's neighbors (including Syria and Iran) and other regional Arab states. The Report also suggests that Germany, South Korea and Japan may want to join.

  • Iran and Syria - The Report recommends 'actively engaging Iran and Syria in diplomatic dialogue without preconditions' believing the two countries to have potential influence in stabilizing Iraq. On the subject of Iran, the report suggests separating the issue of its nuclear program (that will be dealt with by UN Security Council) from the issue of securing Iraq. It asks Iran to stop training Iraqi militias, declare its acceptance of Iraq's sovereignty and to help in its economic restoration. Syria is required to control the border and to increase political and economic cooperation with the new Iraqi Government.

  • Afghanistan – The Report calls for the continuation of political, economic and military support for Afghanistan.

Arab Israeli Conflict

The Report believes that another part to building an international consensus is by dealing with Regional issues that can stabilize the Middle East as a whole. It claims that 'Iraq can not be addressed in isolation from other major issues, interests and unresolved conflicts.' This part of the Report focuses on finding a way to solve the Arab – Israeli conflict.

  • Arab Israeli Conflict - The Report believes that that 'the US will not be able to achieve its goals in the Middle East unless it deals directly with the Arab - Israeli conflict and calls for a 'renewed and sustained commitment' to facilitate peace between Israel and its neighbors. It suggests the 'unconditional calling and holding of meetings under the auspices of the US or the Quartet' similar to the model of the Madrid Conference to negotiate peace on two different tracks - the Israeli - Palestinian and the Israeli - Syrian / Lebanese.

  • Israeli – Palestinian Track - The Report supports direct talks between Israel and those Palestinian groups that accept its right to exist on the basis of UN resolutions 242 and 338 as well as President Bush's 2002 vision for a two state solution. It bases its recommendations on several assumptions - that the conflict has no military solution and necessitates a negotiated solution, that no American administration will ever abandon Israel and that the Israeli people are fed up of war. It calls for renewed support for PA President Abu Mazen, effort to strengthen the recent Israeli - Palestinian ceasefire, support for a Palestinian unity government and 'sustainable negotiations' between the two sides over borders, settlements, Jerusalem, the Right of Return and an End of Conflict.

  • Israeli – Syrian / Lebanon Track - The Commission views Syria as supporting radical Palestinian groups and being the 'principal transit point for shipments of weapons for Hizbullah.' However, it believes that Syria should be diplomatically engaged. It calls on Syria to fully adhere to UNSC 1701 and the Hariri investigation, to stop undermining Siniora's government, cease supplying arms and support to Hizbullah and Hamas and to make greater efforts to secure its border with Iraq. In return, the Commission calls on Israel to enter into negotiations with Syria to discuss full and secure peace in return for a withdrawal from the Golan Heights and a US security guarantee for Israel (which could potentially include US troops as part of an international force).


1 The other members of the Committee are Lawrence S. Eagleburger, Vernon E. Jordan Jr., Edwin Meese III, Sandra Day O'Connor, Leon E. Panetta, William J. Perry, Charles S. Robb and Alan K. Simpson