Study Group on Iraq can't find emergency exit

7 December 2006

Study Group on Iraq can't find emergency exit

America will not withdraw completely from Iraq, but will gradually reduce the number of its troops there. That is the most important conclusion of the report of the American Study Group on Iraq published yesterday. Commenting on the report, SP foreign affairs spokesman Harry van Bommel described it as "too cautious, and insufficient. The Study Group should have pointed Bush towards the emergency exit, but has somehow missed it."

The Americans want to stay in charge and give others joint responsibility. At the same time they want to find a diplomatic solution to other problems in the Middle East and start negotiations towards this goal. Because of this they need the support of the surrounding countries, and are also thinking about the Palestinians.

Harry van BommelIf the American government wants peace in the region it must depend on countries such as Syria and Iran, which in the recent past they have openly labelled as enemies. A major conference under the leadership of the UN where a diplomatic solution could be worked out is not included in the plan. “That's certainly what's needed," said Mr Van Bommel. “But it's also obvious that the US has no desire to leave Iraq. They want to retain their military bases and maintain their grip on the country. What the Iraqis themselves think of this appears to be of little importance. It's just that the Americans don't want to take responsibility any more for the disaster which they have brought about. They are making the Iraqis an offer they can't refuse.”

The bipartisan commission, under the leadership of ex-Secretary of State James Baker, has spent months studying the Americans' problem. Its report contains a total of seventy-nine separate conclusions. As well as specific plans, the aim is for US troops to play what would be primarily a supporting role in Iraq. This would enable a proportion of American soldiers to be brought home. The Iraqi government must take on more and more responsibilities, and is pressured to do so by threats to withdraw military and economic support should it fail to achieve certain security goals.

“Just as was the case after the Gulf War of 1991," said Van Bommel, "there is a proposal aimed at achieving piece regarding the Palestinian question in order to bring an end to regional instability. Negotiations can be held with those Palestinian leaders whom Israel is willing to recognise. Of course it's high time that a solution to the Palestinian question was put on the agenda; the question is simply to what extent the Americans are also willing to bring pressure to bear on the Israelis.”

In the meantime the new US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has stated that America is not winning the was in Iraq, adding, in a Congressional hearing, that developments over the next two years would be of decisive importance, giving shape to the whole of the Middle East and influencing world-wide geopolitical relations for many years. Harry van Bommel wholeheartedly agrees with this analysis, but believes that the UN must take on a much greater diplomatic role, seeking not only to end the war and the occupation of Iraq, but to find a solution to the Palestinian question.

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