As Senate Democrats continue to hold the President accountable for his failed stay-the-course policy in Iraq, the White House has started to consider going back to the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group as a “Plan B”. Senate Democrats have long advocated for many of the recommendations that were incorporated into the Iraq Study Group’s report, while the White House dismissively rejected the group’s recommendations in December in favor of a flawed plan crafted by the American Enterprise Institute. Meanwhile, Americans and Iraqis have paid the price for the President’s slow transition from its flawed Plan A to a more sustainable Plan B.
The President’s New Plan B
Iraq Study Group-Inspired Ideas Being Considered by the White House as a “Plan B” for Iraq:
- Train Iraqi security forces and support them as they gain sufficient intelligence, logistics and transport capability to operate independently.
- Provide “force protection” for U.S. troops who remain in Iraq.
- Continue Special Forces operations against al-Qaeda, in the hope of gradually reducing suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks on the Iraqi government. “That’s the accelerator for sectarian violence,” said one official.
- Focus U.S. activities on the two big enemies of stability and democracy in Iraq — al-Qaeda and Iranian-backed sectarian militias.
- Maintain the territorial integrity and independence of Iraq.
- Ensure the near-term continuation of democracy in Iraq. (Washington Post, 5/22/07)
President Bush’s Plan B Was Plan A for Democrats, Military Experts, and the American People: Democrats Have Consistently Embraced Ideas that the Iraq Study Group Promoted
The Democratic Reed-Levin amendment included recommendations on changing the course in Iraq that were later embraced by the Iraq Study Group and called for expediting the transition of U.S. forces to a limited mission of training and logistic support of Iraqi security forces, protection of U.S. personnel and facilities, and targeting counterterrorism activities, among other provisions. (Reed-Levin Amendment, introduced 6/19/06)
Senator Harry Reid and Senator Dick Durbin made recommendations to the Iraq Study Group that the ISG later incorporated into its report. (Memorandum from Reid and Durbin to Members of the Iraq Study Group, 8/2/06)
Many of the Democratic Real Security Act’s provisions appeared in the report of the Iraq Study Group, such as:
- Providing a Blueprint for Success.
- Transitioning the Mission and Beginning the Phased Redeployment.
- Engaging in More Robust Diplomacy to Help Resolve Sectarian Differences.
- Internationalizing the Effort. (Real Security Act, 9/7/06)
Majority Leader Harry Reid embraced the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group: “The Iraq Study Group has done a tremendous and historic service to the American people and to the troops serving in harm’s way in Iraq. Their report underscores the message the American people sent one month ago: there must be change in Iraq, and there is no time to lose. It is time for the Iraqis to build and secure their nation, and it is time for American combat troops to be redeployed.” (Statement by Senator Harry Reid, 12/6/06)
The Supplemental vetoed by the President followed the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group. The vetoed Supplemental would have:
- Transitioned the U.S. mission away from policing a civil war to training and equipping Iraqi security forces, protecting U.S. forces and conducting targeted counter-terror operations.
- Began the phased redeployment of our troops no later than October 1, 2007, with a goal of removing all combat forces by April 1, 2008, except for those carrying out security, training and counter-terror operations. .
- Held the Iraqi government accountable by setting measurable and achievable benchmarks on the Iraqi government for security, political reconciliation, and improving the lives of ordinary Iraqis.
- Launched a diplomatic, economic and political offensive, starting with a regional conference working toward a long-term framework for stability in the region. (Statement on the Supplemental, 4/24/07)
For President Bush, Plan A Was a Rejection of the Iraq Study Group’s Recommendations
Bush distanced himself from the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations on Iraq. “President Bush moved quickly on Thursday to distance himself from the central recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group: pulling back all combat brigades over the next 15 months and direct talks with Iran and Syria. One day after the independent panel rocked Washington with its bleak assessment of conditions in Iraq, Mr. Bush met at the White House with his closest ally in the war, Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain. The president said afterward that the United States needs “a new approach” in Iraq and that he would ”seriously consider” the report, but was unlikely to accept all of its recommendations.” (New York Times, 12/07/06)
President Bush said that an Iraq Study Group recommendation had “no realism to it whatsoever.” Bush: “This business about graceful exit just simply has no realism to it whatsoever.” (Washington Post, 12/1/06)
President Bush called some of the Iraq Study Group ideas defeatist. Bush: “‘I’ve heard some ideas that would lead to defeat, and I reject those ideas — ideas such as leaving before the job is done.'” (Boston Globe, 12/15/06)
President Bush rejected the advice of Republican pragmatists advocating a sensible bipartisan plan in favor of the neocon-embraced “surge” plan. Newsweek deemed the Iraq Study Group “The Rescue Squad”: “With Congress lost, George W. Bush is looking for a way out of Iraq, and his father’s men, led by Jim Baker, are riding in to help.” Unfortunately, these seasoned experts’ sensible advice was dismissed in favor of a flawed surge strategy designed by neocon advisors: “Sources say one conservative policy group that has the president’s ear and is influencing his thinking is the American Enterprise Institute. It briefed White House officials last week about its own report, which dismisses the Iraq Study Group’s recommendation to move U.S. troops from fighting positions to training Iraqi soldiers.” (Newsweek, 11/20/06; CNN, 12/18/06)
Meanwhile the World Waits for Bush to Change from Plan A to Plan B:
Since the bipartisan Iraq Study Group provided its recommended plan in December:
531 U.S. Service-Members lost their lives. (icasualties.org)
U.S. taxpayers spent $48 Billion in Iraq (nationalpriorities.org)
28,700 additional U.S. troops were sent to Iraq in support of the President’s “surge” plan. (Washington Post, 3/19/07)
The U.S. got on track to have a record number of troops in Iraq by the end of the year. “The Bush administration is quietly on track to nearly double the number of combat troops in Iraq this year, an analysis of Pentagon deployment orders showed Monday. When additional support troops are included in this second troop “surge,” the total number of U.S. troops in Iraq could increase from 162,000 now to more than 200,000 — a record high number — by the end of the year.” (Hearst, 5/22/07)
Sectarian violence continues to plague Baghdad. “The difficulties faced by the Iraqi government were underscored by a series of attacks Monday that included a mortar shell slamming into the roof of the Iraqi parliament building inside the fortified Green Zone. No casualties were reported. Police in Baghdad recovered at least 24 unidentified bodies in the 24 hours ending Monday night, apparent victims of sectarian death squads.” (Los Angeles Times, 5/22/07)
Al Qaeda’s command base in Pakistan is seeing record cash flows- from Iraq. “In one of the most troubling trends, U.S. officials said that Al Qaeda’s command base in Pakistan is increasingly being funded by cash coming out of Iraq, where the terrorist network’s operatives are raising substantial sums from donations to the anti-American insurgency as well as kidnappings of wealthy Iraqis and other criminal activity. The influx of money has bolstered Al Qaeda’s leadership ranks at a time when the core command is regrouping and reasserting influence over its far-flung network. The trend also signals a reversal in the traditional flow of Al Qaeda funds, with the network’s leadership surviving to a large extent on money coming in from its most profitable franchise, rather than distributing funds from headquarters to distant cells.” (LA Times, 5/20/07)