The members of the Iraq Study Group hope that their collaboration will, among other things, help usher in a new spirit of bipartisanship. So as a Republican, I’ll offer this bipartisan thought — other than Jimmy Carter, I can’t think of a major public figure I like less than James Baker.
The two share a strong desire to stick it to Israel. I’ve always thought that Baker’s is less pathological than Carter’s, but after reading the ISG report (and Scott’s post below), I’m no longer certain. Baker’s position as head of the ISG has provided him with one last chance to exert pressure on Israel to make territorial concessions, and Baker has seized that opportunity with gusto.
Yet the Israeli-Palestinian question has nothing to do with our problems in Iraq, and the ISG report presents no evidence or argument to the contrary. The Sunni insurrection is unrelated to Israel — it’s an attempt by those who had power under Saddam to seize back that power, or as much of it as they can. Al Qaeda didn’t join that insurrection because of Israel. It wants to kill Americans, deal the U.S. a defeat, and establish a new territorial base of operations. The Shiite militias aren’t in business because of Israel. They’re interested in obtaining power and dishing out revenge on the Sunnis. Iran isn’t meddling because of Israel. It wants influence in Iraq or, short of that, to make sure its old adversary remains weak.
Finally, fighters aren’t crossing the Syrian border into Iraq because of Israel. Syria has an interest in seeing the U.S. fail in Iraq because the U.S. wants regime change in Syria and has opposed Syrian interests in Lebanon. So it’s not surprising that Syria is happy to see foreign fighters enter Iraq to kill Americans. But even if Syria were less antagonistic towards the U.S., it still could not be expected to devote its resources to patrolling a long porous border on our behalf — the only way to provide that incentive would be to threaten Syria with harsh military consequences if it does not step up to the plate. But stopping foreign fighters from entering would not substantially improve the situation in Iraq because, as the ISG report states, the vast majority of the fighting is the work of Iraqis.
Accordingly, the ISG’s recommendation that Israel return the commanding Golan Heights — which tower over Israel and were used for years by the Syrians to rain rockets upon the Israelis — to Syria should be viewed as the latest manifestation of Baker’s grudge against Israel, and not a good faith attempt to provide helpful advice about the situation in Iraq.
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