ISG Report’s Recommendations Outdated, Warn Critics

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Growing numbers of Congressional Republicans are (at long last) warming up to the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group report. In fact, a bipartisan amendment to an upcoming defense authorization bill is being bandied about that would re-emphasize a diplomatic solution to the Iraq conflict, advocate an oil revenue bill acceptable to all three of the country’s sectarian groups, and maybe (just maybe) withdraw most U.S. troops by 2008. The amendment puts Harry Reid and the Democrats in a tough position; they obviously prefer the ISG’s recommendations to Bush’s current game of wait-and-see, but it will take much more than that to appease their base.

For example, the Center for American Progress, a Washington-based progressive policy organization, today released a report warning that much of the ISG report has now been overtaken by events and urging lawmakers to reconsider its recommendations before blindly passing them into law.

A summary of the group’s concerns:

  1. Conditioning U.S. withdrawal on the “We’ll stand down when they stand up” formula: They’ll more likely stand up when we stand down. The continued presence of U.S. troops provides little motivation for Iraq’s security forces to assert themselves.
  2. Placing too much focus on Iraq’s central government: The central government of Iraq is a fiction. Iraq’s leaders disagree on the country’s future direction and the country’s political parties are bitterly divided along religious and sectarian lines. These divides may ultimately prove unbridgeable.
  3. Paying insufficient attention to the Iraqi Constitution and the will of the Iraqi people: The ISG report calls for the central government to control Iraq’s oil revenues, contrary to the wishes of the Iraqis themselves, who voted for decentralization. In addition, most Iraqis want U.S. forces to leave within a year and a sizeable majority (61%, according to one poll) support attacks against Americans.
  4. Supporting the unconditional training of Iraq’s security forces: The ISG report recommends a force of between 10,000 and 20,000 U.S. military advisors to train Iraqi troops, but advisors would require large numbers of additional U.S. troops for force protection, removing them from other key positions around the world. In addition, the Iraqi army continues to be unreliable and overridden by sectarian divisions. Loyalties to tribe and religious sect override loyalty to the state.
  5. Offering undeveloped ideas on a regional diplomatic offensive: The ISG recommends the creation of a regional contact group to solve Iraq’s internal and external problems diplomatically. Such a “one-size-fits-all” approach fails to recognize the individual concerns and differing interests of each of Iraq’s neighbors.

Whether the Democrats will listen to these concerns remains an open question. If the amendment were to pass, it would (despite its flaws) be the toughest challenge yet to the Bush administration’s approach to Iraq. But it might be too little of a good thing, especially for angry Democratic voters.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend