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Monday, December 11, 2006

Editor of Arabic Reformist Website AAFAQ Criticizes Iraq Study Group Findings

Special Dispatch-Iraq
December 12, 2006
No. 1387

Editor of Arabic Reformist Website AAFAQ Criticizes Recommendations of the
Iraq Study Group

To view this Special Dispatch in HTML, visit: .

The following is the translation of an editorial titled "The Poisonous Report"
that was posted on the Arabic reformist website on December 8,
2006. It was written by website editor Omran Salman.(1)

"We may summarize the Iraq Study Group's report chaired by former secretary of
state James Baker in one sentence: 'Handcuff the hands and free the tongue.'
This conclusion went hand in hand with the common wisdom that says: 'When
people sit to talk to one another, they forget their fighting.' This can be
explained by realizing that the Iraq Study Group wanted to divert the conflict
from the military and security side to the diplomatic and political side, in
the hope that this diversion will reduce the pressure on the U.S. and allow -
with the passage of time - the redistribution of power in Iraq.

"The report, which was made public Wednesday [12/6/06] after keeping everyone
guessing about its content, did not say how this diversion could solve the
security and military conflict in Iraq. Surely the report was unable to answer
this question, simply because no one knows the answer. If any of the Group's
members knew the answer, he or she would have whispered it a long time ago to
the U.S. administration or to its adversaries. But the transition to what the
Group referred to as 'The Political and Diplomatic Combat,' which aims at
involving Iran and Iraq in the determination of Iraq's destiny, would require
a price which the U.S. will have to pay.

"Here lies the essence of this whole report. The price is to completely
abandon the spreading of democracy in the Middle East, and to begin a dialogue
with the dictatorial regimes of Damascus and Tehran.

"In other word, the cost of bringing the Syrians and Iranians to the
negotiating table on Iraq and of making them participate in finding a solution
to its crisis is to grant them the honor of partnership in finding a
solution - while they are conspiring and allowing militants and weapons to
pass through into Iraq.

"This partnership means equity and the freedom of exchange of ideas and
information, and possibly cooperation on other issues. If this happens, the
current and any future administration won't be able to demand that these two
regimes change their behaviors.

"The Study Group on Iraq realizes that this price is very high, and that
President Bush will not accept it. Therefore, to make it a more comprehensive
report about the Middle East, they proposed solutions with other issues, such
as the peace negotiations between Israel and each of Syria, Lebanon and
Palestinians, with the hope that this will make the deal relatively acceptable
by making its expected advantages more attractive.

"The other possibility, about which the Group did not think deeply, was the
extent to which the other side would accept the deal, particularly Iran. And,
if Iran accepted it, what would its conditions be? The report attempted to
respond to this point by indicating that if Iran rejects the deal, it will be
proof that Tehran is not cooperating, and is involved intentionally in
sabotaging the situation in Iraq - and this will expose and further isolate it
internationally! Oh, really? God only knows what the Iranians thought when
they read those words. For sure they laughed out loud about the naiveté of the
report and its authors.

"What the authors of the report did not know, or may have neglected, is the
fact that the moment they started talking about the U.S.'s need for Iranian
assistance in containing the Iraqi situation, they in fact handcuffed the Bush
administration, depriving it of any cards to pressure Iran, now and in the

"It took the U.S. and the international community a decade to rectify the
mistake (and it is still not yet rectified) of the previous Bush (the father)
administration, which had James Baker as one of its pillars, of handing
Lebanon over to the Syrian regime in exchange for Syrian participation in the
Gulf War of 1991.

"It's true that the situation in Iraq is bad. All agree that the previous
policy has failed and that it must change. But it is important that such
change should not be allowed to cause new catastrophes.

"In this context, three catastrophes are looming on the horizon:

"The first is accepting the Syrian and Iranian regimes as part of the solution
to the Middle East problems, after everyone including the American political
establishment has indeed considered them part of the problem. This change
simply means the total failure of the American policy in the region.

"The second is putting Iraq's destiny in the hands of these regimes, which, at
the least, are considered criminals, and have no credibility or moral values.

"The third is the total abandonment of the goal of spreading democracy and
reforms in the region. It was striking to note that the report, with its 142
pages, did not mention democracy at all.

"In other words, the report of the Study Group on Iraq, besides the fact that
it did not present any real solution to the Iraq's problem, throws the baby
out with the bathwater. The report's final outcome is the solution of the
Syrian and Iranian regimes' problem - not America's problems. Therefore, this
report is more poison than cure."

(1) For more articles by Omran Salman see, MEMRI Special Dispatch No 1202,
July 12, 2006, "New Arabic Reformist Website: 'The Arab World Doesn't Have to
Choose Between Islamists and Dictators; There is a Third Way - the Way of
Reform, Liberalism, and Democracy,'" ;
MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 1140, "Bahraini Reformist: 'In the Beginning There
Was Man not Religion," April 12, 2006, ;
MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 1016, "Liberal Bahraini Journalist: 'Who Hates
America in the Arab and Muslim World, and Why,' November 2, 2005, ;
MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 1010, October 21, 2006, "Bahraini Journalist: Not
Since the Nazi Era Has There Been Anything Like Al-Qaeda's Declaration of War
on the Shi'ites in Iraq," .

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) is an independent, non-profit
organization that translates and analyzes the media of the Middle East.
Copies of articles and documents cited, as well as background information, are
available on request.

MEMRI holds copyrights on all translations. Materials may only be used with
proper attribution.

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI)
P.O. Box 27837, Washington, DC 20038-7837
Phone: (202) 955-9070
Fax: (202) 955-9077
Search previous MEMRI publications at

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors. Originally posted at Please do link to these articles, quote from them and forward them by email to friends with this notice. Other uses require written permission of the author.


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