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Profile: Iraq Study Group (ISG)
Iraq Study Group (ISG) was a participant or observer in the following events:
For the entire fiscal year of 2006, the US grants the new Iraqi military only $3 billion, which is less than what the US military spends in Iraq every two weeks. According to the Iraq Study Group, this results in a major shortage of equipment for the Iraqi military that renders them incapable of carrying out missions. [Iraq Study Group, 2006, pp. 13 ]
The Iraq Study Group, working to finalize its long-awaited report (see December 2006), works all of its connections to the White House to ensure that the report receives a fair hearing. No one in the study group anticipates their report will receive a warm reception from the White House. Co-chairman James Baker is playing on both his ties with the president’s father and on the fact that he secured the 2000 election victory for President Bush. “Here you have Baker coming back trying to pull the president’s chestnuts out of the fire,” a former State Department official later observes. “Not only did he help Bush out in Florida, but now he is doing the Baker-Hamilton commission. He and [Brent] Scowcroft were talking relentlessly during the policy formulation of the Iraq Study Group report. Baker was keeping the president informed the whole time. He is trying to throw him a lifeline and give him an exit.” Scowcroft, another close ally of the elder Bush, is working with his former protege, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, to try to gain Bush’s attention. Rice indicates that she will help; unfortunately, she is not sincere in her assurances, as she never intervenes on Scowcroft’s behalf. [Unger, 2007, pp. 342-343]
Robert Gates. [Source: US Defense Department]In its final report, the Iraq Study Group (ISG) recommends significant changes to Iraq’s oil industry. The report’s 63rd recommendation states that the US should “assist Iraqi leaders to reorganize the national oil industry as a commercial enterprise” and “encourage investment in Iraq’s oil sector by the international community and by international energy companies.” The recommendation also says the US should “provide technical assistance to the Iraqi government to prepare a draft oil law.” [Iraq Study Group, 2006, pp. 57 ] The report makes a number of recommendations about the US occupation of Iraq, including hints that the US should consider moving towards a tactical withdrawal of forces from that beleaguered nation. President Bush’s reaction to the report is best summed up by his term for the report: a “flaming turd.” Bush’s scatological reaction does not bode well for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s own hopes that the administration will use the ISG report as a template for revising its approach to Iraq. This does not happen. Instead, Vice President Dick Cheney organizes a neoconservative counter to the ISG’s recommendations, led by the American Enterprise Institute’s Frederick Kagan. Kagan and his partner, retired general Jack Keane, quickly formulate a plan to dramatically escalate the number of US troops in Iraq, an operation quickly termed “the surge” (see January 10, 2007). The only element of the ISG report that is implemented in the Bush administration’s operations in Iraq is the label “a new way forward,” a moniker appropriated for the surge of troops. Administration officials such as Rice and the new defense secretary, Robert Gates, quickly learn to swallow their objections and get behind Bush’s new, aggressive strategy; military commanders who continue to support elements of the ISG recommendations, including CENTCOM commander General John Abizaid and ground commander General George Casey, are either forced into retirement (Abizaid) or shuttled into a less directly influential position (Casey). [Salon, 1/10/2007]
Entity Tags: American Enterprise Institute, Condoleezza Rice, Frederick Kagan, Iraq Study Group, Robert M. Gates, Jack Keane, George Casey, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, George W. Bush, John P. Abizaid
Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Iraq under US Occupation
The Iraq Study Group (ISG), chaired by former Republican Secretary of State James Baker and former Democratic congressman Lee Hamilton, holds an early-morning breakfast session with senior officials of the Bush administration, including President Bush, to discuss its 79 recommendations for the future conduct of the Iraq war. The White House essentially ignores the report (see December 2006). ISG member Lawrence Eagleburger will later say of Bush, “I don’t recall, seriously, that he asked any questions” during the meeting.
Former Senator's Recollection - Former Republican Senator Alan Simpson, another ISG member present at the breakfast meeting, later recalls: “It was an early-morning session, seven a.m., I think, breakfast, the day we trotted it out. And Jim and Lee said, ‘Mr. President, we will’—and Dick was there, [Vice President] Cheney was there—‘just go around the room, if you would, and all of us share with you a quick thought?’ And the president said fine. I thought at first the president seemed a little—I don’t know, just maybe impatient, like, ‘What now?’ He went around the room. Everybody stated their case. It just took a couple minutes. I know what I said. I said, ‘Mr. President, we’re not here to present this to vex or embarrass you in any way. That’s not the purpose of this. We’re in a tough, tough situation, and we think these recommendations can help the country out. We’ve agreed on every word here, and I hope you’ll give it your full attention.’ He said, ‘Oh, I will.’ And I turned to Dick, and I said, ‘Dick, old friend, I hope you’ll gnaw on this, too. This is very important that you hear this and review it.’ And he said, ‘I will, I will, and thanks.’ Then the president gave an address not too far after that. And we were called by [National Security Adviser Stephen] Hadley on a conference call. He said, ‘Thank you for the work. The president’s going to mention your report, and it’ll be—there will be parts of it that he will embrace, in fact, and if he doesn’t happen to speak on certain issues, you know that they’ll be in full consideration in the weeks to come,’ or something like that. And we all listened with a wry smile. We figured that maybe five of the 79 recommendations would ever be considered, and I think we were pretty right.”
Hamilton's Recollection - Hamilton has similar recollections of the meeting and the administration’s response to the report: “Cheney was there, never said a word, not a—of course, the recommendations from his point of view were awful, but he never criticized. Bush was very gracious, said we’ve worked hard and did this great service for the country—and he ignored it so far as I can see. He fundamentally didn’t agree with it. President Bush has always sought, still seeks today, a victory, military victory. And we did not recommend that. The gist of what we had to say was a responsible exit. He didn’t like that.” [Vanity Fair, 2/2009]
After the Iraq Study Group (ISG) report is tossed aside by President Bush (see December 2006), his neoconservative advisers quickly locate a study more to their liking. Not surprisingly, it is from the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute. The study, written by Frederick Kagan (the brother of Robert Kagan, a signatory of the 1998 PNAC letter urging then-President Clinton to overthrow Saddam Hussein—see January 26, 1998), was commissioned in late September or early October by Kagan’s AEI boss, Danielle Pletka, the vice president of foreign and defense studies at the institute. Kagan later says that Plekta thought “it would be helpful to do a realistic evaluation of what would be required to secure Baghdad.” The study is released during a four-day planning exercise that coincides with the release of the ISG report, but Kagan says neither the timing nor the report itself has anything to do with the ISG. “This is not designed to be an anti-ISG report,” Kagan insists. “Any conspiracy theories beyond that are nonsense. There was no contact with the Bush administration. We put this together on our own. I did not have any contact with the vice president’s office prior to… well, I don’t want to say that. I have had periodic contact with the vice president’s office, but I can’t tell you the dates.” Kagan’s study, with the appealing title “Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq,” says that 20,000 more US troops deployed throughout Baghdad will turn the tide and ensure success. The study becomes the centerpiece of Bush’s “surge” strategy (see January 2007). [Unger, 2007, pp. 342-343]
Details of ‘surge’ troop deployments . [Source: Jordan Times] (click image to enlarge)In a major policy speech regarding Iraq, President Bush announces that he will order 21,500 more US combat troops to Iraq, in a troop escalation he calls a “surge.” The bulk of the troops will be deployed in and around Baghdad. In addition, 4,000 Marines will go to the violent al-Anbar province. In announcing the escalation, he concedes a point he has resisted for over three years, that there have not been enough US troops in Iraq to adequately provide security and create conditions favorable for an Iraqi democracy to take hold. He admits that his previous strategy was based on flawed assumptions about the unstable Iraqi government. “Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility lies with me,” he says. Bush says that to consider any withdrawals of American troops would be a grave mistake, and that by increasing the number of troops in Iraq now, conditions will improve to a point at which troops can be withdrawn. “To step back now would force a collapse of the Iraqi government,” he says. “Such a scenario would result in our troops being forced to stay in Iraq even longer, and confront an enemy that is even more lethal. If we increase our support at this crucial moment, and help the Iraqis break the current cycle of violence, we can hasten the day our troops begin coming home.” Bush also commits the Iraqi government to meeting a series of “benchmarks,” tangible indicators of progress being made, that include adding a further 8,000 Iraqi troops and police officers in Baghdad, passage of long-delayed legislation to share oil revenues among Iraq’s ethnic groups, and a $10 billion jobs and reconstruction program, to be financed by the Iraqis. Bush aides insist that the new strategy is largely the conception of the Iraqi government, with only limited input from US planners. If successful, he says, the results will be a “functioning democracy” that “fights terrorists instead of harboring them.” [New York Times, 1/10/2007; ABC News, 1/10/2007; White House, 1/10/2007] While no one is sure how much the new policies will cost, Bush is expected to demand “billions” from Congress to fund his new escalation in the weeks ahead. [Marketwatch, 1/5/2005]
'New Way Forward' - The surge has a new marketing moniker, the “New Way Forward.” Some believe that the surge is more for political and public relations purposes than any real military effectiveness. “Clearly the deteriorating situation in Iraq is the overall background,” says political scientist Ole Holsti. The changes may indicate “they are looking for new bodies bringing fresh thinking…or you may have a kind of public-relations aspect,” to show Bush’s change in course is “more than just words.” [CBS News, 1/5/2007; USA Today, 1/5/2007]
Surge Already Underway - Interestingly, while Bush announces the “new” strategy of escalating the US presence in Iraq tonight, the escalation is already well underway. 90 advance troops from the Army’s 82nd Airborne are already in Baghdad, and another 800 from the same division are en route. The escalation will necessitate additional call-ups from the National Guard as well as additional reactivation of troops who have already toured Iraq and Afghanistan. Additionally, the naval group spearheaded by the aircraft carrier USS Stennis will shortly be en route to the Persian Gulf. Whether the new plan will work is anyone’s guess, say military commanders in Iraq. The escalation will take several months to implement and longer to see tangible results. One military official says, “We don’t know if this will work, but we do know the old way was failing.”
Contradicting Previous Assertions - In announcing the surge, Bush contradicts the position he has asserted since the March 2003 invasion—that military commanders were determining the direction of the war effort. Bush has repeatedly spoken of his disdain for micromanaging the war effort, and has said that he won’t second-guess his commanders. “It’s important to trust the judgment of the military when they’re making military plans,” he said in December 2006. “I’m a strict adherer to the command structure.” However, Bush balked at following the advice of many top military officials and generals, who have recommended a gradual drawdown in troop strengths, and in recent weeks replaced several top military officials who expressed doubts about the need or efficacy of new troop deployments in Iraq (see January 5, 2007). Instead, Bush believes the escalation will alleviate the drastically deteriorating security situation in Iraq. According to Pentagon officials, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who oppose the surge, have agreed to support it only grudgingly, and only because Bush officials have promised a renewed diplomatic and political effort to go along with the escalation. Outgoing Central Command chief General John Abizaid said in November that further troop increases were not a viable answer to the Iraq situation, and in their November 30 meeting, Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki did not ask Bush for more troops, instead indicating that he wanted Iraqi troops to take a higher profile. Viewpoints differ on Bush’s interaction with his commanders up to this point—some have seen him as too passive with the generals and military advisers, allowing them almost free rein in Iraq, while others see him as asserting himself by forcing the retirements or reassignments of generals who disagree with his policies.
Rebuffing the ISG - Many observers believe the surge is a backhanded rebuff to the Iraq Study Group (see January 10, 2007).
Surge Plan Concocted at Right-Wing Think Tank - Interestingly, the surge plan itself comes largely from neoconservative planners at the American Enterprise Institute (see January 2007).
Long-Term Ramifications - The Joint Chiefs worry that a troop escalation will set up the US military for an even larger failure, without having any backup options. The Iraqis will not deliver the troops necessary for their own security efforts, they believe, and worry that US troops will end up fighting in what amounts to a political vacuum unless Bush comes up with a plan for dramatic political and economic changes to go along with the military effort. A surge could lead to increased attacks by Iraqi al-Qaeda fighters, open the troops up to more attacks by Sunni insurgents, and fuel the jihadist appeal for more foreign fighters to battle US forces in Iraq. And the escalation’s short-term conception—to last no more than six to eight months—might well play into the plans of Iraq’s armed factions by allowing them to “game out” the new strategy. The JCS also wonder just where Bush will find the troops for the surge. Frederick Kagan, one of the architects of the surge plan, and Republican presidential candidate John McCain want far more than 20,000 troops, but the Joint Chiefs say that they can muster 20,000 at best, and not all at once. Rumsfeld’s replacement, Robert Gates, played a key role in convincing the Joint Chiefs to support the escalation. The biggest selling point of the escalation is the White House’s belief that it will portray the administration as visibly and dramatically taking action in Iraq, and will help create conditions that will eventually allow for a gradual withdrawal of US troops: Bush says, “[W]e have to go up before we go down.” [Washington Post, 1/10/2007]
Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, Edward M. (“Ted”) Kennedy, George W. Bush, American Enterprise Institute, Carl Levin, Frederick Kagan, Harry Reid, Iraq Study Group, Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Peter Pace, Robert M. Gates, John P. Abizaid, John McCain, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Donald Rumsfeld, Nouri al-Maliki, Nancy Pelosi, Ole Holsti
Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation
According to some administration insiders, President Bush’s plan to send 21,500 more US combat troops into Iraq (see January 10, 2007) may actually be a behind-the-scenes rebuff to the Iraq Study Group (ISG). In December 2006 the ISG reported that the US should withdraw almost all of its combat troops by early 2008 and instead open diplomatic dialogs with Iran and Syria in an attempt to regain political stability in the region (see December 2006). Bush ignored almost all of the ISG’s recommendations, and indeed began reshaping his policy in a more aggressive manner, going directly against the ISG’s recommendations. Some members of the National Security Council began pushing the idea of a new troop escalation in part because it went against the ISG’s findings, though administration officials say that the NSC staffers support a surge in order to shore up Iraq security. [Washington Post, 1/10/2007] When Bush received the report in late December 2006, a White House spokesman told the press, “Jim Baker can go back to his day job.” The only remnant of the ISG’s findings in the new Bush policy is the remade ISG slogan, “the way forward,” which Bush now calls his “new way forward.” [Salon, 12/20/2006]
Admiral William J. Fallon takes over the United States Central Command (Centcom), replacing the retiring General John P. Abizaid. Fallon, a decorated Vietnam veteran pilot, formerly led the US Pacific Command (Pacom). Fallon now commands the US forces throughout the Middle East, Southwest Asia, and the Horn of Africa, and is in charge of strategic and tactical operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Fallon is the first naval officer to command Centcom. Fallon was nominated for the position by President Bush in January, and was easily confirmed by the Senate in February. [US Central Command, 3/16/2007]
Fallon In Place to Oversee Strike on Iran? - Many observers see Fallon’s new command as a sign that the Bush administration is preparing for war with Iran. Fallon’s position is not a promotion, but a lateral transfer—as commander of Pacom, he actually commanded more forces than he does at Centcom, and Fallon will not have the direct control of the forces in Iraq, which remain under the day-to-day command of General David Petraeus. Fallon is a naval officer, with no real experience in commanding large numbers of ground troops, but a great deal of experience in commanding and deploying carrier groups. Centcom’s primary responsibility is on the ground, battling insurgents and warlords in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Nation’s Michael Klare observes, “If engagement with Iran and Syria was even remotely on the agenda, Abizaid is exactly the man you’d want on the job at Centcom overseeing US forces and strategy in the region. But if that’s not on the agenda, if you’re thinking instead of using force against Iran and/or Syria, then Admiral Fallon is exactly the man you’d want at Centcom.” Fallon’s experience is in air and naval operations, the kind of operations that would lead any US strikes against Iran. [Nation, 1/10/2007] Former Defense Intelligence Agency official W. Patrick Lang says of Fallon’s appointment, “It makes very little sense that a person with [Fallon’s naval] background should be appointed to be theater commander in a theater in which two essentially ‘ground’ wars are being fought, unless it is intended to conduct yet another war which will be different in character. The employment of Admiral Fallon suggests that they are thinking about something that is not a ground campaign.” [Vanity Fair, 3/2007]
Fallon Won't Countenance Attack on Iran - However, other events indicate Fallon may not be as gung-ho for a war with Iran as some now perceive. In February, Fallon privately expressed his opposition to the proposed increase of US carrier groups in the Persian Gulf from two to three, and told administration officials an attack on Iran “will not happen on my watch” (see February 2007).
Entity Tags: Patrick Lang, George W. Bush, George Casey, Defense Intelligence Agency, David Petraeus, Iraq Study Group, Michael Klare, William Fallon, John P. Abizaid, Robert M. Gates, US Pacific Command, US Central Command
Timeline Tags: US confrontation with Iran
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