According to a report in late November (2006) in Newsday, internal strife, the assassination of a cabinet minister in Lebanon, and opposition from President Bush to the group recommending negotiations with Iran and Syria was challenging the commission's intent to issue a consensus report. An Iraq expert told the newspaper that there "has been a lot of fighting" among the expert advisers to the group, mainly between conservatives and liberals who want to take a more pragmatic approach to the Middle East.
According to a report in late November, the Iraq Study Group had "strongly urged" a large pull back of American troops in Iraq. The final report was released December 6, 2006, included 79 recommendations, and was 160 pages in length.
By March 2007, the ISG report had been downloaded more than 1.5 million times, according to the US Institute for Peace website. The Report is readily available for direct reading. Some (of many) results include: assessing stability as 'elusive' and the situation as "deteriorating", that all of Iraq's neighbors (including Iran and Syria) must be included in an external diplomatic effort to stabilize Iraq, that worldwide commitments limit the U.S. from greatly increasing troop strength in Iraq, and that U.S attention on Iraq diverted resources from Afghanistan (an imbalance which the Report says the U.S. should restore to prevent Taliban and Al-Queada resurgence). There are many more recommendations.
Among these, one significant recommendation was the suggestion that there should be a substantially increased transfer of power to the 'new ruling elite' in Iraq. This, according to Toby Dodge, was recommended 'in the hope that they could succeed where the US government and military ha[d] so far failed', and with the notion that it would in turn enable a more imminent withdrawal of some US forces from Iraq (as mentioned), with one effect of decreasing the number of US soldiers being killed or injured.
Frederick Kagan, scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) along with General Jack Keane, U.S. Army (retired) introduced the idea for a troop surge in Iraq at a 14 December 2006 event at AEI and again at a 5 January 2007 event attended by Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman. The report "Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq" was released at the latter conference. While the ISG report was ostensibly the driving force for a policy change in Iraq, the AEI report outlined the actual policy adopted by the Bush Administration.
Antonia Juhasz noted the study's focus on Iraqi oil in the opening chapter and in Recommendation 63 and concluded that the Iraq Study Group would extend the Iraq War until American oil companies have guaranteed legal access to all of Iraq's oil fields.
The International Crisis Group, who produced their own report on the Iraq Study Group's findings and the situation in Iraq more broadly following the ISG report, argued that the study represented a belated and necessary shift in the American political elite's thinking on US policy in Iraq. As such, they suggested it should be welcomed. The report's apparent recognition of many of the failures of the US-led invasion, especially in security terms, and its recommendation of a changed approach to American foreign policy in the Middle East generally, also received support from significant sections of the academic community in the US who had increasingly grown more critical of the nature of American involvement in Iraq (albeit from varying perspectives) as the situation in the country appeared to be deteriorating further.
Support from the International Crisis Group (ICG) came, in particular, for most of the Iraq Study Group's major recommendations mentioned above, and also for its further conclusions that a re-engagement with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a 'reintegration' of former Baath Party members, and efforts to allow a more inclusive political process in Iraq, were all necessary steps towards addressing the country's - and the region's - problems. However, the praise from the ICG was qualified. Its report argued that the study failed to match its conclusions with sufficiently radical proposals for bringing about fundamental policy change. For example, the ICG criticised the Iraq Study Group for not having stressed the centrality of multi-lateralism in processes attempting to address the situation in Iraq. In terms of building regional co-operation, which it views as vital to the long-term resolution of the conflict, the ICG also advocated 'altered strategic goals' on the part of the US, 'renouncing in particular ambitions to forcibly remodel the Middle East'.
SEN. LEAHY ISSUES STATEMENT ON 'EXAMINING THE IRAQ STUDY GROUP'S RECOMMENDATIONS FOR IMPROVEMENTS TO IRAQ'S POLICE AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM'
Jan 31, 2007; The Senate Judiciary Committee issued the following member statement: Statement of The Honorable Patrick Leahy United States...