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The Baker Report: Impressive but Ineffective, Part 1 of 2 - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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One does not need to read the Baker Report that has been commissioned to study the situation in Iraq to predict what will happen in the near future, as it practically recounts the story of the Middle East that is familiar to us all. The report excels in the way it deals with the issues in Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, Iran and Syria; however its advice is inapplicable. The American administration and the governments in the region, including those who oppose it are required to unite in a collective effort, which is unlikely to happen – the evidence of which was the ‘escalation’ that took place in Syria over the report before it was even released by the Syrian Vice President, Farouk Shara, followed by Iran, Hezbollah and Al Qaeda in Iraq, in addition to the Iraqi President himself, Jalal Talabani. Let us not forget that the American President, George W Bush himself was the most recent to describe it as harsh and did not pledge to implement it. It might be possible to bury the 160-page report, but Washington cannot bury its head in the sand from confronting the complex issues of the region. In short, America is searching for a regional escape from a complex problem in a remote region where it is impossible to expect a solution simply by writing recommendations that state what we must and must not do.

The fixed facts concerning these crises are firstly, that American withdrawal is conceivable but involvement will continue as Iraq and the Gulf are the largest sources of energy in world and it would be impossible for any president, despite of his political affiliations, to deny the importance of its presence whether directly or indirectly. Secondly, the other major players in the opposition such as Iran will not easily agree even with major concessions offered in the Baker Report and accordingly, the conflict will continue between the two parties, Iran and the US.

Those who call for withdrawal from behind their desks on the other side of the world will more than likely change their minds after the withdrawal and will call for a return to protect their interests. Attacks on oil wells would be enough to cause a surge in oil prices to over US $200 per barrel and when supplies are not safe, which would be the biggest problem to the industrial world; it would be more willing to enter bigger and more dangerous battles to prevent other parties from controlling the oil. If the American forces leave Iraq, they will return if Al Qaeda is able to set foot in or near the Gulf region as it did in Afghanistan. These are facts that we cannot ignore no matter how much Baker and Hamilton, via the report, have advised President Bush who understands the magnitude of the administrative errors that his team has committed in administering Iraq, which have ultimately led to the dreadful situation in Iraq today.

Even though the report advises the president to begin the withdrawal process from the strategic, oil-rich Iraq early next year, it commands him at the same time to remain in the ruins of Afghanistan, a contradiction that may be explained by the internal political circumstances. A thorough reading of the report’s demands shows that what it says contradicts what it calls for: stay where you are, spend openhandedly and face the adversaries if need be. As well as demands of withdrawal to resolve the issues, there is a request of cooperation, specifically with Iran and Syria and we know that these two states are incapable of, or will reject, cooperating – and this will be the talk of tomorrow.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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