Last December, EPIC championed the Iraq Study Group report as a bipartisan solution for responsibly moving forward on Iraq. Though the Group's recommendations were initially tabled by the congressional leaders and the Bush administration, we are pleased to see that Washington is finally giving the report the attention and consideration it needs and deserves.
As negotiations on the FY2007 supplemental continue this week, the White House seems poised to accept a measure to impose political benchmarks on the Iraqi government and reduce U.S. assistance to Iraq if those benchmarks are not met. This was one of the key recommendations included in last December's bipartisan report on Iraq, and now seems to be one of the most acceptable measures among both democratic and republican congressional offices.
Nearly all of the recommendations made by Iraq Study Group (ISG) are in accordance with the following goals that EPIC declared in 2003 as essential for peace in Iraq:
• Improve the protection of civilians and human rightsHowever, while the report offers a solid top-down approach to achieving these goals, e.g. regional diplomacy, EPIC maintains that for this strategy to succeed the U.S. must simultaneously encourage development on the local level by increasing U.S. support for Iraqi non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and addressing the current jobs crisis. This bottom-up approach will strengthen the economy and secure the streets, which will in turn increase the likelihood for success of the ISG’s other recommendations.
• Promote political participation, inclusion and reconciliation
• Grow Iraq's institutional capacity for security and the rule of law
• Improve government transparency and accountability
• Support job creation and Iraqi-led development, especially at the local level
• Increase international involvement and participation by civil society
The U.S., however, cannot be expected to bear the entire burden of these development projects. Through coordination with the International Compact for Iraq—the UN-sponsored framework for providing international assistance—governments, international organizations and NGOs around the world must aid Iraq’s recovery.
The Iraq Study Group has cleared the way for a more honest debate, and EPIC is pleased that the debate is finally getting underway. As the conversation develops, we hope that the President and Congress will soon realize the vital importance of community-based initiatives and economic revitalization to a comprehensive new approach to Iraq. Iraqi-driven peace and development must be the cornerstone of any new plan for the country.