Last week Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Ken Salazar (D-CO) and six of their colleagues -- three Republicans and three Democrats -- introduced the Iraq Study Group (ISG) Recommendations Implementation Act of 2007 (S.1545). If passed into law, it would make the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group report into official U.S. policy. The other cosponsors are Senators Bob Bennett (R-UT), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Judd Gregg (R-NH), Robert Casey (D-PA), John Sununu (R-NH) and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR). In the House, a companion bill (H.R.2574) was introduced by Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO) and co-sponsored by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), Mike McCaul (R-TX), Dan Lipinski (D-IL) and a bipartisan coalition of more than 40 representatives.
The good news: EPIC supports the Iraq Study Group Report and the current legislation to implement the recommendations fully into our policy. The bad news: the legislation just doesn't quite hit on some of the important components in detail.
The report states, "[the recommendations] are comprehensive and need to be implemented in a coordinated fashion. They should not be separated or carried out in isolation." Given that the report offers a thorough, all-encompassing approach to tackling the situation, including humanitarian aid and economic development as crucial ingredients for success, this statement offers a great deal of promise. However, the group's specific recommendations for economic aid are not voiced in the bills.
With this is mind, the legislation does provide some general statements regarding aid and development; urging "economic assistance, commerce, trade, political support, and, if possible, military assistance for the Government of Iraq from non-neighboring Muslim nations." This is a start, and given that the two bills support the full implementation of the report, we should see recommendations 64-71 put into action. Our concern is that, without true talk of development and its specific needs and benefits, it will fall down on the list of priorities and potentially not receive the attention it needs.
Despite the importance of this legislation, the media coverage has been less than determined. ABC News did a short, one-page report, and statements were released from Senators Salazar and Alexander. While the most significant issue the ABC report highlighted was the fact that six months have gone by without debate on such a substantial and comprehensive document, the two senatorial statements did manage to exhibit a remarkable amount of self-congratulations over their bipartisanship.
While reaching across the aisle is an essential criterion for successful legislation (what we're crossing our fingers for), the sheer saturation of partisan rhetoric does not help advance the debate on the policy. Bipartisanship should be assumed and left at that; we need to see the solutions and the particulars at the forefront of debate.
While not as detailed in the economic development and international aid coverage as we wanted, the legislation is not exactly detailed in anything else either. The most important point is the language confirming the comprehensive nature of the Iraq Study Group Report and the intention to keep it as such.
To see some of the effects the legislation would have on actual progress in Iraq, and how you can take action encourage your Senator to sponsor the bill, check out FCNL's report.