What will be the military components of the Baker Plan?
It will propose a “pullback” or a “drawdown” of perhaps up to half the 140,000+ troops in Iraq. Even that will be qualified to align with Bush’ view that “when Iraqis stand up we will stand down.” So far there is no indication that the recommended “pullback” will mean anything other than a shift of some combat troops out of the cities and into permanent US bases, with perhaps some of them being transferred in Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia or elsewhere in the region. To avoid the same situation that occurred in Vietnam after the pullout of US troops, Baker is likely to call for shifting towards a smaller occupation force with more “embedded advisers” fighting with the Iraqi troops.
What is the core of the forthcoming proposals regarding negotiations?
Again according to the New York Times, there is no indication that the Baker will recommend opening serious negotiations with any of the myriad of resistance forces fighting the occupation. Although Baker is likely to recommend engaging with Iran and Syria, it will almost certainly NOT recommend any real changes in diplomatic posture. So far, the Bush administration seems to think that all they need to offer to Iran in return for a host of significant concessions is the opportunity to talk to some US official about a limited - “stabilizing Iraq” agenda. Similarly Damascus is expected to be grateful for the opportunity to talk to someone in Washington without any US commitment to talk about issues. All in all, it seems unlikely that the US is prepared to negotiate on such issues as a providing Iran security guarantees, ending economic sanctions and threats of regime change, and dealing with Iran’s nuclear capacity in the context of efforts to create a weapons of mass destruction-free zone throughout the Middle East.
It appears that the Baker Plan will end up with “much ado about nothing”?
At the end of the day, the Baker recommendations are likely to change very little. The basic demand of the US and global peace movements, the only way to end the escalating death and destruction in Iraq, remains unchanged.
Phyllis Bennis is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington and of the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam. Her most recent book is Challenging Empire: How People, Governments and the U.N. Defy U.S. Power.