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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 December 2006, 18:00 GMT
US strategy in Iraq: Readers' views
The Iraq Study Group releases on Wednesday its report recommending the next steps the US government should take in the conflict.

It is expected to call for a US troop pullback and a new diplomatic offensive with Iran and Syria.

Here, a number of readers, who have previously participated in our US voters' panels, discuss what strategy the US government should adopt in Iraq and what they hope to see in the Iraq Study Group's report.


Jorge Caspary
Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia need to be given a clear role in solving the current problems in Iraq.

The US needs to focus less on whether the Iraqi military will be ready to police the country. It never will be, since insurgents are usually not defeated by an organised army - a lesson learned by the Soviets in Afghanistan.

Instead, the focus should be on social advances, such as getting power plants, hospitals and schools back up and running, reducing unemployment, and increasing oil exports.

Tangible social gains will provide the US with a reason to engage other parties and hopefully begin to disentangle itself from the mess it finds itself in.


Rhonda Buie
I agree with any proposal of talks with neighbouring countries in the Middle East, but there should also be more input from the Iraqi people.

The lack of dialogue with people directly affected by this war has caused far too much damage already.

I also think there must be a specific set of goals drawn up and a timescale to accompany them. Toppling a government in power and insisting that that would stabilise a shaky society was not sound, and it hasn't worked.

In the end, there may be no other alternative for the US but to simply leave. Of course this is not a perfect answer, but I genuinely do not believe there is one at this time.


Nathan Bhat
It is important to recognise the successes and failures in Iraq.

A dictatorship has been toppled, state-organised genocide has ended, freedom of the press and expression has been established, and historically disadvantaged groups such as the Kurds and the Shias are getting a say over their future.

The US should launch an aggressive effort to disarm the insurgents and close the Iraqi-Syrian border
Nathan Bhat

All this has been achieved through the sacrifices of coalition and Iraqi troops. There is daily carnage on Iraqi streets due to foreign-backed militias who have an interest in seeing an undemocratic Iraq.

The US should launch an aggressive effort to disarm these insurgents and close the Iraqi-Syrian border to reduce the flow of arms and foreign fighters over the border.

Politically, we also need to point out the importance of a stable Iraq to Europe and other regional players to elicit more support. Simply put, Iraq is a battleground between the forces of democracy and the forces of darkness.


Nancy O' Leary Pew
The US should leave Iraq as soon as possible. It is clear US intervention has left Iraq in worse shape than it was in under Saddam, unleashing conflicts among religious groups and encouraging anti-American terrorists to enter the country.

This is an occupation and I am sure some of the Iraqi insurgents see themselves as freedom fighters resisting an outside force.

I would like see our country fix the problem, but our very presence only encourages the violence and loss of life. We are not going to "finish the job", as Bush says, whether we stay another day, month, year or 10 years.

It will be like Vietnam - we will leave without accomplishing "the mission" after much loss of life. We must get out now and I hope the Democratic majority in Congress will be able to make sure we do just that.


Jim Hill
One of the Iraq Study Group's expected proposals is to engage in direct talks with Iran and Syria. However, it is foolish to think that the goals of Iran and the US are the same.

Iran will continue to undermine Iraqi democracy and wait for the US to pull out of the region, before turning Iraq into another Lebanon - another country where it can exert its influence.

The Iraq Study Group report will only speed that process up and provide Iran a timeline for it to happen.

It is clearly in the US's interests for the Middle East to be made up of democracies. Abandoning Iraq now will delay this opportunity for generations.

President Bush should not alter his plans to bring democracy to the people of Iraq, regardless of what the Iraq Study Group report recommends. It is their future we are talking about, not the terrorists.


Octavia Phillips
It is unrealistic to assume we can just leave Iraq now in the complete shambles we have created.

Our government needs to put together a firm exit strategy and we need to stick to it.

We have been the bullies of the world for so long we don't know how to step back and let someone else take charge
Octavia Phillips
We need a timeline for gradually turning over control of the country to its newly elected leaders and their armed services and we need to stick to it.

We have been the bullies of the world for so long we don't know how to step back and let someone else take charge.

As we begin this process of backing away, we need to build closer ties with the UN and its member states. This country needs stronger counselling and a less violent approach.


Kandace Heimer
Any withdrawal of US forces without the emergence of a stable, self-sustaining Iraqi government will be seen as a defeat.

The US must assert its military strength far more forcibly than it is doing, regardless of what the rest of the world thinks.

Additional troops must be sent to Iraq, or those present must be deployed to the areas with the highest level of unrest. Sectarian militias must be targeted and their leaders killed or captured and taken out of the battle.

Areas that support the insurgents must be reclaimed and occupied by Iraqi or US forces. This may involve the US taking action over and above the objections of the Iraqi government. So be it. They can thank us later.

A demonstration of force and resolve by the US in this matter will be a warning and example for other despots in the region.


Neil Sherman
What should the US do about Iraq? The simple answer is to get out, but the question is when?

Sometimes when you remove the iron hand that rules a country made up of diverse ethnic or religious groups, that country falls apart. This has already happened in Iraq.

When we leave there will be a settling of accounts between the Shias and the Sunnis. I do not believe that we can prevent this from happening.

So, in short, the US strategy should be to negotiate with Iran and Syria, strike the best deal, declare victory, and leave as soon as possible.


Ed  Wilson
It's finally clear to just about everyone in this country that our current strategy is in tatters.

Our president's call for a tactical adjustment is not enough to satisfy anyone except those who still think that a democratic Iraq is just around the corner.

Maybe the King of Jordan is on the right track when he says everything that's happening in the Middle East is interconnected. Perhaps we need to accept that the only strategy that will work is one that addresses everything.

So how do we break the political deadlock in Iraq? Perhaps, by pushing the Israelis toward an equitable settlement with the Palestinians, and by also pushing for aid to be sent to a devastated Lebanon.

This approach does have a high risk of failure, but it makes more sense than the current poor excuse for a plan to end the chaos. A more intelligent, comprehensive world view would certainly be an improvement.


Maria Peralta
To stabilise Iraq we must change our mission from one of imposing American-style democracy to one of providing education and support to the Iraqi people to enable them to find their own form of democracy.

Our troops need to work more closely with the Iraqi troops and police as peacekeepers, not warring soldiers.

However, we cannot leave at this stage, as that would sentence all the Iraqis who supported this action to their deaths.

This war was waged for the wrong reasons, we know that now. We cannot change what has happened, but we can change our future course.

If in the end a peace, if a peace is negotiated it should not be to justify the president's decision to go to war and devastate a country and her people. It will be for the benefit of the Iraqi people.


Michael DeLaurentis
No one seems to really know what to do or what will most likely work in Iraq. Nearly everyone agrees something new has to be tried.

I predict the US will completely withdraw all of its troops by Spring 2008. In the meantime, it will begin a substantial redeployment of troops to nearby bases outside Iraq, and hurry the training of more Iraqi forces.

This is basically a mix of what has been proposed by [Democratic Congressman John] Murtha and what is expected to feature in the Iraq Study Group report.

I could live with this, but I would prefer a much shorter departure timeline, since every American life lost is an American life wasted.

This hopelessly ill-advised war was never going to achieve anything positive for regional stability or US security.


Suzi Savino
I am glad to see that the Bush administration has been forced into changing its strategy in Iraq.

This change of heart has come because they basically cost their party the mid-term elections and have now been forced into cleaning up their own mess.

Bush has not yet even come to terms with the fact that Iraq is now mired in civil war. This entire war has caused damage that cannot be reversed.

The Iraq Study Group will, it seems, recommend gradually phasing out US troops but there is still no timetable for leaving the country. I for one would like to see one.

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