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Re: [casi] The big issue for CASI not yet addressed directly

I think that Eric was right to raise this issue and he made it clear
that his division was somewhat arbitrary.

The situation in Iraq is now very complex and unclear. We will
necessarily need to hear more about the politics because that is so
important for any humanitarian progress.

For most people on the list, the situation during sanctions was
pretty clear - they were evil and had to be lifted.

Now for example, humanitarian type arguments could be made for
immediate US withdrawal through to the US staying there for a decade
at least. That then leads to disagreements etc on this list.

More recently, I have become more depressed about the future of Iraq
given the way things seem to be going (in other words reading between
the lines of the coalition and the anti-americans etc say). A UK
resident Iraqi recently told me, having just come back from a visit
to Iraq, that the future looks very, very bleak indeed. I hope that
he's wrong.

This article didn't cheer me up, written as it is from an Indian
reporter's point of view rather than an anti-american one which might
expect (and want) failure:

Let’s get outta here!
21.11.2003 [08:11]

Behind the fig leaf of accelerating an orderly transfer of power to
an Iraqi government, Washington is getting ready to cut and run from
Iraq. To quote the New York Times editorial (November 16): “It’s a
bit cynical to say that the plan is to toss the whole hot potato to
whatever Iraqis are willing to grab it. But the White House thinking
is veering close”.

No one in Washington is prepared to concede this. The official
position of the Bush administration, fashioned during the emergency
visit of Paul Bremer, the head of the Coalition Provisional
Authority, to Washington a fortnight ago, is that there is to be an
orderly withdrawal. The CPA will widen the base of the governing
council and turn it into a provisional government to whom it will
transfer more and more power progressively. It will hold elections
for, and nominate members to, a constituent assembly which will draw
up a constitution under which elections will be held and a democratic
government elected.

This government will rule with the aid of Iraqi police and a small
army, both recruited and trained by the CPA. US troops will stay on
in Iraq for maintaining order and giving the new government time to
get on its feet, but in smaller and smaller numbers. The UN will
progressively take over the task of maintaining order and troops from
other countries will take the Americans’ place. In time, a fully
democratic Iraq will emerge, free of Saddam Hussein and his
tyrannical regime.

The plan looks good on paper. But the best of plans can go awry. If
the planners are serious, they take this into account and create
backup and contingency plans to clear the glitches. What makes the
Bush administration’s plan suspect is that there is no such provision
or contingency. On the contrary, there are a number of straws in the
wind to indicate that the Bush administration has had enough of Iraq
and will get out by next June on almost any terms.

A small but tell-tale indicator was the statement by the general who
heads the US 101st Airborne division which patrols the border with
Syria, that only a handful of foreign fighters had infiltrated into
Iraq across his border. This was in stark contrast to a statement by
the White House only a month earlier that there were an estimated
1,000 to 3,000 foreign fighters in the country. This had been echoed
by Bush on several occasions. The mere fact that the general was
allowed to make a frank admission of this kind shows that Washington
no longer wants to look for pretexts to justify the deployment of
huge armed forces in Iraq. Instead, it is now intent upon minimising
its claim that al-Qaeda has infiltrated Iraq. Indeed, Bush recently
discounted such a link after having hammered upon it relentlessly to
win support for his war on Iraq.

A second, far more important indicator is the frantic haste to hand
over the policing of difficult cities in the so-called Sunni belt to
local Iraqi troops and police forces. This has been happening quietly
for some time in the Kurdish north and the Shia southeast. But now
the policy is being extended to precisely the areas in which, by the
Americans’ own admission, 80 to 90 per cent of all attacks upon them
are taking place. Transferring authority in this manner may sound
sensible, even democratic. The world may see it as proof that America
never had any intention of outstaying its welcome in Iraq.

But what makes it fraught with danger is that it is being done before
and not after an election has been held and a legitimate national
authority created. This amounts to transferring power to local
leaders who have been co-opted by the Americans, and not to those who
have been duly elected by the Iraqis. When a genuine Iraqi government
is elected under the above plan, it will face entrenched local
leaders who will have used some of the money they received for
reconstruction and general administration to equip private militias.
Localised civil war, not dissimilar to what Afghanistan has witnessed
off and on since 1990, could easily follow. Washington cannot but
know this. What the move means is that it simply does not care, so
long as it can save face and get out.

It is tempting to believe that what took the heart out of the US was
the downing of five helicopters in three weeks by Iraqi insurgents
and the loss of 40 lives. The first three of these may well have
proved a catalyst of sorts, for Bremer flew to Washington immediately
after the third crash. But in reality, the American position in Iraq
had become impossible well before then. The 130,000 troops it had in
the country had been away from home for a year or more. They had been
promised that they would return the moment the war was over, but had
been forced to stay on and face an invisible, and therefore all the
more terrifying, enemy day after day. The US army chief had left the
White House in no doubt that it would simply have to bring them back
by March 2004. The Pentagon even announced recently, before its
bravado ran out, that it would replace them with 128,000 fresh

But the rapidly rising body count in Iraq, 416 killed and 6,800
repatriated with wounds or diseases, the prospect of 130,000 soldiers
returning with horror stories to tell, and the need to face the anger
of 128,000 more families to whom it could no longer justify the war,
finally broke Bush, and the neo-conservatives’ nerve.

Not a single country agreed to shoulder any part of the burden of
stabilisation: the Danish, eastern European and Italian contributions
are symbolic; Turkey, Japan and South Korea have all baulked at
sending troops after promising to do so. And Pakistan and India, on
whom the US had pinned the greatest hope, finally refused. The
donors’ conference, similarly, was a farce as $ 20 billion out of the
$ 33.6 billion committed to Iraq came from the US and nearly the
whole of the remainder was offered as loans which Iraq would not be
in a position to repay for a long time.

Paradoxically, the last straw has been the US economic recovery in
the third quarter of the year, when the GDP grew by 7.4 per cent.
Bush knew that the rising death toll in Iraq, the rising budget
deficit in the US and the rising unemployment were going to make re-
election difficult. He, therefore, believed that he had been left
with no option but to ‘tough it out’. But suddenly he found that he
could claim that the economy had turned around, his tax cuts had paid
off and unemployment was falling. All he had to do was to claim that
he had got rid of a monstrous dictator, begin the process of
democratising Iraq, and bring the troops back home, to romp home to
the White House again. Suddenly, therefore, the entire neo-
conservative project for Iraq and West Asia became dispensable.

The imminent American retreat has exploded the neo-conservative pipe
dream. Having taken close to 30,000 Iraqi lives, and utterly
destroyed what was left of the Iraqi State, the Americans will
withdraw to their fortress on the other side of the Atlantic claiming
both virtue and victory. But where will it leave Iraq and where will
it leave us?

Iraq is likely to descend into a civil war and could easily become
the next failed State. Al-Qaeda and every other Islamic jehadi
fanatic will claim another victory over the ‘Great Satan’ and turn
their reinforced and revived attention to 'little Satans' in other
parts of the world. Afghanistan will be their next battlefield of
choice. Musharraf could be their first target for having become a
traitor. India and its leaders could be their second choice on both

Perhaps it is time for the leaders of our two countries to set aside
our quarrels and think of the juggernaut that could so easily come
racing down on both of us.

????????: Prem Shankar Jha Hindustan Times, Fri Nov 21, Delhi edition

Mark Parkinson

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