The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
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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 troops. 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 counts. 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 Bodmin Cornwall _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk