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Iraq - continued welcome for coalition?


In recent statements, senior US officials insist that the US would leave Iraq if asked to do so by the Iraqi government that will take power at the end of June, or by an elected government in early 2005. Indeed, if they recognize the sovereignty of the Iraqi government, the US would have no choice other than to obey its wishes, but one suspects that those statements were made only because US officials are confident that no Iraqi government would ask them to leave. Like so many other US judgements about Iraq, that one may be quite mistaken.

The first to raise the issue in congressional testimony was Marc Grossman, Undersecretary of State for political affairs. However, Lt. General Walter L. Sharp of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said that U.S.-led multinational forces were authorized under U.N. resolutions to operate in Iraq at least until a permanent constitutional government was elected in 2005. Grossman repeatedly insisted that it was unlikely that the interim government would ask the US to leave.

The statements were soon repeated by both Paul Bremer and Secretary of State Colin Powell. Powell said:

"I have no doubt the new government will welcome our presence and am losing no sleep over whether they will ask us to stay."

Likewise, Paul Bremer, who runs the US military administration in Iraq said:

"If the provisional government asks us to leave, we will leave..."

"I don't think that will happen, but obviously we don't stay in countries where we're not welcome."

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw concurred, that, "were the government that takes over to ask us to leave, we would leave."

Of course, whenever foreign troops are stationed in a country, it must be done either as the result of defeat in war and occupation, or with the "consent" of the government. Sometimes, as in the case of West Germany after World War II, this consent represents the will of the government and the people. Ohter times, as in the case of East Germany, Hungary in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968 and Lebanon at present, the consent is forced from a hand-picked government by an occupying power. The US and Britain want very much to say they have ended the occupation, but clearly, they cannot withdraw their troops from Iraq. They are sure that the Iraqi government will not ask them to do so, but that is far from certain. What is almost certain is that in any event, after a new government is elected in January 2005, there will be a lot of pressure on the US to withdraw, if the elections are free.

There is no basis for the confidence of American and British officials that they will be asked to stay in Iraq, unless they are certain they are going to "stack the decks" and ensure that a friendly and unrepresentative government takes over at the end of June. White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters Friday that the Iraqi people still want help from the United States and coalition forces to provide security. How does McClellan know?

In a recent polls, 57 to 60% of Iraqis said they want coalition troops to leave, and 71% see the coalition as occupiers. The reasons cited repeatedly include excessive use of force and lack of regard for civilian lives by US soldiers. The continuing flood of revelations about prisoner interrogation, which came after these polls, can only turn Iraqi opinion further against the US and its allies.

The Iraqi government that takes power after June 30 will be crafted by UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, rather than hand-picked by the US. However, even the most pro-US government would have difficulty standing in the way of popular pressure to end the occupation, and it is hard to see how a government that realistically represents Iraqi political parties could acquiesce in the occupation. The Shi'a represent over 60% of Iraqis, and their religious and political leaders don't want the occupation and can't afford to be seen cooperating with the Coalition. Sunni Iraqis who benefitted from Saddam Hussein's regime certainly don't want the occupation to continue. Of course, any government that may come to power begins to be associated with the Coalition from the day it comes to power. We can no longer delude ourselves that this association can be beneficial to them in any way. They will be viewed as collaborators, somewhat like the Vichy government of France, and this guilt of "collaboration" will become worse with each day that passes. So on the one hand, a new Iraqi government will have an incentive to ask the coalition to leave immediately, but if they wait, they will lose the option to ask the coalition to leave, because they will be dependent on coalition troops to defend their government. Any politician who is associated with a government that supports the occupation will have a tough time getting support in any future elections.

For these reasons, it is hard to understand why US officials say that the Iraqi government won't ask them to leave. It is even more frightening perhaps, to consider that they really believe it, and haven't seriously taken into account the possibility that an Iraqi government will do what the Iraqi people want and ask the US and its allies to leave. What will you do then, Mr. Bush?

Ami Isseroff

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Replies: 3 comments

The reason that President Bush is in Iraq is because the Lubavitche Rebbe said that he should be there.
President Bush should listen to all that the Lubavitche Rebbe has to say concerning Iraq. He should know who and what this war is about, that his winning must be complete. Then he will know peace.

Posted by charlie bottons @ 05/19/2004 03:43 AM CST

I thought your website said "We provide balanced and complete information, ...".
I'm confused. This article seems to have a little synicism and bias contained in it.
In addition, I have always supported this war, but I am beginning to hope they do ask us to leave. Not only do we not want to be where we are not wanted, we also don't want to lose more of our lives for people whose ignorance won't let them see the light in front of their eyes.

Posted by D Owen @ 05/19/2004 10:05 PM CST

The coalitions are not ready to leave before their objectives are done, like in germany after 1945, they will exploit the Iraqi`s wealth - Petroleum - up to when they will be sure than no anather saddam hussein will be on power, because there was no clear reason why should they remove sadda regime, it remains clear that there is no reason for them to stay and appoint leaders for Iraqies, except only Petroleum Products

Posted by African boy @ 06/10/2004 02:28 PM CST

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