Friday, June 01, 2007

Iraq insiders diverge

During a visit to Australia last week, Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari urged coalition countries, including Australia, not to “cut and run” in the face of “very, very serious challenges” facing the “democratic experiment in Iraq.”

This was at a joint press conference hosted by Australia’s Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, who predictably chimed in with the now obligatory warning that “to withdraw from Iraq and abandon the people of Iraq would be of course first and foremost, a catastrophe for the Iraqis.”

Of Zebari’s appeal, Greg Sheridan noted in his column a couple of days later that “The Age in Melbourne, the nation’s most left-wing newspaper and the paper that has most strongly opposed every aspect of the coalition action in Iraq, did not see fit to print a word about it on Tuesday.” Actually, the story certainly appeared in the online edition of “the nation's most left-wing newspaper” that Tuesday, but perhaps for some reason it didn’t make it into the print edition. Or perhaps Mr Sheridan forgot about those blinkers that now appear to be rusted on.

Anyway, it occurred to me that the view set forth by Zebari and Downer is somewhat at variance with the views of another Iraqi government insider, Ali Allawi, a former Iraqi defence minister, and now a senior adviser to the present Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Quizzed by ABC-TV’s Lateline on the consequences of foreign troops withdrawals, Mr Allawi said:

Frankly I don’t think there’ll be much ratcheting up of the level of violence.

I think what will happen is possibly a greater sectarianisation as it were of the military forces and will have much more clearly demarcated lines, between the ethnic and sectarian communities.

In terms of the ability to control levels of violence in areas that are now to some extent ethnically or sectarianaly “pure or cleansed” becomes I think much less.

So I don’t think there will be a serious effect on the overall level of violence. But the instability will continue.

It might occur to ask just which of these opposing views is objectively correct. Certainly the remarks by Zebari, as Iraq’s Foreign Minister, would reflect the official policy of Iraq’s government; while Allawi’s assessment probably represents yet another strand of thought in the government.

The short answer, and probably the only answer, is that no-one can know the consequences either way. We all, and particularly the Iraqis, are now locked into the grand “democratic experiment”.

Notwithstanding that apologists for the Bush administration characterise the epic violence of the last four years as the “unintended consequences” of a noble crusade endeavour, the reality is that such dire consequences were broadly understood before the 2003 invasion.

US intelligence agencies warned senior members of the Bush administration in early 2003 that invading Iraq could create instability that would give Iran and al-Qa’ida new opportunities to expand their influence, according to a coming Senate report. ...

The committee also found that the warnings predicting what would happen after the US-led invasion were circulated widely in government, including to the Pentagon and Vice-President Dick Cheney’s office. It was not clear whether President George W. Bush was briefed.

(Hey, if the President wasn’t briefed, then why the ƒυςќ not?!)

The administration is facing renewed criticism for failing to execute adequate post-invasion plans to stabilise Iraq after president Saddam Hussein had been overthrown. Meanwhile, the White House has been trying to make the case that Iraq cannot be abandoned.

Can anyone be even remotely surprised that all the officially “preferred” options seem to lead to a long-term US military presence in Iraq?


Blogger Caz said...

How come everyone forgets about Afganistan Jacob?

I think Oz has more troops in Afganistan they we've ever had in Iraq, yet no one kicks up a fuss.

The US struggle to have enough troops to spread over the two countries.

Jeez, they better not go after Iran - they'd only have half a dozen troops to spare for the "peace keeping" phase.

1/6/07 9:40 PM  
Blogger Jacob A. Stam said...

Yeah, good question!

Well, the Afghanistan campaign had broad support around the world, of course, in contrast to the Iraq thing.

Your question is even more apposite when it's considered that Aussie diggers are at the pointy end of the action in Afgh, whereas in Iraq it's mostly training and reconstruction work.

As evinced by Aussies in Afgh getting $200 a day war zone allowance, compared with $150 for those in Iraq.

2/6/07 3:47 PM  
Anonymous Father Park said...

Yes Caz, the alzhiemered war.

And most likely the place will have been much the better had Dubbya not picked up the Pentagon version of his Foxtel control and theatre-surfed to Iraq.

Tony Blair will live to be reminded - in his nursing home bed - of that instantly ignored line: "This time the west will not abandon you".

Indeed. Just how many weeks did it take before Dubbya dialed up Iraq on the war channel?

7/6/07 8:49 PM  
Anonymous Father Park said...

The warnings of what would result from the "removing the lid" on sectarian hatreds in Iraq were well aired before the misadventure: they were summarily ignored and dismissed out of hand.

Pointing out such now and giving examples -- notably Robert Fisk's repeated assertions that what we now have would be the result of the US policy at the time of the invasion -- result in the champions (such as Jay White) of the invasion continuing to dismiss it. The difference is that now people such as the afforementioned Fisk are dismissed and ridiculed as "participants" rather than reporters.

7/6/07 9:22 PM  

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