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How can America get out of Iraq? (part2) PDF Print E-mail
Justice News
Thursday, 13 May 2004 11:09
How can America get out of Iraq?

As the situation in Iraq goes from bad to worse, Sherle R Schwenninger, Phyllis Bennis and Mansour Farhang outline possible exit strategies for the US

The Guardian

Thursday May 13, 2004

Sherle R Schwenninger: Be bold

The most commonly proposed Democratic alternative to the administration's policy in Iraq - turning over political authority to the UN and getting more countries to provide more troops and money - is well intentioned but lacks seriousness, for two reasons.

First, it is not realistic to expect the UN to assume such responsibility without more resources, without assurances from the US about security and without some control over the conduct of US military strategy.

Likewise, it is not realistic to expect countries such as Egypt, France, Germany, Russia, India and Pakistan, which opposed the war, to now commit substantial troops to Iraq in the middle of a major insurgency, especially without a larger shift in US policy.

For both domestic and international reasons, these countries do not want to be seen as instruments of what they consider to be a misguided US policy toward the Middle East in general.

Second, the Democratic alternative does not go far enough to change the political dynamic from o­ne of occupation (albeit a more legitimate o­ne) to o­ne of Iraqi sovereignty.

After all, the UN itself has been a target of the insurgents, and there now seems to be a general mistrust and impatience with any foreign control over Iraq's future. Any proposal to stabilise Iraq must restore a sense of ownership to the Iraqi people as well as real power.

For these reasons, we need to think in bolder terms about what we can offer to the international community and to the Iraqi people in order to gain their active support for a plan that would transfer authority to the UN and to an Iraqi interim government.

There would need to be three elements to this grand bargain. The first would be the promise of substantial resources to the UN, not o­nly for this Iraqi state-building effort but also for comparable efforts in the future, including resources that would increase the capacity of the UN to provide more of its own security in the future for such missions.

Unless the US can demonstrate to the other major stakeholders in the UN that its attitude toward the organisation has changed, it is unlikely to elicit more than a token response.

The second element of the grand bargain must be the internationalisation of other elements of its Middle East policy that affect the political dynamic inside Iraq. It makes no sense whatsoever for other countries to commit money and security forces to Iraq as long as the US continues to condone Israeli policy toward the Palestinians and pursues a hostile policy toward Iran and Syria.

At a minimum, this means a shift in American policy toward non-belligerence toward Iran and Syria; a commitment to a clear timetable for a Palestinian state; and a commitment to a true no-weapons-of-mass-destruction zone in the Middle East, which means a commitment to confront Israel over its possession of nuclear weapons.

The third and final element would need to be a quick turnover of true sovereignty to the Iraqi people, however ill prepared they may now seem for this task.

As a minimum, any interim government must have control over its own security forces and economy. To demonstrate that Iraqis own their own economy, we might consider the idea proposed by Steven Clemons of the New America Foundation, which would give every Iraqi an ownership stake in the country's oil wealth.

If, for example, o­n June 30 every Iraqi received $300 as a distribution of future profits from the nation's oil wealth, it might change dramatically the political dynamics within Iraq, ensuring a more peaceful transition to full statehood.

But unless we are willing to think more boldly along these lines, the wiser course may be for the US to withdraw its troops and disengage more generally from the region.

This would allow the Iraqi people to sort out their future with the understanding that there may be a long period of instability, but at least the US would not be a contributing factor to that instability and no longer a target of Arab anger and frustration.

? Sherle R Schwenninger is a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute at the New School University.

Phyllis Bennis: Admit you were wrong and help the UN

One year after President Bush's announcement of the end of "major combat operations" in Iraq, Washington's drive to empire faces new and serious challenges.

One year to the day after US military forces famously pulled down the statue of Saddam Hussein, the front page of the Washington Post featured a photograph of a US soldier pulling down another potent symbol - a poster of Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr - from a pillar in the same Baghdad square.

The US-led occupation of Iraq is failing, and ending the Bush administration's disaster can o­nly begin with ending that occupation - not with a nominal "transfer of power" that leaves 130,000 US troops still occupying Iraq but with an actual end to the occupation.

Unlike in Vietnam, the constant barrage of "we're-building-democracy-in-Iraq" rhetoric may have made it impossible for Bush to "declare victory and get out".

Instead, ending the occupation will likely mean admitting that the war was wrong, that "staying the course" is o­nly making things worse and that hundreds of young American and coalition soldiers, as well as thousands of Iraqi civilians, are paying an unacceptable price.

The end of the US occupation will not alone, however, mean the end to Iraq's crisis. Devastated after years of crippling economic sanctions, internal repression and US assaults that destroyed its governing capacity, Iraq will require significant international help.

But o­nly after full US withdrawal can serious thought be given to how the global community might - indeed must - support Iraq's post-occupation efforts to reclaim its sovereignty.

The withdrawal and the dissolution of the US-imposed "governing council" will make possible the entry into Iraq of an international team led by the UN and backed by the key regional alliances - the Arab League and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference - to provide protection and support.

Accountable to whatever Iraqi authority emerges after the occupation ends, that team should be made up primarily of technocratic experts - in elections, in development, in economic planning, etc. Its component of military self-defence and security should be secondary.

Most Iraqi military resistance is aimed directly at the occupation. An international assistance mission that does not control Iraqi territory, does not impose laws o­n Iraq, does not hand Iraqi assets over to corporate profiteers and does not claim Iraq's oil as its own will almost certainly be welcomed by a majority of the Iraqi people.

UN credibility will be severely diminished if, with or without a new security council resolution, the organisation sends personnel, funds or other assistance to Iraq to bolster, legitimise or "internationalise" the US occupation.

Only after the US occupation ends will UN involvement in Iraq reflect its international legitimacy.

? Phyllis Bennis is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies and the author of Calling the Shots: How Washington Dominates Today's UN.

Mansour Farhang: Normalise relations with Iran

Iran and the US both have competing ambitions and common concerns in Iraq. Tehran favours popular sovereignty, political equality and majority rule in Iraq - the exact opposite of its own governing system. This emanates from the fact that the Shia of Iraq, the Iranian theocrats' co-religionists, constitute 60% of Iraq's population.

The Bush administration, in contrast, advocates democracy in abstraction but fears majority rule in practice.

What favours Iran in this competition is the fact that o­nly the Shia clerics possess the capacity for mass mobilisation in Iraq.

During the terror of Saddam Hussein, more than 200,000 Iraqi Shia took refuge in Iran. Today, most Iraqi Shia are grateful to Iranians and perceive them as allies.

Washington is aware of this sentiment and wants Iran to use its influence to contain the radical anti-occupation elements in the Shia communities.

Iran's fears are another story. The Iranian authorities, like most people in the region, are convinced that Ariel Sharon and his neoconservative allies in Washington want to ignite a civil war between the Shia and Sunnis of Iraq, with the Kurds remaining o­n the sidelines.

Such a war would likely engulf almost the entire region. Iran would back the Shia, while Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf would aid the Sunnis.

Al-Qaida and the pro-Saddam Ba'athists, like the Likud government in Israel, view such a conflict as an advantage for their competing objectives.

Iran's reigning mullahs are convinced that the US has nothing to gain and much to lose from such a conflict, but they believe the Bush administration can be manipulated to pave the way for it.

The key to preventing this calamity is for the US and Iran to start negotiating their differences and support a UN initiative to establish a federal system consisting of autonomous entities for the Shia, the Kurds and the Sunnis.

Iran's theocrats have used their confrontation with the US to create crises for the purpose of justifying cruel treatment of their democratic opponents.

Normalisation of US-Iran relations can contribute to both the goal of peace in Iraq and the cause of democracy in Iran.

? Mansour Farhang is professor of politics at Bennington College

Tomorrow: Stephen F Cohen, John Brady Kiesling, Anne-Marie Slaughter and Ray Close

? This article was first published in the Nation

Copyright ? 2004 The Nation, used by permission of Agence Global

Last Updated on Thursday, 13 May 2004 11:09

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