Washington, Dec. 11 2004 (INS News) — Even before the invasion of Iraq, a triangle of interests have developed in the region; the pro-Israel lobby, the Arab oil states lobby and the United States increasing economical interest in the region. While both the Arab and the Israeli political elites are using the American support to strengthen their regional power and to preserve their domestic policy, the outcome is that America is caught in the middle. On one hand it has its oil-rich Arab states, on the other hand is Israel, the only country from the region closer to a democratic regime. In the constant political bickering and recently, military conflict it is unlikley to see the United States being able to respond to the opposing interests of its allies.
The invasion of Iraq based on unclear informations, like the developing of weapons of mass destruction and the alleged connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda made the Arab world question the real intentions of President Bush in Iraq, and in the region. Many believe that the reason of US occupation was not directed mainly at the liberation of Iraq from Saddam Husseins despotic regime, but rather to control Iraq’s important oil reserves. In a relatively short period of time, the US policy toward Iraq shifted from containment to the goal of ousting Saddam from power. While it was highly undesirable to have a leader like Saddam Hussein and his heinous regime, some say that it was a flawed policy to military intervene in Iraq. This policy has made Washington responsible for Iraqs future while entangling the United States in an endless nation-building process. Given the fact, that the military presence inside Iraq is not essential to protect the United States national security interests, the occupation poses unnecessary risks.
An alternative to the present chaotic situation is not a permanent US military presence in Iraq, but rather a political agreement between the Sunni, Shiia and the Kurds to share power and wealth. A more pessimistic alternative would be the emergence of a civil war. Should this happen, Iraqs neighbours will step in, and take sides; Syria and the Gulf countries are likely to support the so-called Sunni triangle, known as a Baathist force, Iran will help the Shiia majority and Turkey will do everything it can to stop the Kurds attempt to have a sovereign Kurdish state. If the disintegration scenario will take place, the Kurds may have their province or state in the North with Kirkuk, a rich oil under their control. The Shiia majority will have Basra and Nasiriya both, rich oil regions. The problem is that the Sunnis, being a minority will not exercise their control over a rich oil region. That is the main cause of the terrible fights from the so called Sunni triangle. To satisfy the Sunnis there should be find a fair solution to give them a part of the wealth as well.
Turkeys worst fear is to see Iraq disintegrated in small states; the Kurds from the North of Iraq will probably struggle to include in their state the Kurdish population from Turkey, thus causing much anxiety in Ankara. As, for the United States the possibility of having an Iraq dominated by the Shiia majority, being without much doubt under Irans patronage, is a risk Washington would prefer not to take.
The Iraqis themselves should have the major role in stabilizing and rebuilding their own country. At this point in time and looking at the situation from the country, the religious or ethnic affiliation should be less important than their national identity as Iraqis. But, is there such thing as Iraqi identity? Iraqs border, as the borders of other Arab countries were drawn by Britain to benefit the West, rather than the interests of the local peoples. The Iraqis cohesive force was the overwhelming feeling of fear that Saddams regime has spread within the country; his regime being out of the picture, nothing or very less has left to keep the Sunni, Shiia and the Kurds Iraqi together. What is crystal clear is that the occupation is causing popular resentment, encourages outside intervention and a growing chance for an unstoppable revolt within the country.Although, many have said that a US complete withdrawal from Iraq will unleash the civil war, the reality is that the presence of the US and the coalition troops is already causing bitter anger among the Iraqis. A permanent presence will enhace the position of the radical Islamists and it will give them an excuse to vow revenge and war against the US. What the US can and should do is to withdraw from the main cities, let the Sunni, Shiia and the Kurds decide on their own what is the best possible political solution for Iraq and secure the borders. Act as a peacekeeping force on the ground, not as an occupier.
To many Iraqis and Arabs from inside and outside the region, the United States presence is perceived with the same anger and enmity as Saddam regime was. After Paul Bremer, the United States influenced the appointment of the Iraqi interim government which is seen as its servant, thus it lacks the legitimacy to rule the country. Then, the United States employed former generals to settle down the insurgency lead by Al Sadr’s militia; the same generals used by Saddam Hussein to fight against the Kurds in the north and the Shiia in the south.Moreover, the Abu Ghraib prison continued to be the same hideous place as under Saddams regime. In spite of all these facts, Bush administration expects the world to believe that they are providing a new and better approach to Iraq and the region. With no evidence of WMDs or ties with Al Qaeda, President George W. Bush has concentrated his speech and aims in Iraq on regime change, freedom and democratization’s import. The Wilsonian ideology of American’s exceptionalism has replaced a realistic and viable strategy of what should be done next after ousting Saddam Hussein.
While, a regime change was desirable it does not necessary mean that the next regime will be seculare or distinctly separated from Islam.
It seems more close to reality to picture the new Iraq as passing through some transitional phases until they will enjoy a democracy as we know it, in the West. Democracy means a clear separation of power within a state, rule of law, political pluralism, respect for human rights, a rule of majority while respecting the rights of a minority. However, in a country, and even region where such an experience is mostly unknown the prospects of democracy in Iraq are discouraging.Without a coherent, powerful national affiliation, the only remaining options are the ethnic and religious association.
The success of US policy in Iraq will be measured by the secure and stable environment the Iraqis will enjoy in the near future. If military force was widely used so far, diplomatical pressure and dialogue should get next in line. In this way, it will minimize the negative impact the occupation had and the risks associated with it.
— Manuela Paraipan – INS News Contributor reporting from Arad, Romania