There are some pressing issues the United States will be forced to confront when it topples the regime of Saddam Hussein . Given that some measure of death and destruction is inevitable in any conflict, what kind of state might be expected to emerge from the ashes? 
By Adel Darwish 

March 7, 2003

While world tried hard to find an honourable exit for the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein,  to spare the Gulf region a devastating war, he remained defiant. A day after Hans Blix’s report to Security Council gave more momentum to Anglo American drive to give Iraq until March 17 to disarm or face war  Saddam called for disarming Israel and America instead of Iraq.

It was evident during both  Arab-summit in Sharmel Sheikh – March 1 and the emergency Doha Islamic conference- four days later  that the ruling Iraqi Baathist  regime  was  kicking away every ladder dangled down to help  them climb up from the impossible pit they dug for themselves. One Qatari official used the term ' meystibia'een'  to describe the Iraqis. The Egyptian slang word, plural of 'meystabi'a'  - first emerged around 1900 at a time when gangsters carved blocks of  influence in urban areas . It  means a desperado who doesn't care even for his own safety any more. A meystabi'a - a verbal noun of from adverb ' istebia'a' , from the Arabic word ' bei'h'  - selling- is the one who  gave up any hope, and he would  provoke you to a fight without giving much thought to the consequences. The term was coined when the police occasionally took a gang  who either stepped the line or  fell out with the corrupt district police  commissioner.
Knowing that his days are numbered, the meystabi'a  takes a last pot-shot, a desperate last gamble- he is selling himself so cheap,  almost for nothing, because he knows  his opponent can't be sold that cheap, so you end up with a few choices: leave them to their own devises as long as they don't harm your interests; paying for them  to either get out of the situation or  you'd foot the bill of the consequences of their action- if you  take them down, they - having nothing tom lose - will take you down with them. A Samson option that You'd try to avoid  at all cost.

 Appearing  'meystibia'een', the Iraqis made the Qatari official ' scared'  of  some nasty secrete weapon or a surprise they have. In another words, Saddam, who has no conscience , no qualms and no concern of how many of his fellow countrymen and women could perish in the confrontation calculates that no responsible statesman in the civilised world will have the stomach to fight him to the bitter and tragic end, and at one point the civilised world would halt the confrontation when it realises that the cost is too high for the world conscience  to bear.

However what most people fear is a  post-Saddam  mess which seems to be an unavoidable outcome of the war,  not a result of his use of some nasty weapons, but more  likely  the type of Iraq he leaves behind. Those who know the Middle East well in general, and Iraq in particular, would agree that driving the despot out of Baghdad and destroying his nasty Baathist regime would be a picnic compared to the most difficult task that would face America the morning after: Clearing the mess left in Iraq,' which is - almost certain - going to be a very costly and unpleasant business. Reconstructing Iraq will be "difficult, confusing and dangerous", is a summary of the assessment of  the New York Think Tank  Council on Foreign Relations.

Iraq is a country divided along more than half a dozen ethnic groups, there are  35 major tribal confederations, some of which span ethnic and sectarian divides. grouping and various religions. Oppressed Shia majority in the south, warily dominant Sunnis in the west, precariously autonomous Kurds in the north, a smattering of Christians, Turkmen Assyrians and Armenians, and tribes everywhere.

Iraq was  forged  80 years ago by Britain capturing three neglected Ottoman provinces that were known to be rich in oil,  and losing 20,000 troops in the process. The Iraqis are historically difficult  to rule  as Britain, with its long colonial experience, has discovered. A revolt  in  1920 - and it took the use of mustard gas to subdued it- taught the empire that it can't by-pass the tribal chiefs and warlords in any strategy. 

Eight decades later Iraq is no better. Twenty years  ago it  seemed immune to Islamism  that bedevilled the region at the time. Now secularism has retreated in reaction to the evident bankruptcy of Baathism, but also in response to the regime's manipulation of religion to sustain its own legitimacy. There is no way to measure the strength of Islamism except in Kurdistan- the only place where election takes place- where  20% of votes are regularly won by Kurdistan's range of mild-to-radical Islamist parties. What is certain is that once Iraq's isolation ends, the xenophobic Islamist rhetoric that dominates the rest of the region will penetrate faster and deeper than the "propaganda" of Radio Sawa, the American funded station beamed at young Arabs, which no one takes seriously. There is no way a full democracy could be installed under the spreading Islamism which rejects all man-made laws.

The once modern urban areas  had witnessed a long process of demodernisation  by deliberate Baath party practice; since Saddam's own mafia-like gangster structure of the hierarchy relies on tribes after ' renting' their  loyalty - by  giving their leaders  guns and Toyota four wheel Land Cruisers. Much of the educated elite, who once were modernising against forces of tribalism has fled. Incomes are less than 10% were in 1980. Most families rely directly on government food rations to survive. A quarter of children are malnourished. A place where no one trusts civil institutions but cheap fire arms are plenty while  religious, ethnic and clan loyalties predominate it is a fertile soil for anarchy once the strong regime falls.

Saddam's regime  controls  roots in society by relying on other apparatuses besides the half a million official armed forces to survives. There are  layers of  a pyramid structures consisting of some 30,000 members of  Al-Takritis, Saddam's  own extended clan,  al-Bu Nasir,  another 30,000 from affiliated loyalist clans; an estimated 80,000-200,000 secret police in at least eight overlapping security agencies, and as many as a million party officials, petty informers and profiteers from the president's charmed circle. Although a great deal of party members joined for the benefits - like subsidised housing or getting good results in exams - or just to be safe; one must not underestimates the ability and the willingness of at least half the party members to fight the Americans. They fear what  might await them if the regime loses.

The tasks facing the victors are enormous;  weeding out  hundreds of  Baath party commissars and members of security apparatuses  implicated in crimes; this will also involve   purging the law of Baathist accretions and rebuilding the corrupted justice system.

Army and over 80,000-man uniformed police force have to be demobilised and then reorganising  them on a  modern   non-ideological system. The same goes for  intelligence agencies.

The ordinary daily trading can only resumed by restoring  law and order on issues like: spontaneous reprisals against the former regime - there was some nasty scenes during the short lived 1991 uprising; holding back Kurds from asserting their contentious historical claim to the city of Kirkuk - which will almost certain lead to radicals among Turkomen to invite Turkey to protect them ; and curtailing the influence of the armed Shia militias, based in Iran, which have waited 23 years to export its Islamic revolution.

Just look at Iraqi opposition in exile - drawn from among four millions fled Iraq since Saddam took power  in 1979.  Over  100 groups and  parties  claim to stand for principles, and have an agenda for a future ' democratic' Iraq. However reality suggests otherwise; the only effective groups remain essentially clan-based. 

Kurdistan, which enjoys a defacto autonomy thanks to the no-fly-zone-  is freer than it was under Saddam, with a lively press and a plethora of political parties,  remains divided between two clan chieftains who pose as modern politicians. Iraqis jokingly refer to their fiefs as Talabanistan and Barzanistan. Only in  1996 they fought each bother ; and one party enlisted help from the devil himself  Saddam to defeat the others and to destroy the CIA costly plans in the region sending their agents fleeing and leaving expensive equipment behind. 

In the south the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq SCIRI, an Iranian backed Shia group with HQ in Teheran  is the largest and best organised of the Arab parties, has followers in the east of Iraq but few among Shia elsewhere. Many Shia outside that area  resent its pretensions to speak for them. The Turkomen, started looking to Turkey, who have suddenly remembered their existence- to rely on Ankara to get a larger slice of the cake; following years of Baathist oppression - Saddam Turkish names given to their offspring, changed Turkish street names, and using their Turkish tongue during an official telephone conversation risked severe punishment. 

 "The nation of Iraq, with its proud heritage, abundant resources and skilled and educated people, is fully capable of moving toward democracy and living in freedom," said President George Bush, in a speech on February 26th.  But few share his optimism.
 "It will be a very, very nasty affair," says  Joseph Wilson, a former First Secretary at American Embassy in Baghdad in 1990, who acted as an ambassador in the days following the invasion of Kuwait. Saddam tried to bribe him on August 6, 1990 by offering to sell America all what it needs of oil well below market price if they leave him alone.

Today, the Bush administration sounds genuine but recent precedents for what America is thinking of doing in Iraq  -Panama, Haiti, Afghanistan-  are discouraging. Iraq is more complex, and in a more volatile place. Observers are alarmed  by signs that America could repeat its usual mistakes - like the way they disappointed the Iraqi opposition gathered in Northern Iraq, by belittling their future role opting instead for a military rule by an American general. 

There is a battle royal going on  between the State Department and the CIA on one side and the Pentagon backed by the hawks in the administration like  over plans for rebuilding and governing Iraq.

Failing to prevent the war of " regime change" in Iraq, the State Department  tried to stop the Pentagon,   installing Dr Ahmed Chalabi, the head of the Iraqi National Congress INC  to lead Iraq. Supported by Secretary of State Colin Powell, Department officials  and region experts  push for the United Nation to be given a prominent role in the reconstruction of a future Iraq. However hawks of the Pentagon and the white house see the UN as irrelevant. The French-German Russian Chinese axis that emerged last month in the security Council blocking efforts by the UK & US didn't help those in the State Department. 
To the State Department's dismay, the planning for a new  Iraq has been entrusted to the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance ORHA based in the Pentagon, headed by Lt  General Jay Garner, a retired officer who lead operation ' Provide Comfort' the humanitarian relief operation in Northern Iraq  in 1991 after Saddam's onslaught drove over 150,000 Kurds across the borders to Turkey where its soldiers beat them savagely back into no-man's land.

The Bush administration envisage  Gen Garner taking over the control of Iraq from Gen Tommy Franks, commander of allied forces in the Gulf, once Saddam's  forces have been defeated. Opinions differ sharply over what follows Gen Garner's mission. Doug Feith, the number three in the Pentagon who has been coordinating with Iraqi opposition for two years and believes that Iraqis must be involved in running the country as soon as possible, has been given overall responsibility for post-war Iraq. He  has been briefing reporters that Mr Chalabi must be given power as swiftly as possible.

Mr Feith, a neo-conservative closely allied to Paul Wolfowitz, the Pentagon deputy, is strongly supported by Vice-President Dick Cheney but faces determined opposition from the CIA and State Department. Career officials at  Langley ( CIA's HQ) and at Foggy Bottom (State Department offices) have opposed Mr Chalabi since the days of the Clinton Administration. They don't believe  the exiled Iraqi opposition is able  to command loyalty in the country. Secretary of State Powell too sees a  military occupation lasting several years and  an American or UN figure should be in charge. 

Some argue that despite of  Uncle Sam's deep pocket, the cost of the occupation could mount up beyond budget available. Unlike the last Gulf war when America received $54 Billion contributed by her friends in the region and elsewhere , this time President Bush can hardly find a donor at a time when many allies - including those benefiting most from Saddam's removal, are sounding alarms believing that war would have  negative effects on the world's economy.

The administration  has only recently created a body to co-ordinate ideas for relief and reconstruction - but  NGOs complain of lack of consultation. The UN agencies, their plans drawn up, remain strapped for funds, while there are warning that Saddam's  traditional victims like Kurds in the North and Shia in the southeast might flee for safety as soon as war starts creating a huge refugee problem in Iraq's six neighbouring countries. There is no sign  yet of any international civilian force to do the kind of policing that American troops cannot. This means the cost of the occupation envisaged by the State Department- will have  to be met by American taxpayer.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the annual cost of peacekeepers at $250,000 a head. This puts the price for maintaining 100,000  troops in Iraq at $25 billion a year, equal to Iraq's GDP. Immediate humanitarian aid for a minimum Five million  people  could cost $500 a head, for a total of $2.5 billion. Rebuilding basic infrastructure to the standard existed before 1990 costs another  $25 billion. There is also the cost for reconstructing  institutions like schools, hospitals, universities, civic centres, leisure centres  and museums, could take the cost to  $100 billion. 
That is even before deciding who will take power from Gen Garner. 

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw says Iraq is rich in oil so no donors will be needed like in the  case of Afghanistan.
But it is not that simple. The infrastructure to pump oil from underground is much less than what it was before 1990. Saddam also might torch his own wells. Current exports of 2.5m barrels a day (b/d) earn over $15 billion a year. An increase of  another one m / day, experts requires  $7 billion investment. To produce  6m b/d,  needs another $20 billion and will take  ten years. Only then, Iraq could begin to pay for its own rapid development. Iraq's debts are  estimated  between $60 billion and $140 billion. But with so many claims on oil revenue, relatively little may be reinvested in production.

Washington  officials last month discussed   the idea of a civilian "tsar" such as Michael Mobbs, a Pentagon lawyer, or David Kay, a former UN weapons inspector to govern Iraq. Meanwhile the Pentagon was pushing the name Barbara Bodine, a Career diplomats served in Baghdad, Kuwait and Yemen, and, like NCC Condolizza Rice belives that muslim societies in the region would welcome  American democracy rising from the ashes of Saddam; and that liberating women would help end terrorism.

State Department  suggested that an Iraqi official in the current  regime might emerge as a potential leader - which also frightens Iraqis and upsets them as this might lead to Saddamism without Saddam .

 Pentagon official  admitted to the Daily Telegraph   being " in a mess over the post-war planning. 'Our people at the Pentagon should be in control but they fell asleep and the State Department bureaucracy has begun to take over again"  they  said. To the dismay of the neo-conservatives, several CIA and State Department officials, some viewed as determined opponents of regime change, have been given key positions in Gen Garner's office.

Thomas Warrick,  adviser  with the State Department - northern Gulf affairs office - is in charge of helping to assign Iraqis to government ministries after liberation.

Lakhdar L'Brahimi, the UN secretary-general's special representative for Afghanistan, has scotched reports that he might be chosen as the UN-nominated ruler of Iraq after Saddam.  "This is very far-fetched and speculative," he said in Kabul. Even if there was talk of such a job, he would immediately decline it. It is not an envious job given the nature of the complex that is Iraq.

However the picture needn't be that bleak if the Americans were to play it right.  Iraq's proven oil reserves are second only to Saudi Arabia's. This means international firms lining up to invest; but only if the place is stable. But investments have to be long term and the rewards are not immediate. Harsh realities would throw a wet-blanket  on Iraqi high  expectations.

But unlike Panama, Haiti or , Afghanistan Iraq has  other great resource which  is its people. Before Saddam presidency in 1979 that lead to destructive and costly war, there was a high level of investment in human resources, like schooling, health and regard for women made the country a model of progress, but most of  top professionals have emigrated, or fled the country to escape Saddam . Almost 75% of Iraqis were born after 1980 to grow in the years of decline and retrenchment. Illiteracy has risen  school standards have plummeted..  Baathist corruption, Saddam's  police state and his destruction of civil society coupled with 12 years of sanctions destroyed a once prospers middle class . 

Unlike Afghanistan Iraq has a rich pool of émigrés to draw on, it will be shock for exiled Iraqis to see what happened to their nation. War, poverty and neglect have reduced Basra, beautiful and ancient port of charm, to a smelly slum. Baghdad's once-rowdy riverside cafés and restaurants are rundown and derelict. 
There will be problems also as exiles hoping to recover abandoned property, such as the 100,000 Kurds displaced by Saddam's "Arabisation" schemes around Kirkuk, may be confronted by hostile usurpers. Some ambitious Iraqis - especially those with the most needed skills -, cooped up for too long, may leave as soon as they have the chance. However signals from Iraqi exiles are encouraging suggesting  that many of the country's 4m exiles, wealthy and educated as they are, will want to return and help eventually.

Saddam's levelling sword, and his  imminent end is likely to prevent the dominance of any single ethnic group This opens the way for a political formula that may break the current, unsuccessful, Arab mould. In addition the exaggerated fear of Iraq splitting into Kurdish, Sunni Arab and Shia states, would make the Iraqis behave more responsibly. 
Optimists say the Iraqis  may be more willing to accommodate diversity than is commonly assumed. The sectarian consciousness of   the Shia - 55% of Iraqis- , for example, is not very strong. During the 1991 uprising Shia happily murdered Shia officials, and Sunnis joined the revolt, as noted by Dr Mudhar Shawkat of the Iraqi National Movement. Also  there is no single Khomeini-like figure to unite them. Traditionally  Iraqi ayatollahs scorned involvement in politics. 

The idea of  a federation of strictly administrative regions, - see THE MIDDLE EAST October issue-  not of tribes has been put forward by many. Opponents say allowing the central government to grow strong by suck in all the oil revenue is a recipe for future oppression - they point out that there is no history of ethnic conflict in Iraq, it is always a government repressing an ethnic group. The larger question is : Is  the world remaining superpower able to clear up the mess and show Iraqis quick benefits before sober reality turns into a nightmare?
 But hashing out all these questions will take time and patience in abundance. Those, not oil, will be the most important resources.

 No smoking gun but America keeps pressure on * The Show Rolls on  * Hans Blix's text 14 Feb 2003  *  who will have the last laugh? Sorting out Saddam ?   The raid *.  Iraqi Official Statement   *. The View from Britain    * American policy on Iraq in disarray    * .Saddam, the popular dictator among Arabs.  . 

Further information:
Iraqi Mission in the UN.
British Ministry of Defence
The pentagon

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