A POST-WAR IRAQ
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.
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.
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
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.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
says Iraq is rich in oil so no donors will be needed like in the
case of Afghanistan.
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.
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
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?
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. .
Iraqi Mission in the UN.
British Ministry of Defence
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