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Can Iraqis tolerate the U.S. long enough?

The reports that at least some Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq have arrived at a sort of bipartisan (if you will) consensus that they oppose the U.S. presence in their country make me wonder — would they be similarly exercised if it were United Nations-led (or at least approved) forces that were now occupying their country? Much easier to villify a single, alien nation, than to shout one's opposition to the organized coalition of most every nation on the planet.

Iraq should, of course, be free to ask the United States to leave — and to refuse our help in rebuilding, should it so wish — just as its citizens are now free to protest. But there is no single, unified Iraq which could make such a request, and no way for its people to fairly decide such an issue; these things simply take time to create. Impatience could destroy any real chance at peace.

April 19, 2003 3:38 PM

Comments (and TrackBacks)

I think this is the key question in this issue, and it always has been. Our past involvements in the region have rarely turned out for the better (see Iran and Iraq, also Israel); this may just be our best chance to redeem ourselves.

But is it even possible to do well? Establishing a secular representative government would be the best outcome from our perspective, but thus far the loudest voices have been from Iraqis calling for Islamism. Another Iran certainly isn't a favorable outcome, at least from our point of view.

The question of stability versus idealism as goals is what the administration must decide. And the case for idealism isn't looking good, given the practical state of it: The shameless support of Chalabi thus far strikes me as counterproductive. A 40-year exile can never have real legitimacy, and he's too tainted by US (as well as ill-gotten Jordanian) money, anyway.

And there's still the question of the Kurds who are used to autonomy and will certainly rub against any new Baghdad government, not to mention Turkey.

All the evidence points to a very long US presence (not to mention that the administration almost surely hopes to establish some permanent military presence in Iraq, how could they pass up this chance?), and a long US presence is exactly what the grassroots Iraqis don't want.

Posted by Dave Adams on April 20, 2003 1:16 AM

There are actually two questions here, I think. There's the short-term one -- can the Iraqi people hold their breath long enough, let this U.S.-led reconstruction process take its course, and see what happens -- and a distinct, long-term one -- will those who don't like the results of that process be willing to sacrifice their own self-interests for the greater good of the country as a whole.

It may not be pure self-interest that leads some Iraqis to ask the U.S. to leave -- too strong a U.S. presence is indeed no doubt not in Iraq's long-term interests. So this sort of protest doesn't necessarily say anything about the long-term question (there may still be hope!). But the reality is that someone has to lead the process of creating a government that could fairly (relatively speaking, at least) speak for those interests -- even if each and every individual Iraqi citizen is already agreed upon a particular issue, there must be a formal process for deciding, and saying, so. And if the people don't buy into some means of creating a new government, they'll never have an effective one.

(not to mention that the administration almost surely hopes to establish some permanent military presence in Iraq, how could they pass up this chance?)

Yeah, this is starting to come out now -- they want military bases. What a surprise. And, what a dumb mistake -- it shouldn't be their decision; it should be Iraq's. Meh.

Posted by M on April 20, 2003 12:28 PM

Let's remember that things, especially in the MidEast, certainly do not exist as they appear -- ever.

Grass Roots
No, "Iranian roots" is a better phrase. Shi'i strarted marching in the South with well-written (in Arabic and English) signs only when they were composed and delivered by well intentioned, but well-connected, fellow Shi'i who enjoy the backing of the Iranian mullahs. Like a fellow commented last night on NewsHour, if you look closely, you would have seen a few choice individuals rallying the masses, leading them down this or that avenue, all the while distributing signs to those that, literally, were hauled out of soon-to-be-closed cafes for a "religious demonstration." Hmm. Well organized, but by a few or by local grass?

Why, listening to the hyper-self-negative US Press you'd think the average Iraqi is fairly religious. He's not. He's not. He's not.

He's, actually, one of The Most Secular citizens in the region, a trend well established before Saddam, and seen clearly in the publishing and movie industry once thriving in Baghdad.

So, where's all this call for a mullah-run theocracy coming from? Iran. And, surely not by those under 30 in Iran. Cause, even in Iran, such a government enjoys markedly low, low public approval ratings. Am i the only one who thinks this is a wee-bit suspicious? Am i the only one who remembers the demo's in Tehran before the war calling for similiar efforts in their own nation?

Believe it or not fellow Disneylanders, the Islamic Republic of Iran enjoys just as much favourable approval ratings in the region as does Syria, or Saddam's Iraq. Please.

It's hard to see, but remember that a very, very large portion of the population enjoyed all sorts of perks from the Ruling Thugs -- and many of those people watched those perks just go *poof* on April 9th. They're mad, and their disappointed. These are the ones who are the most vocal, and most angry, and about American intervention. And, so they should be.

Given time, and given an opportunity to see the full fruits of our intervention, other, polar-opposite rallies will soon be held.

Oh, right, they already have.
But, we're less interested in those it seems.

.rob

Posted by rob adams on April 22, 2003 2:20 PM

Let's remember that things, especially in the MidEast, certainly do not exist as they appear -- ever.

Did anyone forget? Wait, let's check -- how did I put it? I said, "at least some Sunnis and Shiites" seem to oppose the United States' presence. Hmm. Nope, sounds to me like no one here jumped to any conclusions.

Well, almost no one.

Posted by M on April 22, 2003 3:15 PM


Iran does S-Iraq...
http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/23/international/worldspecial/23IRAN.html

Posted by rob adams on April 23, 2003 1:53 PM

Can the US and the coalition create a secular, liberal, utopian democracy in Iraq? I think it is possible for some sort of democracy to be established there (and I say this with a heavy dose of skepticism). I really don't think that a clone of the USA will emerge in Iraq. Let's be realistic about this. At best I can envision Iraq becoming an imperfect democracy like India. It's a country filled with corrupt politicians where election votes are rigged and constant ethnic quarrels. Imperfect as it is, India is a democracy since 1948. At best, the same will happen to Iraq.

Cheers

Posted by Shekar on April 29, 2003 7:30 PM


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