Post war challenges

When a tyrant is overthrown, people who had been under his jackboot for long years come out dancing on to the streets. Thousands did come out on to the streets of Baghdad on Wednesday but there was no spontaneous outburst of joy of millions of Iraqis as could have been expected with the end of a quarter century of a bloody dictatorship.

It took the rout of Saddam Hussein’s troops in 22 days and the entry of American Marines to the centre of Baghdad for the Iraqi citizens to come out to the streets. Perhaps, the fear instilled into the Iraqis for so long by the dreaded political-military apparatus of Saddam Hussein was not easy to forget. The fate of those who celebrated in public after the defeat of Saddam Hussein in the last Gulf War too would have been an effective brake. Besides, the war itself was not yet over, the fighting continuing in Baghdad and in other parts of Iraq.

The proclaimed altruistic motives the British and Americans did not go down well with the Iraqis as well as neighbouring countries. The basic reason was that they did not want foreign invading forces – particularly those whom they call ‘infidels’ – in their countries close to holy places of worship of the Muslims. This overbearing factor will operate against the occupying troops, despite ‘liberation’, reconstruction and all that.

There was never a doubt that the American – British forces will make mince meat out of the Iraqi forces. But this does not imply that the war has now been won. The greater challenges are to follow. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney, both admitted yesterday, of great challenges ahead.

The situation in Afghanistan is an indication of the challenges likely to be faced in Iraq. The US defeated the Taleban, drove them out of Kabul and set up a democratic regime whose writ does not run far from Kabul. This regime is now under attack and has to be protected by allied troops and US. How long the US has to deploy such troops is anybody’s guess.

Quite obviously the British-American forces cannot occupy Iraq for long. Even staunch allies of the Americans such as Hossni Mubarak of Egypt is saying that Iraqis should be left to govern themselves.

America may have grand designs for setting up a pro-western democratic regime in Iraq but this is an extremely difficult task. Ruthless dictatorships of Saddam Hussein and those before him held the fractious Sunni, Shiite Muslims and the rebellious Kurds under one regime. Whether an emergent democratic regime could hold the country together as the dictators did is much in doubt.

Even more important is American intentions. Their continued presence in Iraq will be opposed not only by Iraqis but the entire Arab world. The American-British triumph will be viewed by all Arabs as a defeat for Arabs and Islamic nations. The Arab resentment could, as Hosni Mubarak said at the commencement of this war: Produce a thousand bin Ladens.

Americans, however, are unlikely to bow out like good knights after having slain the dragon. Already there is sabre rattling in the Pentagon where the hawks are saying that what happened in Iraq is a good lesson for ‘rogue nations’ like Syria, Iran and North Korea. Already, Syria is being targeted and accusations are being made that Syria helped Iraq in this war and that Saddam Hussein’s Weapons of Mass Destruction have been transported to Syria. If the United States does target Syria and Iran which is also accused of going ahead with a nuclear weapons programme, the repercussions are unforeseeable.

Both British Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bush have been speaking of UN’s post war role in Iraq and the only way out of this tangled web appears to be the UN which is acceptable to all parties concerned.

The 22-Day blitzkrieg has resulted in many forgetting the basic objectives of this war. Destroying the Weapons of Mass Destruction of Saddam Hussein and bringing down his regime. The regime has been brought down-although the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein is not known. The more important objective was the elimination of the Weapons of Mass Destruction but it is hardly spoken of now. During the massive onslaught, these said weapons were not deployed by Iraq which makes the Iraqi protestations that they did not possess such weapons highly credible.

The British and American leaders violated international law by ignoring the United Nations and going ahead with this war but did achieve the objective of destroying a 25-year-old dictatorship that held the Iraqis in chains. They can claim that they have won the war – although it is not yet over – but they have lost much of the credibility and confidence with the rest of the nations of the world – the Islamic nations, other Third World nations and even most of their European allies.

If the Americans want to win back the support and confidence of the rest of the world, particularly the Third World on which they would have to count on in combating international terrorism, much would depend on their post war policies on Iraq.

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