Last week the US administration called for yet another initiative on Iraq. Under US pressure, more than 50 countries attended a conference at the exotic holiday resort of Sharm El-Sheikh. Security and debt relief appeared high on the agenda of the conference.
However what is remarkable about this conference is that it will be remembered more for its sound bites rather than for its political agenda. Since President Bush assumed office, this is the first time the international community witnessed the Axis of Evil sharing a conference with the “Great Satan”; presumably, for the Iraqis, to plan for or agree upon more evil for the destiny of Iraq.
This latest initiative is not dis-similar to a host of US initiatives post Iraq’s invasion. They have remarkable similarities. All seem to appear on the political scene when President Bush comes under domestic or international pressure for the war and its conduct in Iraq. Each is void of any relevance to the realities on the ground in Iraq. And all share the same fate of achieving nothing. The fate of Sharm El-Sheikh conference will be no different than its predecessors.
This is no coincidence, as these initiatives have been designed for US party politics, principally to divert US public opinion away from the catastrophic failure of the war in Iraq. Most importantly, to delay addressing the inevitable question. That is, who should be held accountable for the invasion and destruction of Iraq? And for the huge loss of American lives in this military adventure, declared by the UN secretary general Kofi Annan as an illegal war?
If the US administration is serious and honest about addressing the concerns of the international community about Iraq, they should do so by talking to the main protagonist in this conflict. That is Iraqis who refused and are resisting the occupation. The British government did not resolve the conflict in Northern Ireland by talking to the French or the Germans. They did so by talking to Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA. The situation in Iraq is no different. General Sir Micheal Rose, a former British Army Commander told the BBC “Insurgents in Iraq are right to try to force US troops out of the country”. This is the present reality of the conflict in Iraq that must be faced, by the current US and UK incumbent, or their imminent future replacements.
Reacting to power sharing in the Northern Ireland assembly, Gerry Adams, President of Sinn Fein commented “I think what today proves is that dialogue and perseverance and tenacity and persistence can bring about results”.
In making the case for war, dialogue and diplomacy were deliberately sidelined in favor of a pro-war agenda of deception, disinformation and misinformation. The waste of innocent lives, British, Iraqis and Americans, should now weigh heavily in favor of righting the wrongs of the war. North Ireland is a province of the UK that suffered injustice. The situation in Iraq is much more fundamental. Until the invasion, Iraq was a sovereign independent state, and a founding member of the UN. Today Iraq’s territorial integrity has been violated by an act of illegal war. This is hard to accept in a nation where dignity, self respect and above all pride represent the most basic fundamentals of life. Iraqis deserves more than US initiatives that are much ado about nothing.
The problems in Iraq are clear for all to see. They are the invasion, the continued occupation and the imposition of a sectarian constitution. Each act represents a fundamental violation of international law.
President Bush invasion forced secular Iraq out and embraced sectarian theocratic regime instead. To restore the status quo, the political landscape of Iraq must be changed. Hard as it may seem, the US needs to admit defeat, and have the political will and courage to stop fighting this hopeless war. No longer as the lord and masters of occupation, but simply another well armed militia group that constantly takes sides. Saving lives and not face savings should be the political order to ending the conflict in Iraq.
The occupation must end sooner or later. The option for the US is to leave sooner with credibility or leave later with memories of the Saigon fiasco. For the Iraqis who suffered so much ending the occupation should be conducted orderly, under the auspicious of the UN. This will guarantee that weak and fragile Iraq doesn’t become a victim to Iran’s regional ambitions. Continuing the occupation of Iraq will leave a scar on the moral conscious of the American people, even deeper than that left by the Vietnam War and with greater risks.
The current US leadership may draw political courage from the determination of George Washington in the American war of independence from the British. The culture of occupation is not resented any less today than the days of George Washington. On the contrary it is resented and rejected much more. Not only by the occupied but by all civilized nations of the world. This begs the question as why Britain decided to invade Iraq twice in a century.
Iraq needs to be given back to the Iraqis, not the ones American chooses. They are most suited and qualified people to rebuild Iraq. The so called Iraqi debts should be relived by a package of compensation provided by coalition of the willing who have participated directly and indirectly in the occupation and destruction of Iraq. Just like in Northern Ireland, rebuilding Iraq will provide the incentive for peace and security.
This current political non entity referred to US and UK political circles as the Iraqi government, is a direct result of a sectarian US political doctrine, imposed on Iraq in violation of international law. This is a repeat performance of the “election”, less credible than those held by previous regimes. Therefore, this government doesn’t represent the people of Iraq. It doesn’t have the political will or support of the Iraqi people. Can not deliver on any promises it chooses to make. It can only serve as an agent of the current political masters, the US administration, to maintain the occupation. The fear for the Iraqis is that, it may end serving a potential future political master, the Tehran government.
Some analyst suggested that the decision to go to war against Iraq was based on oil and glory. To cure US mind set from the Vietnam syndrome. Events since the invasion have demonstrated that these assumptions were simply wrong. With so many wasted lives on all sides, and so much destruction, the challenge now is to have the moral courage, to stop the war and end human suffering. If human life has any value, surely this must be an easier decision to make.
Dr Burhan M. Al-Chalabi is member of the Royal Institute of International Affairs. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org