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Tone-Deaf on Iraq
Los Angeles times | 0aEditorial
Saturday 11 October 2003
Washington's proposal to bring in Turkish troops is just the latest in 0aa series of bad calls. The U.S. must shift gears and give the United Nations a 0abigger role.
U.S. troops have learned that Iraqis greet a foreign occupation 0aarmy with rocket-propelled grenades, not flowers. And that was before the latest 0aslap: the proposed addition to the occupation forces of perhaps 10,000 soldiers 0afrom Iraq's former colonial master, Turkey. Washington is happy to have troops 0afrom a Muslim nation, but even members of the U.S.-appointed Iraq Governing 0aCouncil are protesting. The United States badly underestimated reaction to the 0aIraqi invasion and the huge sums needed to rebuild Iraq. Misunderstanding Iraq's 0asuspicion of its neighbors and the hatred between Turks and Kurds populating 0anorthern Iraq threatens to make security worse and rebuilding harder.
Turkish lawmakers refused prewar pleas to let the U.S. open a 0asecond front to invade Iraq from Turkish territory. Most Turks opposed the war 0aand don't want their forces in Iraq. But an $8.5-billion U.S. loan to Turkey 0alast month may have swayed Parliament, though Ankara denies any link.
Iraqis fear that the Turks will renege on promises to leave after 0aa one-year deployment and will try to seize territory or attack Iraqi Kurds, who 0athey fear intend to join Turkish Kurds in trying to form an independent 0astate.
Other nations, which wouldn't stir such concerns if they sent 0atroops, have demurred because of Washington's failure to get United Nations 0asupport. The Bush administration's recalcitrance is costing dearly. On Thursday, 0aa rocket-propelled grenade hit a convoy and killed another U.S. soldier outside 0aBaghdad; in the capital, gunmen fatally shot a Spanish diplomat and suicide 0abombers killed at least 10 Iraqis. Giving the U.N. a political voice in Iraq 0acould lessen anger at Washington and provide international legitimacy for Iraq's 0areconstruction.
Two weeks ago, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell expressed 0aconfidence that the U.N. Security Council would pass a U.S.-written resolution 0aof international support for rebuilding Iraq. But Washington underestimated the 0aopposition the latest example of bad intelligence on matters Iraqi.
The White House has belatedly awakened to the problems, 0aespecially as its poll ratings plunge and the price of the Iraq occupation 0asoars. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld testily said this week he was not 0aconsulted on the decision to give the White House and State Department a larger 0arole in Iraq's reconstruction, until now solely under Pentagon command.
This rare public airing of differences among Bush officials 0ashould become a turning point: The U.S. should shift from military belligerence, 0agoing it alone and lecturing global allies to employing diplomacy to get them 0ainto the Iraq mission. It's past time to deal with the insistence of U.N. 0aSecretary-General Kofi Annan who has lost 21 colleagues, including top aide 0aSergio Vieira de Mello, to violence in Iraq that the world body and allies 0ahave a say if they play a role in Iraq. If Washington doesn't change, the U.S. 0arole in Iraq could be even more lonely, costly and bloody.
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