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Impasse in Iraq
Friday 14 November 2003
This is neither the hour for triumphalism, nor for malicious 0apleasure in having been right too early. French diplomacy may, however, boast of 0ahaving anticipated the problems the Americans and their allies would encounter 0ain Iraq after a military campaign conducted to drumbeat.
It may also feel a certain satisfaction to see George W. Bush 0atake up some of the proposals advanced from the day after Saddam Hussein's fall 0afor his own account: rapid reestablishment of Iraqi sovereignty, transfer of 0apower to a provisional Iraqi authority, and organization of elections. Jacques 0aChirac and his Foreign Affairs Minister, Dominique de Villepin, have repeated it 0aever since Washington decided to resort to force: alone, the United States has 0athe means to win the war; they don't have the means to win the peace.
This is the coalition's bitter daily experience, at the cost of a 0agrowing number of victims. Heralded by the ideologues surrounding the President, 0athe walk in the park that Iraq's democratization was supposed to be has turned 0ainto a nightmare. One year from the presidential election, George W. Bush has to 0afind a way out. It's too late to acknowledge the errors of judgment. A 0aprecipitate departure of American forces from Iraq would be a terrible admission 0aof failure and undoubtedly open the door to the destabilization of the Middle 0aEast. The most determined opponents of the war, in the United States as well as 0aabroad, warn Washington against such a temptation.
George W. Bush may not either send more troops to Iraq at the 0arisk of finding himself trapped in Vietnam-like gears. He cannot count on third 0acountry contributions, as they rightly balk at exposing themselves to such a 0adubious adventure. After Turkey, South Korea and Japan have given up the idea of 0asending their soldiers to Iraq.
So the President has come round to the accelerated "Iraqization" 0aof Iraq to get rid of a part of the burden. But the creation of a provisional 0agovernment will not transform the occupying coalition soldiers ipso facto into 0afriendly troops. That is to say, it will not be sufficient to reestablish 0asecurity, which is itself a necessary condition for political stability.
The U.N. could offer a means to break this vicious circle, even 0athough it's been the target of attacks in Baghdad itself. The U.N. at least has 0aexperience at nation building- the reconstruction of a state- which the 0aAmericans lack. Moreover, a multinational force, under the aegis of the Security 0aCouncil would have a different legitimacy in Iraqi eyes than the occupation 0aforces.
Must there be a still more obvious degradation of the situation 0afor George W. Bush to question his assumptions, to make up with his inconvenient 0aallies, such as France, and to put himself under the supervision of the U.N. he 0ahas so long despised? It is to be feared that it's already very late.
Translation: Truthout French language correspondent Leslie 0aThatcher.
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