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Astounds and Shocks
Posted: Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Arab News via
15 April 2003

As Iraqi policemen gradually respond to calls from the US military to return to work and help ensure security in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, it still astounds and shocks how little the US planned for the aftermath of war. If the chaos and looting stops in the next few days, it will be forgotten by the Iraqis; if not, they may well decide that they were better off under the tyranny of Saddam Hussein. Meanwhile, it raises the question of what else the Americans failed to factor into their invasion; what else is there that might go spectacularly wrong because of insufficient planning?

How about civil war in the south between Sunnis and Shiites or in the north between Washington’s new-found Kurdish friends and any combination of Arabs, Turkomans and Assyrians? That is far more frightening than the present urban anarchy — and the stirrings of it have already been seen in the ethnic rivalries between gangs of looters in Mosul. The looting, too, in Baghdad bears warnings for the future, with much of it having been carried out by the Shiite underclass from the presumably about-to-be-renamed Saddam City and directed at the Sunni elite of the old regime. Such communal and ethnic hostility must not be allowed to take root. The lessons of Lebanon’s civil war, where a civilized society was pushed into the abyss of self-destruction by the interference and manipulation of outside governments and organizations are a particular warning to Iraq.

The Americans and the British already have their clients and supporters; others too will be keen to use the present power vacuum to carve out as much control and influence as they can. Last week’s assassination in Najaf of a returning, senior Shiite leader with pro-Western leanings and now the attempt by a pro-Iranian Shiite group to oust another pro-American leader indicate a major and potentially devastating power struggle ahead — again, one which Iraq must avoid at all costs.

Despite the explosive dangers lurking ahead, it is painfully evident the victorious allies are making things up as they go along. The proof of that is seen in the astounding vagueness about what happens next. Washington may officially still be hooked on the notion of an interim military administration run by retired Gen. Jay Garner, which would then hand over to a transitional government made up of Iraqis but of its choosing. But that is far from certain. It cannot even make up its mind about how soon such a transitional government should start running events. It could be anything between a year or more and as little as a few weeks, maybe even less. Furthermore, the Bush administration appears hopelessly divided on who it wants in any transitional government or who should lead it. Some want it led by Ahmed Chalabi; others distrust him. That goes some way to explain why former Gen. Garner is doing next to nothing; his military administration is noticeable by its absence. Perhaps yesterday’s meetings with the Iraqi National Congress will clear the air, but for the moment there is total confusion on what happens next. So much then for Washington having planned the post-war settlement before it sent in the troops. The lack of foresight is staggering — and US public opinion will surely see it as a scandal. If the Americans and their allies’ military planning had been anywhere near as inept as the political planning, and the Iraqi Army had decided to fight, the outcome of this war would have been very different.

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