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Tuesday, September 16, 2014
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Published: Saturday, 7/31/2004

The hand-over isn't working

THE United States in principle handed over authority in Iraq to an appointed Iraqi government a month ago. There were hopes at the time that the change to indigenous, if not representative, government by Iraqis would bring about some improvement in the situation there.

So far it hasn't worked. There was, first of all, some hope that the security situation in the country would improve: Iraqis' opposition to the status quo would no longer have as its direct target foreign, non-Muslim rule - occupation by foreigners

Opponents might still not like the faces that were ostensibly in control, nor the structure and nature of the interim government, but, at least, they would be Iraqi faces, staffing an Iraqi government.

The change might also have changed the attitude of the insurgents to destroying infrastructure, such as oil installations, pipelines, police stations, and other government buildings.

The insurgents might have taken the position that even though the infrastructure was still in the wrong Iraqi hands - not theirs - it was only a matter of time until the situation changed and political direction of the country passed into the hands of democratically elected authorities. So don't destroy it.

A timetable, in fact, exists that foresees elections by January, not that far off.

Obviously, an improvement in the security situation in Iraq would have also meant less need for America to retain its current 135,000 troops in Iraq. It should also have meant that those who were there would not have been under such hot attack and taking as many casualties.

No such luck. If anything, the assault on the authorities in Iraq, now in principle Iraqi as opposed to occupying foreigners, has become even more intense. As of now 54 Americans have been killed in Iraq in July, above the monthly average for the period since President Bush declared active hostilities ended, marking the beginning of the occupation period.

No one keeps accurate track of the number of Iraqis killed since the hand-over, although the list of Iraqi casualties included a long list of Iraqis who have accepted positions in the Iraqi interim authority, marking themselves as targets for the insurgents.

A drumfire of assassinations has ensued, including car bombs and other assaults directed against these Iraqis. As many as 50 Iraqis were killed and 40 wounded in an attack on a recruiting station for police in Baquba Tuesday; seven were killed in Basra in the south in a gunfight between Americans, Ukrainians, Iraqi police, and the insurgents.

The other relatively new security phenomenon is kidnappings of foreigners, designed to drive the countries of the victims away from participating in aid or other support programs in Iraq, leaving the United States increasingly alone there.

Now, it may be that the strategy the Bush Administration was pursuing in putting some authority in the hands of Iraqis will eventually work. But for now it's a bust.



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