Friday, November 18, 2005

Exit Bush stage left, followed by a Blair

I see that Bill Clinton is beginning to talk about withdrawal from Iraq.

For those who have any doubt that our presence in Iraq is exacerbating the insurgency, the key fact to remember that a recent survey showed that 90% of the insurgents just wanted their country back, and only 4-6% were Islamic fundamentalist jihadis.
Our forces are past their prime as peace-keepers. Once a certain number of peacekeeping troops are seen as inimical they are no longer effective peace-keepers, and then, the longer they stay, the more they will be resented.

It is clear that we must go.

On the other hand, if we do so, is there a danger that civil war will break out between Sunnis, Shias, Kurds and Islamists? It is easy to imagine that there might be. Therefore, a replacement force is needed in a peace-keeping role.

The logical replacement for US and UK troops is an UN peacekeeping force carefully selected from Islamic nations. Unfortunately there are three reasons standing in the way of this logical solution.

First, the problem with asking for a UN peacekeeping force is that it would be highly embarrassing for the USA and Britain to ask for the UN to take over, given the scathing remarks that were made about the UN by the American administration before the invasion.

Second, although we may all devoutly hope that the insurgency will die away after the removal of our provocative presence, it is equally possible that the tensions between the ethnic and religious groups may flare up into civil war, leaving the UN force holding one extremely agitated baby. It might need an awful lot of UN troops, and the UN is already over-committed.

Third, the reason that Bush sent his forces into Iraq is that he wanted to control the oil supply. It will take complex negotiations to keep American hands on the taps in the absence of American forces on the ground.

So, let us hope for a speedy withdrawal. But do not hold your breath.

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