No Vietnam but much to be done

Nice analysis of the ongoing situation by John Simpson

In the first of his weekly columns for the BBC News website, John Simpson assesses the difficulties of achieving unity in post-Saddam Iraq.

It is a pretty much unbroken rule: wars never turn out as the people who plan them expect they will.

If you look back at the things which supporters of the invasion of Iraq said in March 2003, you will not find they predicted any of the following:

* that after two years, coalition soldiers would be dying at the rate of almost two a day, and Iraqi civilians at around 20 a day

* that the road between Baghdad and the airport would be probably the most dangerous stretch of ground in the world

* that in one of the world's great oil-producing countries, most Iraqis would have to buy their fuel on the black market because of shortages at the pumps

* that in some areas of the country, women would be forced to wear Islamic dress by gangs of religious extremists

* that a major international report would suggest that Iraq could see "the biggest corruption scandal in history".

Yet the invasion's opponents did not necessarily get it right either.

There were forecasts of huge numbers of civilian deaths, of outright defeat for the coalition, of the creation of a Vietnam in which the Americans would eventually be driven out of Iraq altogether.

None of these things has happened.

The situation in Iraq is nothing like the Vietnam War, and it will not be.

Iraq is not splitting up, and does not seem to be heading that way.
The numbers are too small, for one thing: 200,000 insurgents, 150,000 US troops, a total of 1,500 incidents since the campaign of resistance began.

According to one senior American officer recently: "We can live with the kind of casualty levels we're getting.
"It's not the kind of thing that creates big campaigns back home."

Even the cost to the US tax-payer - $4.7bn a month - is something the American economy can easily absorb.

When the Iraqi elections took place earlier this year, there was a widespread feeling in Britain and the US that the problem of Iraq had been sorted out.

Sunni issue

The governments of George W Bush and Tony Blair believed the undoubted success of the elections justified the invasion of 2003.

Ibrahim Jaafari, who may become PM, and Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani
Fears that Iraq would disintegrate have not been realised
All the emphasis was placed on the fact that the two main sections of the population which had been repressed under Saddam Hussein - the Shia Muslims and the Kurds - had voted in huge numbers, and had effectively taken control of the country.

Far less attention was paid to the Sunni Muslim minority, which feared it had lost power and would now be victimised.

The resistance to the coalition and its Iraqi allies is rooted in the Sunni community, and certainly has not declined.
Weeks later, the country is still waiting for a government.
The negotiations between the political groups are still going on, and it is not yet clear when they might produce a result.

Yet although there is certainly a feeling in Iraq that the country is rudderless at present, the political process itself has not been discredited and probably will not be.

The delay cannot be blamed on the Iraqi politicians, anyway: it is the direct result of the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) which was agreed last year by hand-picked Iraqi politicians under the strong guidance of the Americans and British.

The TAL insists that two-thirds of the members of Iraq's new National Assembly should agree the new leadership. And since the main winners in the election, the mostly Shia United Iraqi Alliance, won only 51% of the seats, they are in heavy negotiation to get the remaining 16% they need. Hence the long delay.

There are a lot of things that are really worrying, two years after the invasion of Iraq.
The coalition has not yet shown that it has a serious answer to the uprising against them.

Shrinking coalition

The US commander in Iraq, Gen George Casey, said recently that "a combination of the political, the military, the economic, and the communications" would ultimately defeat the insurgency.

But of those, only the political aspect is even moderately positive for the coalition in Iraq today.

And in the meantime the coalition itself is shrinking, as ally after ally finds that supporting the American line is too unpopular back home.

Not everything is a disaster. The most serious anxiety at the time of the invasion was that the delicate balance between Iraq's population groups would be damaged, and that the Kurds and Shia would head for some kind of unilateral independence.

But Iraq is not splitting up, and does not seem to be heading that way. When a government is finally agreed, it should cement the union further.

Yet the basic problem remains: the Sunni population is as angry, resentful and resistance-minded as ever.

As the supporters of the invasion are finding two years on, you cannot step in, change the structure of a nation fundamentally and make everyone happy. There is a ferocious price to be paid, and on average two coalition soldiers and 20 Iraqi civilians pay it daily.

If you would like to comment on John Simpson's article, please send us your views using the form below.
John Simpson Analysis or post war iraq (2yrs on)
Simpson has been around a long time in terms of Iraq. Let us hope that his comments might in some way have an impact on those who are in a position to change things rather quicker than they are moving right now.
Have you read his book, 'The road to Baghdad: The Saddam Years'?

It is a very interesting history of the region and ll the dodgy going ons between the west and the middle east (see rumsfeld courting Saddam)


Agent_Smith said:
Have you read his book, 'The road to Baghdad: The Saddam Years'?

It is a very interesting history of the region and ll the dodgy going ons between the west and the middle east (see rumsfeld courting Saddam)
I read it - its very good and and uncovers a few stones. I'd definately reccomend it.

This is the man that survived being attacked by the US in the Kurdish North of Iraq. That bit is quite a harrowing read. I understand that incident left him partially deaf
I read his BBC article yesterday and I have read his book, both sum up the situation well, from a historical perspective and in the here and now.

Lets hope the politicians take note. :roll:
WhiteHorse said:
Lets hope the politicians take note
Fat chance. Since when did those prats ever take notice of someone who knows what is afoot? Much more interested in some clown who they call an 'expert' in return for his spouting in line with their Lie of the Week.

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