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Iraq War of Attrition

27 June 2003

By Yisrael Ne’eman

The Iraq quagmire has turned into a war of attrition.  The bad news is it will get worse whether Saddam Hussein is captured or not as the two allies stand little chance of gaining control over the country using pro-West factions.  At best they will have to govern the country themselves for quite a while.  The absolute worst outcome may also be in the works.  The possibility grows with every day of the US – British presence that when the allies do leave, Iraq will become hotbed of militant Shi’ite fundamentalist terror activity.

Weapons of mass destruction have not been found (yet) and the question is being raised once again as to the reason for the US – British operation and how one could plan for a positive outcome.  Saddam Hussein was certainly a threat to world peace and is not particularly missed.  Destroying Saddam’s army and liquidating his despotic regime were certainly laudable objectives.

The issue is of what to do afterwards.  Washington wants to rebuild Iraq, its economy, political system and its social fabric.  But the Islamic radicals know stability on those three fronts will defeat their strategic aim of gaining power.  By launching guerilla warfare against the Americans and British their aim is chaos and turmoil to the point of forcing the departure of the military victors.  In the process the Islamic forces hope to unify everyone against Washington and London by drawing them into retaliation whereby innocent civilians become victims.  President Bush and British PM Blair are on the horns of a dilemma.  Their intentions are praiseworthy, but the outcome may prove otherwise. 

Attempts to rehabilitate the Iraqi economy are faltering as terror groups attack the oil infrastructure, the central tool in pulling Iraq’s economy out of the doldrums and entering an era of reconstruction and stability.  The more the society slides into destruction and havoc the more the Islamic militants’ chance of success is enhanced.  Fascist and communist insurgencies of the 20th century were based on the same thinking.

The two allies will need to commit many more forces should they expect to build even a semblance of a new democratic Iraq.  To do so would mean for the two leaders to stretch what credit they have with their constituencies.  Unfortunately public support is often very fickle and not far - sighted.  Bush and Blair may be in trouble on the domestic front sooner than they think.

Should the Iraq venture fail, it will prove a Western collapse of resolve in battling dangerous despots and terrorism around the world, portending negatively for the outset of the 21st century.  Surprisingly much of this will depend on the support (or lack of) by continental Europe and Russia.

Paris and French President Chiraq are the key, and not a willing one.