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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Letters to the FT

As promised here are my letters published by the Financial Times...

LEADER: Timing of Iraq's election has been eclipsed by the importance of a US plan for withdrawal
Financial Times; Jan 21, 2005
Sir, You may be right to suggest that a delay to the election in Iraq will solve nothing but I can also see a spectrum of catastrophic results from a poorly run or divisive election that fails to appear legitimate in the eyes of ordinary Iraqis. These include civil war and the implosion of the Iraqi government.

Given the situation in Iraq, the latter is becoming more likely to be the case. Already the Jordanian ambassador to the US has predicted that 40 per cent of the Iraqi population will be unable to vote. If this is the case, what validity will the election have whenever it is held? Maybe a delay will not change the crisis but the timing of elections is not the main issue any more.

Without the US giving a clear timetable for the end of its presence in Iraq, the elections are in danger of being no more than a sideshow to the attacks on US soldiers and those who are seen to be supporting them.

Without this timetable any new government will appear to a significant section of the Iraqi population to be a cover for the occupation or will be forced to turn against the occupation itself. Either way the US will have to face up to the fact that it must end its presence in Iraq. The only question is when and what will be its legacy.

Iraqis already risk their lives leaving their homes every day, without knowing for certain if they will return safely. Before they risk life and limb going to polling stations they must be given some hope that this will improve their lives. At this stage, a vague promise that the new government can negotiate the end of the US occupation will not do.

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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: US must commit to withdrawal
Financial Times; Mar 06, 2004
Sir, I am an Iraqi who has been in the UK nearly all my life, yet I feel as outraged and as personally affected by the latest massacre of civilians as I would have had I grown up in Iraq.

Speculation on the reasons that motivated the bombers and to a certain extent who they are are all but irrelevant. The point is that this has happened and can go on happening. Unless the US is willing to send an army of 1m soldiers into Iraq there will always be instability.

Even when an all-Iraqi security force is given control of large parts of Iraq after the official end of the occupation there will still be chaos. The new police and army will still be tainted by the fact that they are also there as the frontline of defence for the 100,000 soldiers the US plans to keep in Iraq for the foreseeable future.

For the sake of peace and stability Iraqis must be free to determine their own future and be governed by those whose motivations are exclusively in the interests of Iraq. Yet the US is still trying to create a government in Iraq after the June 30 deadline with the right to sign binding agreements that will affect the country for generations. Such agreements cover the mortgaging of Iraqi oil and the status of US troops to remain in Iraq immune from prosecution under Iraqi law.

If anything, the recent events have woken Iraqis to the fact that the root cause of this anarchy is the presence of US troops and the control the US exerts through this presence. The US has singularly failed to bring order to Iraq because its presence is simply not viewed as legitimate by the majority of Iraqis. Ordinary Iraqis will now see the poor security situation not just as critical but also as something that must be urgently resolved.

The only positive to be taken from the bombings is that, from what I have seen, Iraqis are uniting rather than falling back on sectarian differences. However, unless the US commits to withdrawing its military and stops its gerrymandering with Iraqi politics to create a government that is artificially co-operative with its interests, I can only foresee that it will face an uprising from all sections of the Iraqi population, together with a repeat of all the tragedy of the past year and the problems for regional stability that will ensue.

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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: No vision of how to transform the occupation into a representative Iraqi government
Financial Times; Aug 25, 2003
Sir, I write as an Iraqi who has been forced for more than 30 years to live outside Iraq and who dearly wishes to return to a stable country. The tragedy at the United Nations compound on Tuesday can only serve to push such a day further away.

I read with interest your editorial ("The dilemma of the UN in Iraq", August 21) and I agree that it is at times like this that there must be serious attention to the issues.

All I see, however, in your editorial and the editorials of other respected newspapers is a debate on the merits of increasing the UN role versus increasing US troop numbers. This debate seems to forget one vital component: the 22m Iraqis who have to live through this nightmare.

When are they going to have an Iraqi government backed up by an Iraqi security apparatus? Until this question can be properly answered I can only imagine that the violence and lawlessness will increase.

Replacing a US occupation with a UN occupation will only create a different target for the bombers. Adding more troops to bring security creates more resentment and where will it stop? How many would be enough? How much will it cost? Blaming other states and "jihadis" simply diverts from the main issue.

The root of the violence is that Iraq is occupied by a foreign power and there is no real vision of how that occupation might be transformed into a representative government. Iraqis should be providing their own security but I cannot see how they can risk their and their families' lives for a fuzzy promise. Most people I know in Iraq would rather keep their heads down and hope not to be hit in the crossfire.

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