Where is the road to peace in Iraq?

The Shiite revolt in Iraq against the occupation regime of the USA and its allies is an undoubtedly significant event. For the first time in the 12 months since the occupation began, the USA is witnessing an outbreak of popular wrath of such great force. Moreover, the rebels represent the part of Iraqi population whose loyalty Washington saw as assured. Shiites, who had accounts to settle with Saddam Hussein, were supposed to be grateful to the Americans for overthrowing the hateful dictator. It has turned out, however, that the occupation regime is not acceptable to Sunnis and Shiites alike, despite differences between the two religious groups. They have different views on the future of the country and its regime but they agree that the Americans must leave Iraq.

The Shiite revolt has exposed the falseness of Washington's claims that the Iraqi people as a whole support the allied troops, while limited resistance is mounted only by a small part of Sunnis incited by Saddam's relatives. But nearly everyone in Iraq has taken the road of resistance - with the exception of the Kurds who keep their sentiments secret.

A year after the seemingly victorious war, the Americans are again bombing Baghdad and conducting intimidation operations in Falluja. This means that the war has not ended and, unlike last year, it is now being waged not against Saddam Hussein but against the Iraqi people, who have seen the true goals of the US presence in their country.

The majority of objective experts clearly saw the genuine goals of the Operation Shock and Awe when it was launched a year ago. The Americans went to Iraq not because of the weapons of mass destruction which Saddam was allegedly creating - but no trace of these weapons have been found in the country during the year of occupation. Neither did the US military operation have any connection with the struggle against terrorism, as there were no terrorists in Iraq before the Americans arrived. The USA did not want to protect democratic values when it launched the war to topple the unsuitable regime without the UN's sanction. The simple truth is that Saddam was doomed because he prevented Washington from gaining control of the Iraqi and the Middle East oil as a whole.

The US Iraqi war is a classical example of the imperialist foreign policy of the late 19th and early 20th century. It was then called gunboat diplomacy. Today gunboats have been replaced with tanks, aircraft and missiles, but this has not changed the essence, which is to grasp control of countries with rich mineral resources, dominate them, and create military bases and deploy troops in the occupied territories. Washington thought the Iraqi operation would be simple, easy and painless. This was a major miscalculation. As the Russian saying goes, it looked good on paper but you forgot about the pitfalls.

The "carrot" of democratic paradise promised to the Iraqis did not convince them. The situation in the occupied country is becoming more and more complicated, the Iraqis' resistance is growing (as proved by the latest events) and will become more fierce. I must agree with Senator Edward Kennedy (Dem.), who the other day described Iraq as "George Bush's Vietnam" and accused the president and his administration of deliberately distorting information.

Everyone knows how Vietnam ended for the USA. I would not like to make hasty forecasts but it appears that the Iraqi adventure will cost the USA dearly. In the past decade, the USA had been maximally exploiting its position as the world's only superpower, which it gained after the end of the cold war and the collapse of the Soviet Union. And now it could not stand the temptation of gaining control of a vast and very rich piece of the Middle Eastern pie. But will the Americans digest it and should the world tolerate such gluttony?

Russia, Germany and France, seeing the dangers of the US opportunistic plan, protested against the Iraqi war. Even the population of countries that supported the USA and Britain, for example Spain, protested. The Spanish government was voted out of office after the horrible terrorist acts in March and it is said the Spanish troops may be pulled out of Iraq. In anticipation of this move, the Americans say the new Spanish government intends to capitulate to the terrorists. This is yet another lie. The anti-war sentiments ran high in Spain before the Iraqi campaign and the cabinet of Jose-Maria Aznar (who has lost his post) had been severely criticised for taking part in the US operation. So, if Madrid decides to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq, it will be a reflection of the Spaniards' sentiments.

It is apparent that the situation in Iraq cannot be controlled by the USA or by the puppet administration that was hastily created by the occupation forces and is not respected by the people. The occupation forces are to hand over power to the so-called transitional government of Iraq on June 30. But the government will be tame, pro-American and hence doomed. Yet the Americans will not leave even after they transfer power to the local administration.

Senator Joseph Biden has said the US troops cannot leave Iraq because the civil war that will break out after their departure will create havoc in the Middle East. But it is the US presence in Iraq that has wrought havoc in the country, provoking daily bloodshed that claims the lives of Iraqis, Americans and servicemen of other nationalities.

Russia is seriously worried by the deterioration of the far from simple situation in Iraq. Moscow knows that extremist radical Islamic forces may use the chaos to sail to power on the wave of anti-Americanism. This would be extremely dangerous for neighbouring countries, including Russia. This means that control of the situation in Iraq must be resumed and it is the UN Security Council that must do it.

The global community should launch a substantiated and well-planned dialogue with representatives of the local influential political forces who care for the interests of the country and its future. The USA cannot offer Iraq anything but war and the use of military force to solve its problems. Humankind represented by the UN should offer a different, reasonable and political road to the revival of Iraq and the restoration of peace and accord in this ancient land.

Gennady Chufrin, non-voting member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and deputy director of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations

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Author`s name: Editorial Team