By Professor Vladimir Isayev, deputy director of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences
A new currency is to be issued in Iraq. The Americans have decided to replace old notes to be rid of the portraits of Saddam Hussein they hate so much. Issuing a new currency is simple; however, it is much more difficult to restore order in a country ravaged by war and occupation. Crime is rampant in Iraq, with many people feeling nostalgia for the Hussein regime when life was hard but tranquil. Now they are being offered a new currency as a symbol of a new Iraq.
Meanwhile, the situation in Iraq is becoming more and more alarming. The country is on the brink of a dangerous inter-confessional and inter-ethnic conflict. Iraq is, in fact, heading for a split into three zones - the northern, central and southern, controlled by the Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites, respectively. Relations between these three religious groups, characterised by intolerance in Hussein's times, are extremely tense now. The Kurds dream of a state of their own - Kurdistan. Its creation would ignite the whole region. The Shiites, who are in the majority in Iraq, intend to create an Islamic state similar to Iran. Incidentally, the border with Iran is open now and Shiite spiritual leaders -- ayatollahs -- are returning to Iraq, whipping up the separatist sentiments of their followers. The Sunnis, who under the Hussein regime were in a privileged position, would like to return it, but how?
In these conditions, it will be very difficult to preserve a single Iraqi state. Perhaps, in order to avoid the final division into three parts, a federative state will have to be created. However, it presupposes the existence of a strong centre, which, in reality, simply does not exist. The interim government created by the Americans does not enjoy authority among ethnic groups and cannot rule the country. A national confidence government is needed and in order to create it, elections should be held in Iraq. However, are they possible in an occupied country, full of arms, where virtually every Iraqi has access to a weapon?
Iraq's half-a-million-strong army has literally "dissolved" among the peaceful population, but has not disarmed. Considering its discontent with the current situation, the loss of the special status enjoyed under Saddam by the Officers' Corps, it is easy to see that the military in opposition will be a constant threat to the occupiers, who do not feel secure, and their stooges.
The USA and Britain are in a deadlock. To extricate themselves from it, they want the help of the UN, its multinational forces and economic assistance to restore the country they ruined. However, the draft of a UN resolution on Iraq prepared by the Americans has not been greeted enthusiastically by such powers as Russia, Germany and France. The USA wants multinational forces in Iraq to be subordinated to US Command. However, France and Germany are emphatically against their troops, if they are sent to Iraq, being subordinated to US Command. Moscow agrees with Paris and Berlin. Moscow sees an early political settlement, the consolidation of all the sound forces in the country, creation of conditions for holding elections and the free expression of the Iraqi people's will as the main task facing the international community. From this point of view, the US draft resolution on Iraq cannot be called optimal or even acceptable. It does not give the UN the key role in the political settlement of the Iraqi issue, thereby calling into question the possibility of such a settlement.
The draft is, in reality, aimed at legalising everything that the Americans have perpetrated in Iraq and their further occupation of this country. The draft resolution sets no time limits on the occupation, though. Considering the recent statement made by Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Richard Lugar that US troops will have to remain for another 7-8 years in Iraq, i.e. until 2010, it is easy to see how long and burdensome the US military presence will be for the Iraqi people. Far from serving the aims of stabilising the situation in the region, US military presence meets only US strategic plans in the Persian Gulf.
Will Washington realise that, after finding itself in isolation (not counting its loyal British ally) in the face of insoluble Iraqi problems, it will have to adjust its behaviour in Iraq and make amendments to its draft UN resolution?
Will the White House realise that the destiny of the country must be decided by the Iraqis themselves, who need effective institutions of authority capable of assuming responsibility for the future of Iraq, and not a puppet government?