How to Get Out of Iraq
William R. Polk
Lakhdar Brahimi's proposals are interesting, perhaps even hopeful, but they pose almost as many problems as they address. The Shiites are worried that he is attempting to undercut their claims on power, and after the siege of Falluja the Sunnis will probably worry that he is, inadvertently or not, acting as a cover for American attempts to hang on to control. They have reason to worry.
The world press has reported that very little real authority will be handed over to the Iraqis or the United Nations. If the UN is to be of any value in pacifying Iraq, it cannot simply be used by the United States as a fig leaf. It must show Iraqis that it is truly independent, and so a worthwhile step forward for them. For all that, some form of UN trusteeship appears to be the best answer now available. It seems to me that the best form of trusteeship is minimal, not much more than attempting to keep order. Anything more will certainly raise fears in Iraq that outsiders--the United States or the UN--really intend to stay. That will create the only unity there now is in Iraq, hostility to foreigners.
Responsible for planning Middle Eastern policy at the State Department, 1961-65 and then a University of Chicago professor of history. His books include The United States and the Arab World and The Elusive Peace.