The Post-Saddam Problem | The Nation


The Post-Saddam Problem

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Despite the fact that policing was left to the Japanese authorities, Washington deployed 100,000 troops for more than six years to implement reform in Japan. By contrast, US planners now envisage the stationing of 75,000-100,000 troops at the cost $16 billion a year. This is unrealistic. In Northern Ireland, with a population of 1.7 million, the British government stationed close to 20,000 troops with an equal number of loyal armed policemen and an army reserve of the same size, thus committing 60,000 troops and armed police to tackle about 1,000 members of the Irish Republican Army, most of them in jail at any one time. In addition, the loyalist Protestant majority outnumbered the rebellious Catholic population by 2 to 1.

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Dilip Hiro
Dilip Hiro is the author of Sharing the Promised Land: A Tale of Israelis and Palestinians (Interlink), Between Marx...

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Its ‘generosity’ toward Cairo notwithstanding, Washington has been reduced to the role of a helpless bystander.

Unlike highly homogeneous Japan, Iraq is a heterogeneous society. The traditional religious, ethnic and tribal animosities will break out in postwar Iraq once the iron hand of Saddam is removed, with civil conflict erupting along ethnic and sectarian lines, the deadliest one being between Sunnis and Shiites who share the Mesopotamian plain.

Last, Japan lacks natural resources and does not share land borders with neighbors. By contrast, Iraq, possessing the second-largest oil deposits in the world, is surrounded by six intrusive neighbors, each with its own agenda, and is located in a region that has been the most volatile and violent since World War II.

Turkey has its eye on the oil region of Kirkuk in the north. The Saudi royals want to insure that the contagion of "Western-style democracy" does not take root in Iraq and then spread to their kingdom. Iran wants its co-religionist Shiites to assert their power at the expense of the Sunni minority. Syria will do its utmost to see that the new rulers in Baghdad do not turn themselves into Washington's vassals.

Finally, there is the in-between scenario, in which the fighting lasts up to three months. This will strain the fragile unity among opposition groups, as the death and destruction of Iraqi Muslims, shown on Arab and Muslim television channels, will make the continued membership of the Teheran-based Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) in the US-sponsored opposition untenable.

Observers agree that SCIRI's clerics have merely taken out an insurance policy: If Saddam is overthrown, they want their share of power. Alani says, "This opportunistic alliance is more embarrassing to the United States than to Iran or SCIRI, to have a body with 'Islamic Revolution' in its name in a US-sponsored alliance."

But then again, those on the inside track of the Bush Jr. Administration know well that what ultimately counts is the puppet master, not the puppet. As one well-placed American observer at the London conference said, "Eighty percent of the people here won't have any role to play in a post-Hussein government." To that figure, one should probably add another 19 percent.

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