How US handed Iraq to Iran on a plat­ter

The Pak Banker - - OPINION - Ab­del Bari At­wan

N April 3, 2003, as US troops en­tered Bagh­dad, I was in­vited to the BBC's flag­ship pol­i­tics show, This Week, pre­sented by An­drew Neil. We had some­thing of a dis­agree­ment. My host's view was that the war had been won and that within 18 months, Iraq would be pros­per­ous, a model of democ­racy and a shin­ing ex­am­ple to the rest of the Mid­dle East. I said I feared that the real war had not even be­gun, that a long term US oc­cu­pa­tion would de­stroy Iraq and that even af­ter 18 years, Iraq would still be com­pletely un­sta­ble, if not a failed state.

I chal­lenged An­drew Neil to in­vite me back in 18 months so that we could com­pare notes. He did not. By 2006, even US troops were telling the BBC that in­ter­ven­tion had cre­ated a cat­a­strophic mess. In one in­ter­view, an of­fi­cer told Hugh Sykes why they couldn't with­draw: "We gotta fix what we broke, or we'll be the laugh­ing stock of the world."

In De­cem­ber 2011, the last US sol­diers aban­doned the coun­try, bat­tered and bruised, to its un­cer­tain fu­ture. What did this mil­i­tary ex­er­cise, which cost al­most 1.5 mil­lion Iraqi lives and dis­placed mil­lions more, achieve? The claim that Sad­dam Hus­sain had weapons of mass de­struc­tion, which he in­tended to use against the West, was dis­cred­ited be­fore the in­va­sion be­gan. Among the real rea­sons was regime change, and that, of course, was achieved; but with it came a dis­as­trous cat­a­logue of un­in­tended con­se­quences. First of all, Sad­dam was a tyrant,

Oyes, but a tyrant who presided over a united coun­try, with a good in­fra­struc­ture and pub­lic ser­vices for its ci­ti­zens. The West's choice, Nouri Al Ma­liki, who has been prime min­is­ter since 2006, has been de­scribed as "a worse dic­ta­tor than Sad­dam" by his pre­de­ces­sor, Eyad Al Allawi and "tyran­ni­cal" by the pow­er­ful Shi­ite cleric Mo­q­tada Al Sadr.

Un­der Al Ma­liki, the Iraqi peo­ple do not have ad­e­quate clean water, elec­tric­ity or san­i­ta­tion de­spite $7 bil­lion (Dh25.69 bil­lion) hav­ing been spent on the lat­ter. Like all Mid­dle East­ern dic­ta­tors, Al Ma­liki re­tains power by giv­ing his friends, fam­ily, tribes­men and loy­al­ists the cream of com­mer­cial con­tracts. Of­fi­cials ad­mit that ei­ther the com­mis­sioned sew­ers were not in­stalled at all or done very badly. Un­em­ploy­ment stands at 30 per cent, and many of those who have a job will have paid an of­fi­cial to se­cure it. Bribery is en­demic from politi­cians to prison of­fi­cers. Ad­min­is­tra­tively, the coun­try is paral­ysed be­cause many top man­agers, ap­pointed through cor­rup­tion, lack the tal­ent and ex­pe­ri­ence nec­es­sary to get the coun­try back on its feet.

Some claim that Iraqis are now free of cen­sor­ship, but the New York-based Com­mit­tee to Pro­tect Jour­nal­ists re­ported that, in 2012, "cen­tral government of­fi­cials used threats, ha­rass­ment, at­tacks, and im­pris­on­ment to sup­press crit­i­cal news cov­er­age through­out the year". Jour­nal­ist Hadi Al Mahdi was as­sas­si­nated in Septem­ber 2011, just one of many killed for speak­ing out.

The coali­tion which Al Ma­liki heads is called the ' Rule of Law'. but that does not, ap­par­ently, mean that the law should be obeyed; par­tic­u­larly when it comes to in­ter­na­tional Hu­man Rights leg­is­la­tion. Crit­ics of the regime or po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents reg­u­larly find them­selves falsely im­pris­oned, with­out the prospect of a fair trial, in jails where tor­ture and rape are com­mon. 'Cor­rup­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tions' are them­selves used as a po­lit­i­cal tool against former friends who have fallen foul of the regime.

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