Thursday, January 19, 2006

Iraq: Letter from Baghdad

My friend Richard Galustian has sent out a long letter from Baghdad reflecting the hopes that exist there, and also the frustrations, as the new year begins. Like many Iraqis, he would like to see the Arab League and the Organization for Islamic Conference take a more active role in resolving the conflict there. Following are a couple of brief excerpts:

In May 2003 I began managing a security company in Iraq. I am not embedded in the Green Zone so can live and work amongst Iraqis. I have a strong empathy for the people and have come to think of Iraq as my adopted country.  A recent trip to England gave me space and time to reflect on the past years in Iraq and to consider what could be done to promote peace in 2006.

Iraq’s greatest barrier to peace stems from the occupying powers' failure to provide a firm political and civil infrastructure in the wake of Saddam. Wrongly, they assumed Westernised democracy would be embraced by a religiously, ethnically and tribally diverse Iraqi people. This incorrect assumption created a climate where extremism could flourish with new recruits bound by a common resentment of the occupying forces.Attacks have been carried out by Anti-Coalition Forces (ACF) made up of hard-core Suuni Baathists, foreign extremists and nationalist resistance fighters - mostly disillusioned Iraqis of all denominations.

A move towards peace will be difficult, but I believe the priority must be to let democracy evolve organically; religious and ethnic bonds have more influence on the electorate than democratic measures. Once a strong social and economic liberalism has taken shape, it will only be a matter of time before a strong political liberalism starts to formulate. ...

[But] what is likely to happen is the U.S will support the Iraqi government and claim credit for any successes, so as to bolster flagging home support for a U.S presence in Iraq. Meanwhile, the new government will be seen as a U.S puppet and battle to prove its legitimacy to its own people. The backdrop to this scenario will be insurgency, at the same or a higher level. MNFI will face threat and Washington will be haunted by a constant drumbeat of casualties from Iraq.

Iraq is a better place than 12 months ago. It has the basic political tools crucial to its independent existence. However, this political potential must be nurtured not undermined by Western self-interest. I have noticed the Iraqi people are becoming eager to move on, they are developing confidence and this gives me great hope. Let us be sure to assist them in any way we can so the possibility of peace in Iraq becomes ever stronger as we move through 2006.

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