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Where Is Iraq Heading Towards?

Posted November. 14, 2003 22:51,   


Is President George W. Bush gambling for his re-election or is he seeking an honorable exit? Various interpretations have been made on the Bush administration`s decision to transfer power to Iraqi people earlier than anticipated. Most of the pundits, however, point out that the early withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq is unlikely to happen as long as the complicated economic and political interest of the United States is involved. Despite the White House`s promise to hand over power, the future of Iraq still remains unpredictable.

The United States which revamped its strategy of `establishment of a constitution -> establishment of a democratic government -> approval by international community` shifted it stance to `Iraqification,` in other words, transfer of sovereignty to the most influential local government or leader. The sudden modification of its strategy derives from many factors such as increasing violence of Iraqi insurgents, the failure of the Iraqi Governing Council to act, and the December 15 U.N. deadline for an Iraqi plan of action, but the U.S. media say next year`s U.S. elections are the foremost factor.

The primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire, which will prelude the beginning of the presidential election on November 2, 2004, are only two months left. The popularity of President Bush, who had almost secured his re-election, however, is dropping as the casualties of U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq increase. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters Thursday that, "If we stubbornly stick to the existing strategy, it will take two years to establish a new democratic government," in an interview in his U.S. Air Force Boeing 757. It can be interpreted that the administration now feels an urge to change the situation in Iraq before the presidential election.

The Democratic Party strategically reminded of the negative side of the Iraq War to the electorate while the U.S. Senate was approving the $87 billion Iraq reconstruction budget. On the other hand, President Bush dwindled comments on Iraq while boasting the effects of tax cuts in consideration of the recent economic recovery.

President Bush`s new strategy appears to be aiming at an early transfer of power to Iraqis in a bid to weaken anti-U.S. sentiments which would help reduce U.S. causalities, as well as promote economic reconstruction like privatization.

The new strategy, however, indicates that the Bush administration has failed to reach its diplomatic aim to build a democratic government in Iraq in a bid to promote democratization in the Middle East. "A Shiite leader or a dictator can be possibly elected if an election is held," Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel was quoted as saying in The Washington Post.

Concerned about its diminishing influence over Iraq, the Bush administration will, however, demand preconditions for the transfer such as democratic values like liberty, constitutionalism, women`s right, and economic privileges like oil interests, The Wall Street Reported.

If an interim government is established in Iraq, the U.S. influence is likely to dwindle, but the U.S. will try to maintain its influence through the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, U.S. troops stationed in Iraq and economic aid, reported the U.S. media.

In particular, the U.S. forces are essential in order to establish a pro-U.S. government, to curve the conflicts between different peoples in Iraq, and to eradicate insurgents still-loyal to Saddam Hussein. "Premature transfer of security to Iraqi forces is a near-term prescription for disaster," said Sen. Joseph R. Biden, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

"The revamping of strategy does not mean withdrawal of physical deterrents," Rumsfeld asserted. The Pentagon also announced Thursday that it moved the Central Command headquarters from Florida to Qatar.

Rae-Jeong Park ecopark@donga.com