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A proposal for new Iraqi/US co-operation and a suggestion of how this can be achieved

  by: : Khalid Issa Taha

A proposal for new Iraqi/US co-operation and a suggestion of how this can be achieved

The Americans expressed no willingness to withdraw from Iraq until faced with strong military resistance. The sad sight of soldiers dying and returning to their homeland in coffins concentrated American minds in a way that discussion and negotiation could never do.

I am not an advocate of violence but the Americans had forgotten – or perhaps never previously learned – a basic truth. People cannot forgive or forget the occupation and attempted subjugation of their country. History shows us that nations will struggle for respect and independence, no matter what sacrifices of blood and riches they have to make.

Iraq has a particularly long and distinguished tradition of resisting occupation which stretches back to Hammurabi’s time and continues unbroken into the modern era. The 1958 anti-monarchical uprising demonstrated to perfection the Iraqi people’s determination to resist foreign domination. It is only a pity that the Americans’ seemed to have failed to glance at a history book before deciding to invade a sovereign country.

The Americans perhaps made the mistake of believing that Iraqi resistance would take a purely Islamic form, inspired by the modern phenomenon of Al-Qaida. But Iraq is an Arab country and many people draw on their Arab identity too as a source of pride and strength. Many of those resisting American rule are Arab patriots who are accustomed to ordering their own affairs. The American’s overlooked Iraq’s many past achievements which included the creation of the Middle East’s most modern and successful health and education systems.

The Americans came to Iraq to control the country’s oil, not buy it. They wanted to seize this valuable resource to prevent the Indians and Chinese using it to fuel their growing economies. I believe that many Iraqis, and I am one of them, would not object to America becoming their main partner in the oil trade, if only the American government would observe some basic rules.

The Americans must treat Iraq as an equal trading partner, not as an inferior who can be bossed around and disregarded whenever it is convenient. Americans need to sit round a table with Iraqis and discuss the oil issue in an open and respectful manner.

If America treats Iraq properly it would be quite possible for the two countries to make a deal over oil that would benefit both parties. I can even conceive that Iraq might offer the Americans a discount of say 10% on oil prices, in exchange for American help in maintaining and improving oil installations.

America made six great mistakes shortly after it invaded Iraq:

a) Iraq’s infrastructure, including oil wells and pipelines, was subjected to a severe bombing campaign, for which there was no need. These attacks killed many civilians and antagonised even those who had initially been sympathetic to the Americans

b) Many young, American CIA employees were appointed by the Pentagon to senior positions in all the major government ministries. They did not have the knowledge and experience to run the country. Meanwhile, Iraqi experts were only employed in junior positions as consultants with no real power.

c) The very long – 1,253 mile – border with Iran was opened. This allowed many Iranians who had designs on Iraqi territory to enter the country. At the same time 7,000 years worth of Iraqi antiquities were being plundered and exported illegally, some of them across the now porous Iraq/Iran border. This assault on Iraq’s incomparable material heritage took place under the eyes of American soldiers and administrators. Even if, in the future, some of these artefacts are recovered and returned this colossal act of banditry can never be forgiven. It has damaged the very fabric of Iraq’s history and identity.

d) The Americans totally disregarded the Geneva Convention, article 4, which was formulated in 1949, shortly after the devastation caused by the Second World War. Article 4 states that an occupying power does not have the power to impose new laws or demolish a country’s pre-existing legal system. Paul Bremer, Iraq’s governor for the first year of occupation, issued many new laws which were not in Iraq’s interests and in many cases proved unworkable
e) The army was demolished as a result of two sentences written by Paul Bremer. This was a catastrophic move. The modern Iraqi army was created 70 years ago with British assistance. British standards and professionalism had influenced many of the officer corps who took pride in their work and status. Destroying the army deprived thousands of men of work and pride and drove them into the arms of the resistance.

f) Finally, America’s biggest mistake was to try and rule Iraq through only two communities, the Kurds and Shia. This policy destabilised the country politically, socially and religiously and was not in the true interests of any of Iraq’s citizens. In the longer term it will also be seen that pandering to sectarianism has not done America any favours either.

If America can honestly acknowledge the mistakes it made in Iraq and sit down with Iraqis as equal partners it will be possible for both countries to overcome the hatreds and misunderstandings caused over the past five years of occupation. However, we do not have unlimited time and all those who care about Iraq’s and America’s futures should act now.

London 27.08.2008

Khalid Issa Taha
Chairman: Lawyers Beyond Borders Organization
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