Does America expect India to fight Iraq insurgency?

This is a moment of weakness for the US

The combat and non-combat casualty rate in Iraq has been about 36 per day

Maj. Gen. (Retd) S. C. N. Jatar

 

Indians are disinclined to sending troops to Iraq because the perception is that they would be fighting Iraqis who are our friends.  On the other hand, President Bush is hard pressed to relieve American troops in Iraq because American forces are under great stress, “in many cases to meet President Bush's security and reconstruction missions in Iraq” according to the Pentagon.  America is, therefore, wants to broad base the security effort.  The bomb attacks in August involving Jordanian embassy, U.N.'s Baghdad headquarters, a Shiite cleric, and the continuing casualties to US troops have brought the crisis to a head.  Although the US is willing to negotiate, the new American draft resolution does not reflect devolution of its political and military power.  This is a moment of weakness for the US both due to the uncertain situation in Iraq and the internal pressure of President Bush with presidential elections on the horizon.  India would do well to remember this. 

 

The willingness of President Bush to consider giving a larger political and security role to the UN, is the most telling testimony of the insecurity in Iraq.  As Washington Post reported on September 4, 2003, “Thus was a long and high-stakes bureaucratic struggle resolved, with the combined clout of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the State Department persuading a reluctant White House that the administration's Iraq occupation policy, devised by Defence Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, simply was not working.” 

 

The US is reluctant to dilute its "dominant" political and military role because economic power flows from it, and wants the UN in a major role only for reconstruction and conduct of elections.  This would ensure the involvement of World Bank-IMF combine to lend money for US expenses in Iraq running into hundreds of billions of dollars.  America has now realised that Iraqi oil sales cannot finance such large investments. 

 

The US has variously termed the foreign troops for Iraq as ‘peace-keeping force’ or ‘stabilisation force’.  UN charter does not mention peace-keeping specifically and there has never been a stabilisation force under UN mandate.  Nor is there a mention of either term in the new US sponsored draft resolution.  The key clause wants the Security Council to “… authorize a multinational force, under unified command to take all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq”.  The resolution further wants that “such forces should, inter alia, contribute to the security of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, the institutions of the Iraqi interim authority, including the Governing Council of Iraq, and key humanitarian and economic infrastructure”.  The draft resolution additionally wants the Security Council to, “…endorse the Governing Council as the principal body of the Iraqi interim administration …” There is no time-table for holding free and fair elections. 

 

While France and Germany have rejected the draft resolution because the UN does not have executive responsibility for the political process, Russia is ambivalent.  India wants an “explicit UN mandate” and “real transfer of political authority from Paul Bremer to an Iraqi cabinet”.  India has not addressed the more relevant aspect whether the US wants to fob off operations against the guerrilla resistance to foreign troops under the umbrella of the UN but under its own command.  Or whether the US wants to go on the offensive against the remnants of Ba’athist Party once UN troops arrive, as the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee; General Richard Myers said recently?  India has not even asked for full UN recognition to her as an authorised constituent to partake in the process of forming a truly representative Iraqi government in spite of India’s bitter experience. 

 

The Iraqi ‘foreign minister’, Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd, has described Iraqi situation as ‘fragile’ and appealed to the international community to provide troops and money to prevent Iraq’s collapse.  Saddam Hussein is still at large and his supporters are playing havoc with the US led coalition.  Al Qaeda has joined in.  Foreigners, mainly Arabs, have made common cause with anti-US forces.  A tactical alliance is emerging between Saddam Hussein loyalists and Islamic militants who have entered Iraq over the last few months.  Even the Shias and Sunnis may get together at a crunch.  Only al Qaeda is currently preventing such a grouping. 

 

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The division amongst the Shias is on the question of support to the US-led administration.  Both the main Shia groups - the Daawa Party and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, although sympathetic to Iran and critical of the US, are ready to co-operate with the Americans to seize power.  Once they capture power, there could be further instability with Iran’s active collaboration.  However, a group led by a radical young Shia figure, Muqtada al-Sadr strongly opposes these tactics and wants no compromise with the US. 

 

According to a Washington Post report, daily U.S. battlefield casualties were almost 10 troops in August due to small-arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades, remote-controlled mines and "improvised explosive devices".  These casualties have totalled 1,124 since the war began in March.  The US command has flown back an average of 36 per day or more than 6,000 service persons to the United States, including 301 who received non-hostile injuries, and thousands who became physically or mentally ill.  "Our nation doesn't know that," said Susan Brewer, president and founder of America's Heroes of Freedom, a non-profit organization that collects personal items for returning troops.  Indeed, the number of troops wounded in action is now more than twice that of Gulf War I.  The number of troops killed since the ‘end’ of the war has already surpassed those killed during the war. 

 

India would do well to consider all facets before committing Indian troops to Iraq and not go strictly by the ‘UN mandate’, when and if comes. 

 

September 13, 2003