Yevgeny Satanovsky, president of the Institute for Israel and Middle East Studies
Defeat of the coalition troops in Iraq will have tragic consequences not only for the country and the Middle East, but also for the international community.
Acting in compliance with inevitable historic laws as an empire, the USA tries to convince itself it is not one. It does not want to admit its actual role of a colonial power, which not only gives rights, but also imposes responsibility for the people of Iraq that are now under their governance. If the USA resorted to occupation and stirred up this hornets' nest, it has no right to leave before order has been restored.
Iraq's resistance to foreign presence is no so much caused by the American policy, but by the natural course of events. It came as a surprise only for those who do not want to look into the country's history. Americans did not take into account the fact that, according to local traditions and values, only tough authorities are worth obeying. Only those who are feared can govern Iraq. It has always been so.
Over a year of Iraq's occupation the USA destroyed its system of government, including political elite, ruling the Baath party illegal and dispersing the police and the army. Today to ensure elementary order in Iraq it is necessary to crush the uprising and ensure efficient control over what is going on in the country. It's necessary to give up the illusionary plans of passing the power back to Iraqis soon, for there is no one to give this power to.
According to the schedule, worked out by Washington and the Iraqi interim governing council, on June 30th, the power should be handed back to Iraq. It is expected that a transitional government set up afterwards will work out a permanent constitution and prepare parliamentary elections. However, the situation will not change drastically until June 30th. As a result, de jure the American administration will not be able to give the Iraqi government some functions, remaining de facto in control of the key spheres in the Iraqi politics. Evidently, any government that can appear in today's Iraq will be perceived as puppets by its citizens, and will be attacked from all directions. Besides, this government is unlikely to reflect the real balance of forces in Iraq.
The only way out is to establish a long-term (25-30 years) outside control over the country. This time will be enough to raise a new, westernized generation of Iraqi politicians, who will be able to govern the country, without leaning to fanatic theocracy or secular dictatorship. If this does not happen, Iraq as a state will cease to exist. It will be a territory, where separate chiefs of clans and tribe unions, elders of city quarters and other ethnic and religious leaders will be fighting for power, killing their neighbors in a bloodshed.
Today's presence of foreign military forces in Iraq creates at least an illusion of power and does not allow the country to sink into anarchy. However, foreigners have not managed to prevent a civil war in Iraq. There is an opinion that different Iraqi groups put their disagreements aside to fight against occupation. This is not true. Iraqi chiefs do unite their allies under the slogans of fight against foreign presence, but this does not prevent them from fighting against each other. Ethnic cleansings in the Kurd North, inter-clan clashes in the Sunnite center, eradication of rival leaders in the Shiite south take place simultaneously with attacks on foreigners. The country's regime now can be called "everyone against everyone." The prize in this war is power over at least part of Iraq's territory. Until an obvious leader appears, who will crush all his rivals, Iraq will not see stability. Eradication of Shiite leaders one after another suggests that at least Shiites have already started clearing up the field of power. Russia saw a similar situation during the civil war after the 1917 October revolution. Then Bolsheviks defeated the White Army and foreign intervention, the "greens" and Makhno supporters and established stable power in Russia. What this power was like is another question.
There is no quick solution to the Iraqi crisis. We are in for decades of severe fight for a new Iraq, with heavy tolls among Iraqi and any foreign forces that will be maintaining peace there. Yet there is no alternative, for otherwise the chaos will inevitable spread to the Middle East and destroy neighboring countries. To prevent it, foreign troops must remain in the country until real political power appears there.
Moreover, it should be understood that withdrawal of the US-led coalition from Iraq will symbolize Washington's defeat and will result in shifting the guerrilla war to the territory of the USA and other countries. International terrorists acting under Islamic mottos will make the most of the coalition's defeat in Iraq. Russia and Europe, neighboring on the region will also become terrorists' targets.
Iraq is no Vietnam. The situation there is much worse. After the US forces had withdrawn, the Vietnamese got down to restoring the country. As is usual for South-East Asia, they first became an independent regional power and then started working on integration in the global community. There will be nothing like that in the Middle East.
I would like to recall that following the September 11th explosions, US historian Paul Jones wrote a phrase, which is little remembered today, "The only way to this scale of terrorism is colonialism". We are accustomed to the fact that colonialism, power of metropolitan countries over colonies is fundamentally bad. But different civilizations require different approaches. Independent Africa, after getting rid of colonial dependence, failed to build a modern industrialized society and is slowly dying, packed in its own juice. South East Asia has proved its ability to develop and integrate into international society, while the Middle East, unable to resolve its own problems, is trying to settle them by actively destroying its neighbors.
It is not the war of civilizations Samuel Huntington has warned of. Yet this is no war of the poor against the rich either, though this opinion is common. It is a war of envy, the war of "political non-achievers" against "excellent pupils." It is a war of rich men that are getting poor, of political bankrupts who have wasted the natural rent and are now trying to hound their own dissidents, including Osama bin Laden, on outside enemies. It is a war of the unsuccessful against the successful, no matter who they are from the Islamic point of view, whether Israel or the USA, China or Europe, India or Russia. Today's Iraq is a front of this war. Probably, it will be the front to witness a new Stalingrad battle, a decisive combat that will determine the winner.