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Thursday, August 21, 2003

Iraq: Japanese Government Having Second Thoughts

Just a short follow-up to my sideswipe comment yesterday about Japanese troops in Iraq. It seems they may be the first knock-on casualty of the bombing of the UN in Baghdad:

The U.N. bombing frightens an already jittery government. The terrorist bomb that exploded in Baghdad on Tuesday not only destroyed the local U.N. facility, but dealt a blow to Japan's plans to dispatch Self-Defense Forces to Iraq. Government sources said Wednesday that if SDF troops are sent at all it will be next year at the earliest.

The bloodshed in the months after U.S. President George W. Bush declared major combat operations over May 1 has scared Japanese officials so badly that even a fact-finding mission set for this month has been postponed indefinitely. While criticizing the deadly attack on the U.N. office, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was circumspect when discussing any dispatch of SDF troops. "The Japanese government will carefully observe conditions in Iraq and provide help, if possible, for logistical support,'' Koizumi told reporters in Warsaw, the second stop in a three-nation visit. He returns to Japan on Saturday.

A high-ranking Defense Agency official said Wednesday, "Since the minimum prerequisites (a relatively safe operating area) for dispatching the SDF are not present, we cannot send the fact-finding mission at this time.'' The government had considered sending the mission right after passage early this month of the special measures law on Iraq. Deployment of the SDF under this scenario would have followed in October. However, continuing attacks on U.S. troops by remnants of the Baath party and terror bombings have torpedoed these plans. Yukio Okamoto, special assistant to Koizumi, was to go to Iraq on Aug. 16 to see what help nongovernmental organizations could offer. However, this fell by the wayside at the last moment, also a casualty of the abysmal security situation.

Political calculations are also in play, with government officials loath to pull the trigger on an Iraq deployment, fearing they could get hurt at the polls if the Lower House is dissolved and a snap election is called this fall.In any event, the earliest the SDF could disembark in Iraq would be mid-November. Earlier, officials said the SDF's mission profile had changed from supporting U.S. and British troops struggling to keep the peace to assisting U.N. reconstruction efforts. However, now that terrorists have blown up the U.N.'s Iraq headquarters, there are no guarantees that any conceivable activity could provide the margin of safety required for the SDF. A government official said the recent escalation of violence in Iraq indicates growing dissatisfaction among the Iraqi people. "Even if the SDF were only providing assistance for reconstruction, they could become targets of violence,'' said one official
Source: Asahi.com

BTW the death of one Spanish citizen in the bombing is also causing something of a political scandal here in Spain. Certainly the issue is highly sensitive, it is probable that the majority of Spanish voters only want to see any troop deployment taking place within a genuinely multilateral force and that Aznar's position on this is becoming increasingly untenable. As I feel is the US Pentagon one. People like meme's apparently, so try this one: the WMD argument to justify 'go-it-aloneism' could turn out to be its own undoing. In terms of WMD Saddam is now disarmed (we hope), so where's the rush, that threat is over, what's the problem with changing the terms of reference? It is impossible - however hard you might try - to blame the UN for getting itself bombed. There's a simple rule, if you're there to do a job (in this case guarantee security) then do it, and if you can't then get round a table and talk to try and find a formula which might be able to. Clearly the argument that Iraqui involvement is needed is sound, my point would be that to get genuine street level Iraqui commitment you need multilateralism. Meanwhile Kaushik Banerjee has reached broadly the same conclusions as I have. Here's another definition of blogging: 'you blog to know that you are not alone'.

It is beginning to dawn on me that politics as it is practiced in the Western world is not very different from the way politics is practiced back home in India. The sleaze touches almost everyone. The politicos in US run a way more sophisticated operation, though if you dig deep as you make your way down south, you are bound to feel queasy. I was not especially bothered about the disintegrating case for war on this side of the Atlantic. I don’t think truthfulness is this US government’s strong point. I also felt (and still feel) that the overthrow of Saddam was a good thing anyway. But what followed seems to be worse. I also had a soft corner for Blair. I believed that his support for war was based on his conviction and that the sleaze did not reach 10, Downing Street. It was of course my political naiveté...........But if the case for WMD was completely manufactured and the relationship between iraq and Al Quaida never existed, we are bound to wonder why did the US and British governments decide to invade Iraq...........I now fear that in order to show a rosy picture back home and extricate itself before the 2004 election the US is going to continue to penny-pinch in Iraq and hand over the running of reconstruction and war to the private contractors of the kind that used run wars in West Africa. However, if the western world now washes its hands off Iraq, it would lead to its Beirutization, an exponential increase in religious fundamentalism, and a disaster that the future generations will pay for.

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