[TODAY]Three problems, two solutionsThe challenges the United States faces in Iraq have three faces. The first is the armed insurgency of the Sunni Muslims, centered in Fallu-jah. The second is the radical Shiite Muslims’ resistance organized by the cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The third is the occupation forces’ failure to name the Iraqi leaders to whom they will transfer sovereignty of the war-torn country in late June.
Suppressing the defiance of the Sunni Muslims seems to be a matter of time. The Sunnis have the ethical burden of having enjoyed privileges under the totalitarian regime of Saddam Hussein. Also, they are smaller in number, so if the U.S. forces successfully complete the siege of Fallujah, the Sunnis will no longer be a threat as a resistance force. The brutal mutilation of the bodies of four American civilians only angered U.S. soldiers and encouraged them in their operations against the Sunni Muslims.
When asked at a press conference on April 13 to whom the United States would hand over the sovereignty of Iraq, U.S. President George W. Bush passed on the responsibility to the United Nations special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and said, “He’s figuring out the nature of the entity we’ll be handing sovereignty over to.” But the United Nations’ thoughts have not reached that point yet. As the scheduled transfer of sovereignty is less than two months away, the occupation forces do not have the faintest idea about the future of Iraqi government, and that is a serious problem. Washington will prod the United Nations to hurriedly create a makeshift government. In this reality, both the United States and Iraq have to be content with second-best when the best cannot be delivered.
The most ominous challenge of the three is the guerrilla warfare provoked by radical Shiite militants. Washington called the insurgency down on itself because it underestimated the post-war management of Iraq. The United States organized the interim governing council with pro-American figures who were easy to manipulate, so the majority of Iraqis were blocked from participating in the government. One of the ambitious men left off the interim council was Mr. al-Sadr.
The occupation authority, led by Paul Bremer, and the Iraqi governing council drafted an interim constitution based on two principles. The first was that Iraq would become a federal democratic republic with multiple political parties. The second was that the Kurds, who had suffered severe repression under Saddam’s rule, would be granted an appropriate reward for having cooperated with the United States during the war.
The interim constitution allotted one-fourth of the seats of the parliament to women and gave the Kurds the right to veto any draft of a permanent constitution. The Kurdish language was designated as an official language, along with Arabic, in their region. The interim constitution recognized Islam as the state religion, but defined it as “a source of legislation,” as opposed to “the only” source. That clause was an insult to the Shiite Muslims.
Making up 60 percent of the Iraqi population, the Shiites naturally believed that they would stand in a more dominant place in post-Saddam Iraq. Even the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, a moderate leader, is against the creation of a new government based on the interim constitution. But the Grand Ayatollah wants a peaceful solution. So the non-violent front of Ayatollah Sistani and the violent front of Mr. al-Sadr went on separate ways.
Mr. Bush implied that he would send more troops to Iraq if necessary. The augmentation of U.S. forces in the region is expected to amount to 10,000. After the addition, the U.S. forces can easily dominate in numbers for now in the two separate fronts, against the Sunnis and the Shiites. But if the resistance of the Iraqis drags on and spreads nationwide, a flashback of the nightmare in Vietnam, the guerrilla warfare will not end so easily. As Washington plans to send more troops to Iraq, Mr. al Sadr responded with a proposal to collaborate with the Sunnis.
Many American experts, and most Europeans for that matter, are concerned that Iraq will become a second Vietnam if al-Sadr dies a martyr. The followers of Grand Ayatollah Sistani and the members of the governing council, who were branded as uncritically pro-American and isolated from other factions, suggested that the occupation authorities and Mr. al-Sadr negotiate. Fortunately, their mediation seems to be working.
Unless Washington decides on a large-scale buildup in Iraq, it would be impossible to end the armed resistance by force. The United States should earn more time by bringing Mr. al-Sadr into the ring and talking to him. Also, the corrupt pro-American members of the governing council should be removed from the government.
The reorganization of Iraq’s military should be pushed forward, and the possibility of a constitution that fits the reality in Iraq should be left open. Without such concessions, it is impossible to transplant American-style liberal democracy to Iraq.
* The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Young-hie