- As violence continues to escalate in Iraq, the United
Nations remains ambivalent about its own ability to help
salvage a country on the brink of disaster. In the
meanwhile, a radical plan has been hatched to end the
siege of Fallujah.
The US military said on
Thursday that Marines and former Iraqi generals had
reached an agreement to pull US forces away from
Fallujah. But details of the deal remain sketchy and new
air strikes on the besieged city as well as gun battles
were reported later in the day.
Lieutenant-Colonel Brennan Byrne initially said
troops would leave a southern zone of the city on Friday
and hand over security to a new Iraqi force, headed by a
former Iraqi army officer. The deal provides for a new
force, known as the Fallujah Protective Army, to provide
security. It will consist of up to 1,100 Iraqi soldiers.
Only last week, US commanders threatened to
launch an all-out attack on the city to root out an
estimated 1,500 Sunni insurgents inside. US marines
encircled the city of 200,000 on April 5, after the
killings and mutilations of four US contract workers on
It was unclear exactly who the members
of the new force are or what influence they would have
over the guerrillas inside the city west of Baghdad.
Byrne later said the agreement was "tentative", while
Pentagon spokesman Larry Di Rita said he was not aware
of a deal.
Byrne identified the commander only
as General Salah, a former division commander under
Saddam Hussein. But a Lieutenant-General Salah Abboud
al-Jabouri, a native of the Fallujah region, was a
senior commander in Saddam's military.
on Thursday, 10 US soldiers were killed in three
separate attacks, while at least six Iraqi civilians
were killed in several incidents. In addition, seven
Iraqi police were killed by gunmen in the northern city
In New York, meanwhile, UN Secretary
General Kofi Annan has been dragging his feet over the
appointment of a new special representative for Iraq to
succeed Under Secretary General Sergio Vieira de Mello,
who died in the bombing of the UN compound in Baghdad
"Perhaps there are no takers
willing to volunteer for a job which may be one of the
world's riskiest," an Arab diplomat told IPS. "We are
not surprised at all."
Asked when the UN will
name a special representative to the occupied country,
Annan would only say: "I cannot give you a name, I
cannot give you days, but I can assure you that we are
thinking about it."
At the same time, the world
body's chief has refused to return his international
staff to Iraq - temporarily relocated in Cyprus and
Jordan - because of the unbridled violence, not just
against US soldiers, but against all foreigners.
And on Wednesday, Annan told reporters: "I will
never see a UN peacekeeping force under a UN
representative [in Iraq]," although he said a
multinational force was a possibility.
his acquiescence to reported heavy US pressure in
appointing Lakdhar Brahimi as UN special adviser on Iraq
and in following the US political agenda in Iraq, Annan
still believes that the role of the world body will be
clouded in uncertainty as long as coalition military
forces remain in Iraq.
"We all want to see the
end of the occupation," he says, adding, "we all want to
see a genuinely representative government in Iraq."
But he will see neither, predicts Norman
Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public
Accuracy. "To a significant extent, the United Nations
currently faces choices between being excluded or being
manipulated; naturally there will be some blend," he
Solomon said there appears to be a
kind of tacit division of labor, as the UN concerns
itself with humanitarian mitigation of the consequences
from the US-led war and occupation while the US
government focuses on retaining control of Iraq through
The world body is also being
"strongly coerced" to stage-manage the formation of a
new interim civilian government in Baghdad come July, he
added. At the same time, the UN is also to be mandated
to hold nation-wide elections in January 2005.
But judging by the deteriorating security
environment in Iraq, the world body might not be able to
accomplish either of those goals.
"As I said
earlier, elections require a certain calm environment
for it to be effectively and fairly organized. We don't
know what the future holds and what the situation will
be like between now and January," Annan said on
What is known is that both UN
mandates are to be executed under two conditions:
Washington will not only keep its 130,000 troops in
Iraq; it will also control the country's oil revenues.
"The US government continues to keep its big gun at the
head of Iraq, and the United Nations should be willing
to declare that such ongoing coercion is unacceptable,"
says Solomon, author of Target Iraq: What the News
Media Didn't Tell You.
Mouin Rabbani of the
Brussels-based International Crisis Group told IPS the
situation in Iraq places the UN in a particularly
precarious position. "Sobered by reality, the United
States has reversed its previous contempt for the world
body, and is now asking it to pull the American
chestnuts out of the Iraqi fire," said Rabbani.
"Can it do so, between the hammer of American
efforts to control the show behind a UN facade and the
anvil of growing Iraqi opposition to the American
occupation, with which the United Nations will be
associated if it is not sufficiently independent?" he
Brahimi, who has received the blessing of
US President George W Bush in trying to negotiate an
interim government in Baghdad, told the Security Council
on Tuesday the "security situation [in Iraq] was and
remains extremely worrying".
He was very
critical of the killings of civilians by US forces and
the attack on a minaret, which he described as "a source
of shock and dismay".
Still, Brahimi sounded
hopeful the political process currently under way could
help restore "Iraqi sovereignty and independence,
preserving the country's unity and territorial
integrity, and making the Iraqi people truly the masters
of their own destiny, with the political system of their
choice and control over their own natural resources".
But Rabbani remains skeptical, because he doubts
Iraqi sovereignty can really exist in the shadow of the
US-led military occupation. "As it has become clear that
US interests and democracy in Iraq are basically
incompatible, the United States has, unsurprisingly and
as many predicted, chosen to preserve the supremacy of
its own interests and its control of Iraqi affairs at
the expense of a genuine transfer of power and the
establishment of a political system in which Iraqis are
able to choose their political system and control their
destiny and resources," Rabbani added.
pointed out that transfer of power involves more than
just establishing a new government - even an elected
one. "Iraqis will continue to view their country as
occupied as long as foreign forces are stationed on
their soil," said Rabbani.
"Given the disastrous
progression of events so far, I think a betting person
with a reasonable track record would place his money on
the further unfolding of a Lebanon-type scenario,
meaning a combination of resistance to foreign
occupation with increasing internal strife, leading to
the progressive marginalization and disintegration of
the central state and its institutions," he added.
Solomon said the "political process" in Iraq can
be separated from the fundamentals of military control
only in a world of fantasy and spin.
"doubletalk" from Washington - such as "limited
sovereignty" coupled with Iraqi "partial control" over
its military forces - is a thin smokescreen for the
reality that the US government continues to insist on
dominating Iraq, he added.