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Home > Debates Last Updated: 14:33 03/09/2007
Commentary (July 2, 2004)

Is Iraq a safe place for Japanese troops?

Adeed Dawisha (Professor of Political Science, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio and Iraq Specialist)
J. Sean Curtin (Fellow, GLOCOM and Asia Times)

Adeed Dawisha, Professor of Political Science, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio and Iraq SpecialistIraq expert Professor Adeed Dawisha has just completed his latest research project in the war-torn country. Although his assessment of Iraq's long-term future is generally positive, in the short-term he sees many difficulties lying ahead and no let-up in the violence.

As the July 11 Upper House elections near, his and similar short-term prognoses could cause problems for Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi who is seeking to convince the electorate that Japanese troops should remain in the country on a humanitarian mission as part of a multinational force. Many Japanese voters are against keeping troops in the country and opposition parties are capitalizing on this mood.

Professor Dawisha believes that in Iraq there was no real wide-spread resistance to the US-led occupation. Opposition to the new multinational force is very much localized and it is only a minority of people who want foreign troops to leave immediately. However, serious acts of terror are likely to continue even though Iraqi sovereignty was handed back to a provisional Iraqi administration on 28 June 2004. *

Moreover, Professor Dawisha thinks violence will probably continue throughout 2005. This may make it difficult for Japanese troops to function in the country as their actions are severely restricted by Japan's war-renouncing constitution.

Sean Curtin: I would like to ask you about the problem of Iraq's perception as being a dangerous country for all foreigners. Will this image damage reconstruction efforts?

Everyone wants Iraq's reconstruction to be successful, especially Japan. The southern Iraqi city of Samawah is meant to be one of the safest places in Iraq. That is where Japanese troops are based, but because of the deteriorating security situation, they have not been able to leave their base for quite some time. Their camp has been attacked several times with mortars. Some Dutch troops who are also stationed in Samawah have been killed.

So, even in the quietest parts of Iraq, there have been terrorist attacks. This is a serious problem. Do you think this situation will be a long or a short-term problem?

Adeed Dawisha: Well, it depends what you mean by short and long-term. In 20 or 30 years these problems will obviously disappear.

Sean Curtin: OK, let's define long-term as about 5 years and short-term over the next year or so.

Adeed Dawisha: I can certainly say that up until the time designated for final elections in December 2005 * you will continue to have these acts [of terror] and somehow we will have to basically work through them. Foreign companies have to realize that. If they do not want to work, fine. A year after they [US-led forces] entered Iraq, there are a lot of complaints that nothing much was done or that few things were being done.

Given the amount of money they [US companies] were getting, not much was done. Their response is that it is very dangerous in Iraq. Well, fine it is very dangerous. We know that but if you are going to get this massive amount of money for doing things, risk is part and parcel of that. I mean, you are not going to be given a 100 percent security that nothing is going to happen to your people.

Generally speaking, if you are going to get a 750 million dollar construction project or whatever, then that money is indicative of the risk you are taking. So, people have to realize that. That is all I can say. This is not going to disappear.

You are going to continue to have these acts [of terror] in Iraq. People have to understand that these are the risks that are associated with working in Iraq and that is the only thing that is going to happen. If you want a 100 percent security-free environment that is just not going to happen.

* The provisional administration of interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi will be in power until January 2005, when it will be replaced by an elected interim government that will emerge after the interim elections to be held the same month. This elected interim administration will prepare the ground work for national elections to be held in January 2006. The interim government will handover power after the national elections.

Profile: Adeed Dawisha

Adeed Dawisha grew up in Iraq during the heyday of Arab nationalism. His most recent book is Arab Nationalism in the 20th Century: From Triumph to Despair (Princeton University Press, 2003). Previously Professor of Government and Politics at George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia from 1985 to 2000, he was Deputy Director of Studies at Royal Institute of International Affairs, 197985. He has recently been on a month long visit to the Middle East for his latest research project on the history and future of democracy in Iraq.

The above discussion took place at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London on 8 June 2004

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