Like Europe, Japan should press for an 'over-riding' UN role in Iraq
John de Boer (Research Associate, GLOCOM)
The killing of Saddam Hussein's two sons brought no respite to the attacks on US troops in Iraq on Tuesday as the occupation claimed several more lives. According to CNN, US occupation forces have witnessed an average of twelve attacks per day. The current "coalition" death-toll since 1 May (the day Bush declared an end to major combat operations) is forty-five, six being British. With the special measures bill expected to pass through the Japanese upper house this week, Japanese public opinion has manifested its concern that Japanese Self Defense Forces (SDF) will be targets in Iraq as well. According to an Asahi Shimbun poll conducted on 21 July, fifty-five percent of those polled said they were against the dispatch to Iraq (thirty-three percent were in favor) with most expressing the worry that Iraq was still too dangerous. Prime Minister Koizumi has been plagued all week with questions over the safety of the SDF in Iraq. Public opinion indicates that neither he nor his cabinet have found adequate answers.
Governments in Spain and Britain are facing similar challenges. According to a report by Radio Free Europe most British are concerned about the security of their 10,000 troops in Iraq. Considering the precision and frequency of the attacks many have also started to wonder whether they are organized. This view seems to be gaining ground in the US with senior US military and pentagon officials classifying the opposition faced by the US as a "classical guerrilla type campaign".
That there is no safe area in Iraq becomes more evident as time progresses. The Spanish public, who have reluctantly sent 1,300 well equipped, trained and experienced combat troops on 22 July to south central Iraq, have protested the dispatch. Defense minister Trillo provided no reassurances when he explained that "no international missions have been without risk".
The controversy is even sharper in Japan where troops are officially prohibited from combat duty overseas. With the idea of Japanese troops being stationed at Baghdad International airport to supply US troops with water being turned down, the Koizumi administration may have no option but to put Japanese troops in the line of fire. In fact, according to press sources, the US Central Command in Tampa, Florida has requested that the SDF be sent to the city of Balad (northern Baghdad). This is an area that has witnessed frequent violence. While cabinet representatives such as Yasuo Fukuda have discarded this option as "unlikely" (Asahi, 18 July), it is difficult to imagine a scenario in occupied Iraq where Japanese troops will be risk free.
With occupation costs doubling over the last month or so from $2 billion US a month to $3.9 billion (New York Times, July 19) and with US troops under constant attack, the Bush administration is begging for more international cooperation. This comes in the wake of a Pentagon advisory panel returning from Iraq pressing the need for international assistance. The panel said this would help to "diffuse responsibility, share dissatisfaction and not be a sole target" (New York Times, July 19).
As it stands today, the US led occupation lacks legitimacy, doesn't have enough troops and resources to get the necessary job done and will be unable to pay for a long-term presence in Iraq. Consequently, Bush is turning to the United Nations. Christopher Marquis of the New York Times described that, "Bush finds himself forced back into the arms of the UN because other nations refuse to contribute peacekeeping troops or reconstruction money without UN approval" (July 19).
India and Russia have joined France, Germany and the EU in pledging to contribute a great deal to Iraqi reconstruction if the UN plays a central role. In fact, to the disappointment of the US, India recently announced that it would not send the 17,000 strong division to Iraq until a new UN security council resolution giving the institution an over-riding political, economic and security mandate in Iraq was passed. Under resolution 1483 the UN is limited to humanitarian aid and giving political advice.
French leaders seem to think that the pressure to internationalize the occupation of Iraq will in time be irresistible for Bush. In fact, as far as France, Germany, the EU and Russia are concerned, President Bush will have to seek backing from the UN, an institution he scorned four months ago, if he wants to see these actors make serious troop and monetary contributions.
The pressure is on the US. While Europe has no interest to see the US fail in Iraq, its governments (apart from the UK, Poland, Spain and Italy) refuse to dedicate resources and send their men and women to participate in an occupation that lacks international legitimacy, above all in Iraq.
The Asahi Shimbun has recently reported that the SDF will conduct a public relations campaign in Iraq with the aim of convincing potential attackers not to attack (22 July). Fliers will be distributed and radio and television broadcasts will be made in Arabic stressing that the SDF is only engaged in humanitarian activities. The objective seeks to counter criticism that the SDF is being dispatched to support the US. The connection will be hard not to make considering that Japanese troops will be working closely with the US and enforcing a US led occupation.
If the Japanese government wants to convince the Iraqi people that the SDF dispatch to Iraq is not in US but in Iraqi interests, it should support European calls for a new United Nations resolution giving this organization "over-riding" authority in Iraq. An occupation organized, led and executed by the US and its few allies cannot be camouflaged as anything but a US occupation. Japanese troops in this context will be supporting US defined objectives and interests. Considering that the Japanese troop dispatch is not likely to take place until November, the government should use the next four months by joining Europe in calling upon the US, once again, to give the UN a central role in reconstructing Iraq.
- "Agency eyes PR blitz for Iraq before SDF dispatch", Asahi Shimbun, 22 July 2003
- "Survey: More oppose SDF Iraq Mission", Asahi Shimbun, 22 July 2003
- "US asks to send SDF into harm's way in Iraq", Asahi Shimbun, 18 July 2003
- Jan Jun, "Iraq: British public concerned by attacks on troops, but against leaving", Radio Free Europe, 22 July 2003
- Christopher Marquis, "Iraq occupation may force US to ask UN help. Many nations want resolution before giving funds, troops", The New York Times, 19 July 2003