As the Iraqi crisis enters its decisive phase here is a list of dos and don’ts that the United States and its allies would do well to bear in mind during and immediately after regime change:
First, the things that are best avoided:
Do not talk of American military rule in Baghdad. This is unnecessary, impractical and counterproductive. The U.S. and its allies are there to get rid of the tyrant; the rest is up to the Iraqi people.
Don’t let the Turkish army occupy part of northern Iraq under any pretexts. That could lead to the revival of claims under the Lausanne Treaty and pose a serious threat to Iraqi sovereignty.
Don’t let Iran gain a foothold in eastern and southern Iraq, even through surrogate Iraqi forces. That could give the mullahs nuisance power at a critical time. It could also lead to the revival of the Erzerum Treaties under which Iran could claim “special rights” over the Shiite shrine cities of Najaf, Karbala, and Samarrah. Again, Iraqi sovereignty could come under threat.
Do not exclude the United Nations from the task of administering first aid to Iraq. A massive program of distributing food and providing medical care would be needed for at least a year. It is better if this is ran by the UN rather than the US army and coalition allies.
Don’t let the Brazani and Talabani Kurds seize control of more territory in the confusion. It is especially imperative that they do not try to grab the oil cities of Mosul and Kirkuk in the north.
Don’t try to impose Iraqi leaders because they are liked by militant Republicans in the Congress or backed by this or that part of the Bush administration. By getting rid of Saddam, the US will have all Iraqis as its friends, and will thus have a wide choice.
Don’t punish France, Germany, and Russia because of the games played by their leaders in support of the tyrant. All three, and others, must be associated with the reconstruction of Iraq and the development of its oil resources.
Don’t keep the plum contracts for American companies only. This is a case of US interests coinciding with the interests of the Iraqi people. It is important that the liberation of Iraq be seen by the Muslim world as a largely altruistic move on the part of the US and its allies.
Don’t allow score settling by one group against another on any pretexts. Iraqis must stop shedding each other’s blood; the nightmare of killing ands revenge killing must come to a close.
Don’t insist that Iraq withdraw from the Arab League, the OPEC, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) as demanded by some exile opposition groups. Iraq would need all its international connections in order to protect its statehood.
Don’t listen to those who say the Iraqi army should be disbanded. The Iraqi army has been a victim of Saddam’s despotism alongside the rest of the nation. Saddam has murdered four out of the five chiefs of staff of the Iraqi army in the past 30 years, while thousands of officers have been purged, executed, cashiered, or forced into exile. The army could be restructured to assume its proper role in new Iraq.
Now some of the things that must be done:
Introduce a special Security Council resolution to endorse the liberation of Iraq and to guarantee Iraq’s sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and borders as demarcated at present.
Release all information about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. It is important to persuade the millions of “doubting Thomases” that the “Vampire of Baghdad” did, indeed, had a hidden death machine.
Open Saddam’s prisons, torture chambers, and luxury palaces to the media so that the peaceniks realize who they were supporting with those marches.
Let Saddam’s victims speak, preferably in testimonies to a special commission set up under U.N. auspices to investigate crimes against humanity committed by the Baathist regime. By telling the world about the tragedy that the Iraqis have suffered for 30 years, one could help the process of healing which they clearly need.
Publish the records of secret deals with Western and non-Western companies and governments that helped Saddam build his death machine. Many reputable corporations may be shamed as a result, along with many governments, including that of the US and the United Kingdom. But the truth must be told so that the experience of Iraq is never repeated.
Publish the names of political parties, leaders, journalists, trade unionists, academics, and terror organizations, many of them based in the Western democracies, that benefited from Saddam’s largesse for almost 30 years. Again, many supposedly respectable figures maybe exposed as hypocrites and crooks. But this must be done so that paid agents of dictators cannot pose as altruistic champions of peace in the future.
Insist that the new Iraqi authority declares a general amnesty, excepting the few dozen top criminals associated with the tyranny.
Persuade the new Iraqi authority to create a truth and reconciliation commission to help healing the wounds without injuring the nation’s historic conscience.
Announce a Marshall Plan for the reconstruction of Iraq. Vast sums are needed — more than $200 billion according to some estimates — but investing in Iraq is wise and could be profitable in the medium-term.
Announce a moratorium on U.N.-imposed sanctions, with a timetable for lifting them.
Announce at least a notional timetable for writing a new constitution, holding elections and establishing a new regime with a popular base. Make it clear that all foreign troops will leave Iraq once the new regime is fully established and asks them to do so.
Announce a moratorium on payment of war reparations by Iraq, with a view to lightening that burden to the minimum with the help of the international community.
— Amir Taheri, Iranian author and journalist, is based in Europe. He’s reachable through www.benadorassociates.com.