Iraq: March 30, 2004


NATO and the UN are discussing a joint operation to send more peacekeepers to Iraq. While both organizations have loudly condemned the American led coalition that overthrew Saddam Hussein, it's becoming clear that Iraq is headed for peace, prosperity and democracy. While the news media accentuates the violence of Saddam loyalists and Islamic radicals, European and UN officials are aware of the fact that the Iraqi economy is reviving at a robust rate and that most of the country is at peace and awaiting elections. While neither NATO nor the UN will admit, any time soon, that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the establishment of democracy there will do more to defuse Islamic radicalism than anything else being done, they don't want to be frozen out of the process either. Eventually, kudos will be handed out, and they want their share.

Meanwhile, political, religious and criminal gangs continue to make attacks on government, police, commercial and coalition targets. Raw power and physical intimidation have long been a staple of  Iraqi life, and the thugs are going at it while they still can. The police and coalition troops are getting more effective at finding and arresting, or killing, gang members. Part of this is due to more communications gear for the Iraqi police and security forces, as well as better coordination with coalition troops. There has not been a "friendly fire" incident between coalition troops and Iraqi police for some time and the Iraqi police are becoming more confident. However, there will be a shortage of Iraqi police for at least another year. This is because the coalition insists on screening and training new police, even those who served in the police before the invasion. Iraqis are beginning to realize that a more professional police force is a more efficient and less corrupt police force. The Iraqi security forces, who are basically just guys with guns and some supervision who guard neighborhoods and commercial operations (including oil facilities and utilities) take some of the load off the police. But you still need effective police to go after all the armed gangs operating in the country.

Meanwhile, coalition officials are waging another, rarely reported, battle against the traditional corruption in Iraqi government. Iraqis are starting to get used to the novelty of corrupt officials being arrested, questioned and prosecuted or dismissed. Since these efforts are taking place on a large scale, no one group is complaining that they are being picked on. No one expects corruption to be eliminated by the time Iraqis take over the senior government positions, but the idea that corruption can be attacked is catching on.


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