The INDEPENDENT is reporting this, giving the lie to the claim that Japan is leaving Iraq because it has succeeded.
REPRINTED UNDER FAIR USE RULES
Published: 21 June 2006
Iraq’s death toll continues its apparently inexorable rise. Yesterday the bodies of two missing American soldiers were discovered south of Baghdad, apparently showing signs of torture. But in Iraq no atrocity stands in isolation for very long. Later on the same day a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a home for the elderly in Basra. Three American servicemen were also charged with the murder of Iraqi prisoners.
There are now signs that this rising air of instability in Iraq is beginning to place a strain on what remains of the “coalition of the willing” that supported the American-led invasion over three years ago. The Japanese Prime Minister announced yesterday that he intended to pull out 600 non-combat troops who had been working on reconstruction projects in the south of Iraq under the protection of UK and Australian forces. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi did his best to present this as a “mission accomplished” moment. But the real reason Japanese troops are being pulled out is because responsibility for security in the region in which they are working is about to be transferred to Iraqi forces. Japan plainly has no faith in the ability, or the inclination, of the Iraqi army to protect them.
There have also been hints of a partial British troop pull-out this week. The Defence Secretary, Des Browne, has announced that 170 troops will be withdrawn from Muthana province. And a British pull-out from Maysan province is expected soon. But these troops are only likely to be redeployed to reinforce the Basra region, where the security situation is rapidly disintegrating. Unlike their Japanese counterparts, British troops will have to consider Iraq their home for some time yet.
Both the Bush administration and our own government have repeatedly accused the media of presenting a worse picture of the situation in Iraq than actually exists. That accusation surely lost all credibility this week when a secret memo from the US ambassador in Baghdad was made public. Zalmay Khalilzad’s memo to the State Department revealed a bleak picture of a country where real security does not exist, sectarian militias play an increasingly important role, and in which the US occupation is more hated than ever. It is worth stressing that this is not the verdict of a journalist, but the most senior ranking American official stationed in Iraq. The memo also points out that despite a full three years passing since the toppling of Saddam Hussein, electricity supplies in the country remain intermittent. The occupying forces have been unable to supply even basic services.
The pretence in Washington and London that the situation in Iraq is gradually improving has become a bad joke. The assassination of the insurgent leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi earlier this month and the formation of a new government have not diminished the insurgency. Sectarian violence has been similarly unaffected. A suicide bombing last Friday killed 11 Shia worshippers in one of Baghdad’s most important mosques. This was the second time it had been hit in two months.
We are constantly told that the withdrawal of US and British troops is dependent on how quickly Iraqi security forces can take over their duties. But as the US ambassador’s memo starkly points out, many Iraqis are as frightened of these very security forces as they are of the insurgents. Our troops are plainly unable to curtail the violence while they remain in Iraq, but if they left, the bloodshed would probably increase. This is the deadly situation that the incompetence and arrogance of our political leaders has created. Never has the folly of this misguided intervention stood so utterly exposed.