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THE WORLD

Some Iraqis Say They Need Less Foreign Involvement, Not More

U.S. request for troops prompts worries of increased instability and delayed self-rule.

September 14, 2003|Alissa J. Rubin | Times Staff Writer

BAGHDAD — Iraqis say they are concerned that moves by the United States to bring other countries into the military and reconstruction efforts here are likely to create more problems than they solve and may prolong the occupation of Iraq by foreigners.

There is broad agreement that including soldiers from any of the neighboring states -- especially Turkey, Saudi Arabia or Iran -- would run the risk of creating more instability because all three have highly charged relationships with some Iraqi groups. The Kurds, for instance, are extremely wary of the Turks, whom they see as oppressors. And many Iraqis are uncomfortable with the United Nations, which they see as a heavily bureaucratic organization that is unable or even unwilling to spend enough money to put the country back on its feet.

"Generally speaking, we would not want other foreign forces to enter Iraq.... The point is that Iraqis should take control, not foreigners, as soon as possible," said Nasir Chaderchi, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council and president of the National Democratic Party.

Mohammed Tawfik, a leading Kurdish politician from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan who now serves as the minister of minerals and industry, was blunt about the prospect of soldiers arriving from neighboring countries.

"It is very important to us that none of the neighbors are involved," he said.

Kurds live primarily in three countries -- Turkey, Iraq and Iran. They have long struggled for an independent state, which the Turks view as a threat to their territorial integrity.

Habib Jabber, a professor of political science at Baghdad University, said any benefit to Iraq was not the primary reason the United States was seeking broader international involvement.

"This is being done for your own internal reasons -- political reasons, economic reasons," he said. "This isn't for the Iraqi people."

Jabber, like many Iraqis, rattled off an array of explanations of why internationalization made little sense to Iraqis. The Iraqis' biggest complaint is that the U.S.-led occupation force has failed to bring security and stability, both of which are prerequisites for a vigorous rebuilding effort. They say it is doubtful that international troops will do any better, and might even worsen the situation because of language and cultural barriers.

"If they sent 500,000 Iraqis to Jordan to police the country, do you think they would do a good job?" he asked. "And in that case, they speak the language and share traditions, but still, wouldn't Jordanians do a better job themselves?"

If foreign troops do come in, they should be under American control to prevent coordination problems, Tawfik said.

The Iraqi view of the United Nations seems anything but sanguine, in part because of the organization's role in imposing and enforcing sanctions against the country during former President Saddam Hussein's rule. The U.N. is viewed as an agent of the United States, but a more difficult one to manage because of the multilateral interests that govern it.

Policymakers regard the United Nations as underfinanced for the rebuilding job facing the country.

"Iraq needs a lot of money, the infrastructure is destroyed; Iraq needs to recover in every aspect of life," said Tawfik, adding that when he worked with the U.N. in Kurdistan, he found the bureaucracy overwhelming. In Iraq, the biggest need is for adequate financing of the ministries so that they can do their job, Tawfik said.

Jabber, the political scientist, agreed: "We know the bureaucracy of the U.N. is huge and they will not spend the money necessary to reconstruct Iraq."

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