U.S. must accept outside help to secure Iraq

by George Lopez

The terrible bombings of the UN compound and oil and water facilities in Iraq last week bring home a bitter irony: After winning the war impressively, the United States is in danger of losing the peace. Understanding the increased violence and possible counter-measures is a formidable task.p. Many of the early attacks on U.S. forces came from Baath Party loyalists. But U.S. military sweeps and actions since May have led Iraqis who had no taste for Saddam Hussein to blame Americans for the arrest or death of loved ones. The absence of internal security, electricity, medical care and jobs adds to their willingness to take action against the occupiers. Moreover, the borders have become a sieve as al-Qaida and other Islamic operatives see Iraq as an attractive battleground against America.p. Whatever their prewar disagreements, many nations, and the UN itself, support the same ends as U.S. policy: a safe, democratic and prosperous Iraq. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has reiterated that the UN is poised to take a more pronounced role in bettering the security, political and economic situation within Iraq. Not to take advantage of this option now, in the wake of shared U.S.-UN losses, will be to condemn U.S. efforts to failure.p. The challenge before the Bush administration is to provide the visionary leadership needed to harness this international consensus in a manner that produces real resources for change on the ground in Iraq. This will demand that the president recognize the benefits, if not the necessity, of substantial multilateral commitments in Iraq. Security needs in Baghdad require Indian, German and other army regulars who have training in counterterrorism and internal security, not more U.S. reservists.p. One of the specific steps the United States can undertake with UN and European Union assistance involves the establishment of a major border-monitoring program. The models for such a migration and materiel control system exist within recent U.S. and UN experience. Working with Canada and Mexico, the United States has established a ‘’smart border’’ system that, among other innovations, features electronic readable passes.p. Between 1993 and 1995, French customs agents trained and worked alongside local East Europeans in creating the Sanctions Assistance Missions to stifle contraband and mercenary movements into the former Yugoslavia. To engage the neighboring Arab states and European Union agents alongside Iraqis in such work would be a small but significant step toward security in an increasingly chaotic environment.p. In addition, such a monitoring program can be a first, necessary step to a fuller engagement of UN members in the complex security and development tasks faced in Iraq. The universal empathy for murdered UN envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello and others injured and killed in their humanitarian work can provide the impetus for the great powers to mend fences, minimize past differences and work collaboratively on a shared and effective agenda.p. Nothing in a plan to internationalize the reconstruction of Iraq in this manner smacks of defeatism. Rather, it is a smart and timely policy that chooses to accomplish national objectives via international means. It recognizes that a number of nations stand ready to join a force that is multinational in authority and composition. It acts on the recent 97-0 vote of the U.S. Senate that the president seek NATO and UN support for postwar transition in Iraq.p. No one can claim that an Iraq that was under UN administration could have prevented the bombings of this past week. But only a move now to expand international involvement in the security and rebuilding of the country will guarantee that these attacks wane and a new Iraq emerges.p. p. George A. Lopez is director of Policy Studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

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