Wednesday, February 08, 2012

What colonial failure looks like: The US reducing its embassies in Iraq

The United States is, in Iraq, adjusting to the realization that its dreams of transforming Iraq into its most modern showcase colony have failed. That cannot be described as anything but a good thing for the people of Iraq and for the idea that they and not the US Ambassador and military officials should set the country's policies.

Of course in celebrating this moment, we must remember the huge amount of misery the US imposed on Iraq in the process of reaching this point.

The New York Times article reporting this reduction expresses a tone of near disbelief.
BAGHDAD — Less than two months after American troops left, the State Department is preparing to slash by as much as half the enormous diplomatic presence it had planned for Iraq, a sharp sign of declining American influence in the country.

Officials in Baghdad and Washington said that Ambassador James F. Jeffrey and other senior State Department officials were reconsidering the size and scope of the embassy, where the staff has swelled to nearly 16,000 people, mostly contractors.

The expansive diplomatic operation and the $750 million embassy building, the largest of its kind in the world, were billed as necessary to nurture a postwar Iraq on its shaky path to democracy and establish normal relations between two countries linked by blood and mutual suspicion. But the Americans have been frustrated by what they see as Iraqi obstructionism and are now largely confined to the embassy because of security concerns, unable to interact enough with ordinary Iraqis to justify the $6 billion annual price tag.
Now that the effort has failed, maybe Americans and Westerners can ask themselves what exactly the US thought it would do with an embassy with 16,000 people on staff. One thing to note is that US personnel in Iraq would be one of the targets of Iranian retaliation if the US was to get into a war with that country. I don't expect to see a war, but for that reason it may be good from the US' point of view for some of this staff to leave. It will have saved lives if a war was to break out.
At every turn, the Americans say, the Iraqi government has interfered with the activities of the diplomatic mission, one they grant that the Iraqis never asked for or agreed upon.
I think that speaks for itself.
Expressing a common sentiment among Iraqis, she added: “The U.S. had something on their mind when they made it so big. Perhaps they want to run the Middle East from Iraq, and their embassy will be a base for them here.”
I agree with this common sentiment, and while I never expect to learn the details of the US' plan was, I'm happy for the sake of the people of Iraq that the plan has not succeeded the way the Barack Obama administration hoped it would last year at this time.
The size of the embassy staff is even more remarkable when compared with those of other countries. Turkey, for instance, which is Iraq’s largest trading partner and wields more economic influence here than the United States, employs roughly 55 people at its embassy, and the number of actual diplomats is in the single digits.
I'll leave Moktada al-Sadr with the last word:
Moktada al-Sadr, the Shiite cleric who has steadfastly railed against American influence here and whose militia fought the American military, has recently told his followers that the United States has failed to “disarm.”

Mr. Sadr recently posted a statement on his Web site that read, “I ask the competent authorities in Iraq to open an embassy in Washington, equivalent to the size of the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, in order to maintain the prestige of Iraq.”

1 comment:

Lidia said...

Arnold, thank you very much for this post. I believe in Iraqis, they fought and won their independence from UK colonizers (Churchill was one of the prominent UK butchers of Iraqis). I am sure the USA colonizers will fare not better!