MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Marianna Belenkaya) - The United States continues discussing a bill on the funding of its troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
President George W. Bush did not accept its Congress-endorsed version. For a long time, the Iraqi issue has been an element of domestic policies in the United States and Britain that led a military mission on the Saddam Hussein regime's overthrow four years ago. The political decisions made by their governments often ran counter to Iraqi interests because they were motivated by a desire to win more votes at home.
Indicative in this respect is an article by Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari published by The Washington Post on May 4. The title of the article addressed to the world community, above all the Americans and the Brits, speaks for itself: "Don't Abandon Us." The gist of the article is that despite the difficult situation, life in Iraq is turning back to normal in all spheres - from security to the economy. The minister admits that "...small but significant snippets of normality are overshadowed by acts of gross violence, which fuel the opinion of some that Iraq is in downward spiral," and that some claim that the war "is all but lost." But he goes on to say that the situation is improving, albeit slowly, and appeals to the world to remain engaged in Iraq so as to help it preserve its achievements. By asking the world not to "abandon" Iraq, Zebari primarily objects to a multinational troop withdrawal, although he also seeks economic and political support for Iraq on behalf of the West and neighboring countries.
It is difficult to say whether Zebari has painted a true picture of Iraqi achievements. Only the Iraqis themselves can judge it. Their testimonies in the world media do not sound so optimistic. But the foreign minister is right - Iraq needs international support. A foreign troop withdrawal should match the interests of the Iraqi people and enhance world security. It should not be tailored to suit British or American voters or promote political ambitions.
There is no doubt that Iraqis themselves have different views on the foreign military presence in their country. The world community understands that the mandate of the multinational force in Iraq cannot be extended forever. But how to prevent a pullout from turning into flight, which would unleash terror in Iraq?
This issue is a subject of heated debates. Foreign ministers from Iraq's neighbors discussed it in Sharm El Sheikh with the permanent members of the UN Security Council, G8 countries and a number of regional organizations. Incidentally, the conference coincided with the publication of Zebari's article in The Washington Post. Its final document points out that the Iraqi government should continue to be in charge of a decision on a foreign troop withdrawal. It does not mention a schedule for the pullout but notes that the Iraqi army should be responsible for national security in Iraq. This will make it possible to end the multinational force mandate.
This formula is the best possible compromise. Speaking at the conference, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made it clear that Moscow has always insisted on limiting the stay of foreign troops in Iraq, but objected to their withdrawal in a rush, particularly if it were made to suit political interests in one or another country that sent its troops to the multinational force.
Lavrov stressed that "in the current conditions, the presence of the coalition forces in Iraq is a stabilizing factor, preventing the country from sliding into the chaos of continual strife. A hasty and ill-prepared troop withdrawal is fraught with negative consequences." At the same time, he added that "the foreign military presence in Iraq should not go on forever. Like many other countries, Russia is in favor of a well-thought-out schedule for a multinational troop withdrawal from Iraq. The main criterion for working it out should be the readiness of the Iraqi security-related forces to effectively maintain law and order in the country."
In other words, unlike some American politicians who demand specific dates, Lavrov linked the troop pullout with the Iraqi reality. The last four years have borne out that any attempt to squeeze a political process into a certain time frame is ineffective and only generates mistakes that have to be redressed - often at the cost of human lives.
It seems that President Bush has taken account of his past experience and is learning from his mistakes. He deserves credit for his readiness to take responsibility for the situation in Iraq to the end, even despite a threat to his party's image. The only question is what will prevail - political battles in Washington or the Iraqi reality?
Will the U.S. opposition heed Zebari's appeal not to abandon Iraq?
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.