Det har kommet langt i Irak når folk kaster stein på de britiske soldatene som kom for å hjelpe ofrene for onsdagens bombeaksjoner. Det paradoksale er at de samme folkene trolig ville protestere hvis de allierte trakk seg ut.

Hva er alternativene? Thomas L. Friedman oppsummerer de tre scenarier:

We are now in the middle of a low-grade civil war in Iraq for who will control the place after we leave. That’s the bad news. Here’s the good news: I doubt we will be in Iraq a year from now — certainly not in large numbers. One of three things is likely to happen. First, the security and economic situations could continue to spiral downward, creating a Mogadishu-like situation in which we will have to fight our way out.

Second, we might manage, with the help of the U.N., to organize a reasonably legitimate Iraqi caretaker government to which we can hand `’limited» sovereignty on June 30. But that won’t stop our opponents. They will go on attacking U.S. forces to provoke a U.S. retaliation that will embarrass the caretaker government, make its leaders look like our stooges and pressure it to throw the U.S. out.

Third, the least-bad scenario is that we will be able to stick it out and, with the U.N., conduct a decent election by the end of the year that brings a legitimate Shiite-led Iraqi government to power. I doubt that such a government is going to want to have U.S. troops protecting it for very long, and it will either invite us to leave gradually or insist that we put our forces under a U.N. umbrella.

To even get to this stage, though, the Bush team can’t make another mistake in Iraq and needs to remedy all those it has made. A good start was made on Friday when the administration effectively conceded its error in disbanding the Iraqi army and firing too many low-level former Baathists, and began reaching out to them. One hopes this is part of a wider understanding that the first freely elected Iraqi government will be, at best, fragile, insecure and therefore highly nationalistic.

Rue John Kennedy

Published: April 25, 2004