IS THE U.S. DISAPPOINTED OVER IRAQ?

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MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Marianna Belenkaya) - As the new Iraqi government headed by Ibrahim al-Jaafari was sworn in, the results of a Gallup poll ordered by the newspaper USA Today and CNN were published in America.

According to the poll, only 41% of Americans today consider that Washington was right to start the war in Iraq, which is the lowest figure since Saddam Hussein's regime was toppled in April 2003. It shows, though indirectly so far, that there are signs that the U.S. leadership, too, is disappointed with the developments in Iraq. It seems that the current situation has not justified expectations and the billions of dollars spent on "regime change" in Baghdad. If "Iraq under Bremer," i.e., the direct administration of the occupying forces under a U.S. governor, still evoked optimism in the public and White House administration, difficulties that followed were totally unexpected and Washington does not know how to handle them.

The promised march toward democracy has not materialized. So, why has so much effort been made to that end? Was it to find weapons of mass destruction, which, as has finally been established, did not exist in Iraq at all by 2003?

Let us begin with the new Iraqi government. The problem is that the term of office of this government expires on December 31, 2005. During this brief period, it has to draft a new constitution, conduct a referendum, and organize elections to a permanent parliament, which, for its part, has to form permanent bodies of power. It took nearly three months to come to an agreement on the new ministers, so now the al-Jaafari government has little time. Moreover, the situation is even more difficult because the economy is paralyzed, and the incessant terrorist attacks, which have peaked in the past two weeks, remain the central problem.

Russian government sources in Moscow told RIA Novosti that "if the further work of the Iraqi government is accompanied, as in the past few months, by sharp differences among the representatives of various ethnic and religious groups, and if the compromise formulas reached as a result emasculate the substance of one or another undertaking, then problems may arise in accomplishing the government's objectives." Indeed, it may be not easy even to set objectives.

By the time when the Iraqi government was formed, America's patience had all but been exhausted. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Vice President Cheney and State Secretary Rice told the Iraqis insistently that a political vacuum in Iraq had to be prevented.

Moreover, President Bush warned the present Iraqi authorities against falling into the temptation of politicizing the process of forming new armed forces in the country. One of the real dangers facing Iraq, he said, was a possible attempt by the civilian government to destroy the military structure that the United States had helped to develop. A case in point is that the Iraqi parliament is debating a draft resolution on disbanding special combat units formed by recruiting former officers who served in Saddam's army and were members of the ruling Baath party. In the past, the policy of total the "de-Baathization" of the Iraqi army and other state structures was launched under the auspices of the U.S. As a result, Iraq was deprived of many competent experts. But then, apart from growing unemployment and public discontent, another problem emerged: there were no professionals left who could counteract the growing wave of terrorism. Some time later the Americans admitted their mistake, and former Baath party members who had not been involved in the crimes of the toppled regime returned to the army and also took up civilian posts. Today de-Baathization is again on the agenda, but this time on the initiative of some of Iraqi politicians.

It is no coincidence that after Saddam's overthrow European and Russian diplomats tried to convince Washington that understanding among Iraq's various ethnic and religious groups should be the basis of a settlement in Iraq. Washington refused to consider such subtleties, while U.S. politicians tried not to expose the differences among Iraqis and reported optimistically that the political process was developing as planned. But now it is becoming ever harder to do this.

Iraq may be considered to be the beginning of the practical implementation of U.S. plans to rearrange the "Greater Middle East." But will they be implemented in future just as competently?

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