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    MOSCOW, March 19, 2004 (RIA Novosti political commentator Marianna Belenkaya)

    It has been a year since the war in Iraq began, but there are still disputes over who was right and who was wrong. How can the operation be assessed, considering thousands of dead Iraqi civilians, hundreds of lost foreign soldiers and Iraq's transformation into a terrorists' paradise...

    Undoubtedly, the majority of the Iraqis have no regrets about the collapse of the Saddam regime. Moreover, they keep wondering why the international community had so long been inactive about the dictator. According to an opinion poll conducted by the BBC, 56% of the Iraqis believe that life has become better after Saddam was toppled, and 49% think that the coalition's invasion was a fair cause.

    However, the overthrowing of the dictator did not increase the Iraqis' love for the Americans. Despite their gratitude for ridding them of dictatorship, the Iraqis still see the United States and its allies as invaders. 41% of the Iraqis are convinced that the invasion was humiliating for their country. But the main concern is not so much the invasion but the coalition's failure to bring life back to normal in Iraq.

    It is now clear and beyond all doubt that the US actions in post-war Iraq were originally unprofessional and did not heed the country's national specifics. Washington invested its major efforts in the military operation, overlooking further developments. Besides the abstract idea of turning Iraq into a democratic country, the Americans had no specific plan. The anarchy of the first months following the military operation turned Iraq into an easy target for terrorists. This is why the Iraqis are looking forward to an end of the occupation, when they will be able to govern their own country.

    This state of affairs is unlikely to change.

    Discontent is seen in the United States and among its allies as well. Initially, the Americans insisted on invading Iraq because Baghdad failed to fulfil UN resolutions and was allegedly developing weapons of mass destruction (WMD). However, US experts failed to find WMDs in Iraq no matter how hard they tried during the past year. Clearly, many Americans and the nations now supporting Iraq are indignant with the fact that their soldiers had died for an idea that was false from the very beginning.

    Future Prime Minister of Spain Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero promised that the Spanish military would soon be withdrawn from Iraq. Ukraine, too, began thinking about it, which is less known. The Polish leadership is not going to pull out its servicemen but President Kwasniewski has regretfully admitted, "we have been misled in terms of WMDs."

    However, London and Washington are still insisting that their actions in Iraq were legitimate. Hence, when speaking in front of American servicemen during his unexpected visit to Baghdad, US Secretary of State Colin Powell said that they should not worry about the frustrated efforts to find WMDs in Iraq. The main thing is that the Iraqis and their neighbours no longer feared that Saddam Hussein would use WMDs again, as was the case in the past.

    Advocates of the military operation, in particular British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw pointed out another positive side of the Iraq campaign. The toppling of Saddam became a very good lesson for other authoritarian leaders. It is not accidental that Libya hastily gave up WMDs, and Saudi Arabia began talking about political reforms. Moreover, many eastern rulers concluded that the wild anti-American sentiments they were professing could hardly help them remain in power.

    However, it is not so important whether the Americans were right when they began the war in Iraq. The thing is that the Iraqi situation can hardly be repeated elsewhere. At least, the West, the US in particular, will remember the lie that was the basis of the Iraq campaign.

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