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    A YEAR AFTER THE WAR ABSENCE OF SECURITY REMAINS PROBLEM NUMBER ONE IN IRAQ

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    BAGHDAD, March 20, 2004. (RIA Novosti). A year ago at night on March 19 Baghdad was rocked by missile explosions. Alarm sirens signaled the start of a war, codenamed by Washington Operation Iraqi Freedom.

    The U.S. army won the war, meeting in fact no resistance on their way. The dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussein, hated by most Iraqis, was overthrown. But the army brought no peace and tranquility to that country.

    Fear and alarm have never left the Iraqis ever since. Therefore many of them, if not the majority, recall with nostalgia the past years, when people could move about the country or walk in the streets not fearing about for their life or money.

    "It is not only Saddam Hussein but also security that has disappeared in Iraq," Sattar Jabar, an engineer, said. "The country today has no laws, no order, no electricity and no elementary municipal services. Finally, the majority of the population has no jobs and no wages. But we have plenty of fear." The presence of U.S. troops, in the opinion of the Iraqi engineer, did not solve the problems facing his country, but only made them bigger. "Therefore," he said, "if the fall of Saddam Hussein was applauded a year ago by the majority of people in Baghdad, today all of them are against the occupation." Now the U.S. troops are accused of the absence of security and other disasters not only by the Iraqis who welcomed them a year ago but also by those who still regard them as liberators, in particular the Iraqi Shiites.

    "The situation in the country is more dangerous today than it used to be before," said Police Major Hamid Halaf. "The society is swept by crime, including its kinds, about we had not even heard before - drug addiction, contract murder, and kidnapping (including children)." "The Americans," the police officer said, "disbanded the Iraqi army, the security bodies and criminal police, and have left the country's borders without protection. Today not only local criminals operate in Iraq but also migrant offenders from other countries. Among those that have been arrested are even Pakistanis." Not only those who definitely benefited from the changes in the country, but also civil servants, physicians, teachers and pensioners, say that it used to be better before. All of them earn far more after the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime. But their relative well-being does not make them more protected.

    The year that has passed since the war has made inter-ethnic and inter-religious relations in Iraq far more acute. Sunnites, whose representatives were in power in Iraq in the past decades, are alarmed to see that they are pressed by Shiites and Kurds. On the other hand, Arabs - Shiites, Sunnites and Iraqi Turkomen - watch with concern the actions by Kurds, suspecting them of separatist intentions and a wish to enlarge the territory of Kurdistan at the expense of the regions traditionally populated by Arabs and Turkomen. Sunnites and Kurds, for their part, fear Shiite hegemony and an establishment of an Islamic state in the manner of Iran in their country. All this is reflected in the sentiments of the Iraqi society as a whole.

    Additional tensions are created in the country also because many of its citizens, in particular, the former members of the overthrown Baath party (a Party of Arab Socialist Renascence), became outcasts. Such a fate befell not only party functionaries, but also its rank-and-file members. The Iraqi universities, ministries, public hospitals and schools became an arena where old scores are settled between members of the present parties in Iraq and those of the toppled party. The debaathification policy proclaimed by Paul Bremer, chief of the provisional administration of Iraq, provides a legal basis for that.

    The Operation Iraqi Freedom has freed Iraqis of a dictator, but has not freed them from fear for their lives.

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