Thursday, February 02, 2006
The UN Mandate for coalition forces in Iraq come up for renewal in June 2006. What, as a party, will we recommend? This will be a key early decision for our new leadership team. Not surprisingly, the issue as emerged in our leadership election. We need to help our emerging leadership, all parts of it, find a constructive path.
I strongly recommend all party members read a report published in December 2005 by the Oxford Research Group entitled ‘Iraqi Liberation? Towards an Integrated Strategy’. Our own Lord Tim Garden co-authored the forward welcoming this study, saying:
The crisis in Iraq continues to burn. In spite of the best efforts of many, the
violence does not subside. The UK must examine the extent to which Coalition forces, despite their mission to guarantee security, in fact contribute by their presence to the gathering instability.
The report summary says
The debate on Iraq must not be confined to “stay the course” or “cut and run”.The stark fact is that replacing the ‘narrative of occupation’ by a ‘narrative of Iraqi liberation’ is impossible while the ‘coalition’ regime endures. We need to prepare a framework for major troop withdrawals and a different regime in 2006.
Both paths are perilous. If the Coalition remains for years, we risk strengthening the most radical elements of the insurgency and helping them reshape the region in their own interest. Yet withdrawal, if precipitate rather than carefully planned, could risk chaos or civil war.
Calls for a withdrawal timetable have come in recent weeks from the USA and the Iraqi national dialogue conference in Cairo. The Coalition’s current policy is to establish conditions which will make draw-down of forces possible. It is steadfastly refusing to set timetables, on the basis that they can be manipulated and taken advantage of by the enemy. But conditions, once set, are equally open to abuse - especially where a broadly-accepted popular story of illegitimate occupation helps the insurgency to thrive and unite.
The report sets out in detail seven key elements for a policy moving from occupation to liberation.
1 Build legitimacy in the Iraqi political process
2 Support from honest brokers in the International community
3 Iraqi assumption of security responsibilities and the counter-insurgency lead
4 Coalition Forces withdrawals
5 Economic development and diversification
6 Rebuilding human security
7 International security guarantees and footprints
Coalition force withdrawals, in more detail implies the need to:
a Publish a transparent ‘contract’ between Iraq, the UN and the Coalition, circumscribing the
latter’s role, clarifying US and UK intentions, and codifying Iraqi oversight.
b Rapidly agree and implement a framework for force withdrawals to erode the narrative of
occupation: milestone-driven, conditions-responsive, pursued in a decentralised fashion, and
ultimately to be complete.
The report is available for download here, in a PDF file. LibDems interested in initiatives for peace-building in international affairs will find other parts of the Oxford Research Group’s work of great interest.
So – how is this playing out in our leadership stakes..? Troop withdrawals in a constructive context seems to be Chris Huhne's position. How do these ideas play out in the context of the ORG arguments?