Originally Published 2003-10-15 06:43:10 Published on Oct 15, 2003
The United States presence in Iraq is going to continue in one way or another, with or without assistance from allies. The reason this assumption can be made forcefully is because of the arguments made before the war and the expectations that arose after victory was declared.
Why the US will stay on in Iraq
The United States presence in Iraq is going to continue in one way or another, with or without assistance from allies. The reason this assumption can be made forcefully is because of the arguments made before the war and the expectations that arose after victory was declared. Oil, the mantra for political pundits, can be cited as the mainstay for the US led war and also for the continuing presence of the Americans on Iraqi soil. They are not entirely wrong in assuming the latter primarily because Iraq does sit on the second largest oil reserves in the world. But while this remains common logic what is not is the fact that the US has been unable to revive the ailing Iraqi oil machinery and thus as such has not been able to match its pre war output. Their September output was a meager 1.430-mil barrels per/day. Even Russia, whose oil output figures had been flagging in the past couple of years, produces more barrels per day than Iraq under US occupation. Primarily a number of issues hinge upon the output. Firstly if the US can bring Iraq's produce up to acceptable pre-war levels, it could then posit itself in a comfortable position in OPEC, the world body which cumulatively decides the world prices through their output.

Iraq is currently a member of OPEC but does not have a quota for daily production. It can only be re inducted into the fold once its daily production has increased to 3.5 million barrels per/day. Having an increased say in OPEC, albeit through Iraq, could come to mean that the price and output fluctuations could be advantageously positioned in favour of the US. Secondly increased oil output would translate into outflow of revenue for the United States. Ideally on paper it appears to be a very simple proposition. The oil that Iraq generates when sold in the world market would provide valuable resources for the reconstruction of Iraq. The reconstruction of the country has explicitly been awarded to US multinationals like Haliburton and Bechtel corps who are in turn going to be paid by Iraq's oil revenues. If events were to turn out like this it would mean that oil, revenue and power was being earned through Iraq and that it would be a fallacy to restrict the notion of US presence in Iraq to oil period. A much greater advantage can be culled from the presence of the US in Iraq. Unfortunately this can only be exercised once the oil revenues are up and running and stabilized for the future as well which is one of the reasons one can see continued US presence in Iraq.

The political clout of the Bush administration would also suffer immensely, both internationally and domestically, if the growing casualties were to result in a US withdrawal. Internationally it would mean a loss of face especially in front of critics like France, Germany and Russia. Domestically it could translate into a long and difficult haul before the Presidential elections of 2004 for the Bush team. After all a withdrawal now would mean explaining difficult questions to the skeptical American public; question which could range from the human cost of war to the billions of dollars that have been pumped into Iraq, as part of war efforts and also as part of immediate peacekeeping goals. Also a recent poll showed declining ratings amongst the American masses for President Bush and his handling of the post war Iraq situation. The most ideal solution in such situations would be to continue putting on a brave front while quietly wishing for ground realities to improve. After all troop withdrawal would mean an acknowledgement of the apparent failure of American policy in Iraq. It would also require explaining billions of dollars worth of tax payers' money that was poured into the war efforts in Iraq, a task better left in perpetual ambiguity.

And then there are the reasons within Iraq too. After having made repeated attempts to capture Saddam the very last thing would be leave to country without having caught him. Moreover the Bush administration is morally obliged to provide a smooth transition from the current interim administration to an elected Iraqi government, especially after having made repeated claims of wanting to do the same and against the backdrop of growing unrest in Iraq. Another reason within Iraq which potentially dictates the US presence would be the potential for a conflict between Turkey and the Kurdish people. This issue has already become more volatile since Turkey has agreed to send troops to the western sector of Iraq. A US withdrawal could translate into turning an unpredictable situation even more so.

Without a successful transition from interim administration to democratically elected representatives in Iraq the US would find it difficult to garner support for similar policies in the future. It is important to delineate between Iraq and Afghanistan at this stage. The latter has an international coalition force working within the parameters of an explicit UN mandate whereas the former is an example of the US's 'do it alone policy'. Success or failure here could thus have resounding repercussions for future alliances as well. This becomes even more so important because a withdrawal now would invariably translate into future source of region specific concern for them.

Thus from all accounts and due to the reasons emulated above it would be wrong to predict a full or even partial withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. That they were there to say would be an understatement.
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