Sir Menzies Campbell: New strategy must come through UN

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The Independent Online

Any new strategy for Iraq requires an understanding of the mistakes that have led to the current crisis.

De-Baathification was excessive and unjust, and the disbandment of Iraqi security forces created a power vacuum. There have been prolonged delays in the transfer of political power, restoration of governance, and the training of Iraqi security forces; a failure to rebuild police forces; a paucity of civilian officials with sufficient expertise; and inadequate measures to re-establish services, with poor financial oversight.

At the same time, there has been a disproportionate use of military force, a failure to apply accepted counter-insurgency techniques or alternative means to minimise violence, and a system of abusive, indefinite detention of Iraqis.

It is now essential that through the United Nations, the Iraqi government and its allies develop a new strategy. What might it contain?

First, a regional contact group could strengthen and promote the constructive engagement of Iraq's neighbours, assist dialogue with insurgent groups and improve border controls. Iran and Syria can no longer be ignored.

Second, enhanced measures are required to train Iraqi security forces. Third, a comprehensive, UN-led disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration strategy is necessary to deprive illegal armed groups of their grip on power.

Fourth, there must be an end to systematic detentions by Iraqi and US forces. These are in breach of international law and have perpetuated the insurgency. Fifth, expanding United Nations and World Bank involvement in the reconstruction process would enhance delivery, transparency and accountability.

Sixth, Iraq needs a programme for the withdrawal of coalition troops, to counter the perception of occupation and illegitimacy. Iraqis view coalition forces not as liberators, but as occupiers.