It may be years before the US and Britain know what they have unleashed in Iraq

Share

The morning after the euphoria of the statue-felling should have brought even the most "told you so" of warmongers sharply up against the reality of what the Americans and British have embarked on in Iraq.

The morning after the euphoria of the statue-felling should have brought even the most "told you so" of warmongers sharply up against the reality of what the Americans and British have embarked on in Iraq.

The looting and early signs of the fracturing of Iraq on ethnic and religious lines do not in themselves negate the case for war. It may not be possible to assess that for another 10 years. But they do emphasise the costs and difficulties of turning Iraq from dictatorship to democracy by force – of which the war itself was only a part.

The response yesterday of the Turkish government to the fall of Kirkuk is depressing. Turkey's suspicion of any expression of Kurdish identity has been an undercurrent of this war, and has as much to do with the Turkish parliament's refusal to allow US forces free run of the country as any fellow-feeling with Iraqi Muslims. Turkey did not want Baghdad to be taken, with Kurdish help, from the north, and it does not want Kurdish fighters heading south, expanding Kurdish territory.

Yet Turkey will not be able to suppress the Kurdish issue. One obvious requirement of turning Iraq into a democracy is some kind of federal structure in order to protect the rights of the Kurdish minority in the north and of the Sunni Muslim minority in the rest of the country. That in turn means a greater international recognition of the Kurdish right to self-determination than the existence of the northern "safe haven" for the past 12 years.

This is unwelcome to Turkey, where more than half all Kurds live, because there is no good argument in principle against a unified Kurdish state. The Turks recognise the contradiction between Tony Blair and George Bush's insistence on the integrity of Iraq's present borders while at the same time asserting the rights of the peoples of Iraq to democratic self-determination. But Ankara does not seem sufficiently to understand that its best hope of heading off Kurdish nationalism is to respect the rights of Turkish Kurds.

The collapse of civil order in Iraq poses a more immediate problem. A period of lawlessness and looting in the gap between Saddam Hussein's tyranny and benevolent military rule by the Americans and British may be inevitable, but that does not make it any more comfortable for the families cowering in their homes as gangs of thugs roam the streets.

It should go without saying that establishing order is urgent – so urgent that risks have to be taken by soldiers who are still trying to fight the remnants of Saddam's forces. Aid cannot be distributed unless it is effectively policed; hospitals cannot function unless Iraqi doctors feel able to leave their homes. It is no use army officers saying, as the British have in Basra, that they cannot stop the looting until they have finished fighting the war. There can be no such clear boundaries.

This matters, and not only in the short term; there is a medium-term cost in allowing gangsterism to take hold. The problems in Bosnia and Kosovo show how difficult it is to root out organised crime once it gains a hold. The situation in Kosovo, four years on from the war, has been stabilised, but the local population is culturally homogenous and had a network of its own institutions even under Milosevic.

As was shown by the murder of a Shia leader in Najaf yesterday, Iraqi society is less cohesive to begin with.

None of these problems will ensure the failure of US or British good intentions, or mean that life for most Iraqis will not eventually be better than before. But, please, no triumphalism.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Games Developer - HTML5

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With extensive experience and a...

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£26000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Product Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Due to on-going expansion, this leading provid...

Recruitment Genius: Shift Leaders - Front of House Staff - Full Time and Part Time

£6 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a family ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Jeremy Corbyn could be about to pull off a shock victory over the mainstream candidates Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall   

Every club should be like Labour – you can’t join as a new member unless you’re already a member

Mark Steel
The biggest task facing Labour is to re-think the party's economic argument, and then engage in battle with George Osborne and his policies  

There's a mainstream alternative to George Osborne's economics

John Healey
A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works