In the first half of the meeting both speakers analyzed problems concerning Iraq from their own perspectives as specialists.
At the time when the presidential election in the United States was just approaching, Dr. Murata focused on a review of past US policy towards Iraq, analyzed the present state of this policy, and estimated its future trend.
Regarding the past US policy, Dr. Murata analyzed the decision of the US to attack Iraq specifically. Put simply, he supported the decision-but he stated his doubts about the argument which connects the legitimacy of the US decision with the maintenance of Weapons of Mass Destruction (hereafter WMD) by Iraq. This is because, according to him, whether or not Iraq had WMD was not the real problem. The real problem was that Saddam Hussein intimidated the opposition faction, its neighboring countries, and the rest of the world by using the tactic of deliberately obscuring the issue of Iraq’s possession of WMD. In this circumstance, the continuation of inspections by the United Nations could not have been effective because of the Iraqi pattern of obstruction. Dr. Murata emphasized the seriousness of the effect that this kind of inconclusive result would have had on so-called 'rogue states,' implying that it would surely have sent the wrong message to them: namely, that they could make WMD freely and employ the same obstructionist tactics as Saddam Hussein.
As to the present state of US policy towards Iraq, he emphasized the importance of its linkage to the US policy against terrorism (the so-called 'War on Terror'). He reasoned that after the American attack on Iraq, ties between the remnants of Saddam Hussein’s faction, terrorists, and other extremists in Iraq, and international terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda, were strengthened, and that this situation now poses a grave threat to the US and its allies as a whole.
Concerning the future trend of the US policy towards Iraq, Dr. Murata took up the problem of democratization. Whereas he admitted that the democratization of Iraq was not proceeding smoothly, he maintained that it was possible to establish a simple form of democratic government there, by which he meant the assurance of a system of regime change via elections, and the securing of freedom of speech.
In conclusion, he observed that with the Bush Administration already modifying its unilateralist approach regarding Iraqi policy, there was no substantial difference on this issue between George W. Bush and John F. Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate in the 2004 elections. Thus, he estimated that the issue would not significantly affect the election.
In her lecture, Ms. Sakai examined problems faced by the Iraqi Interim Government (hereafter the Government) at a time when it had just been established, on June 28, 2004. This Government took the place of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and the Iraqi Interim Governing Council (IGC). She analyzed important agendas that it should tackle immediately, and took up its structural problems in particular. Put briefly, she emphasized problems related to the basic vulnerability of the Government. An important reason for this, she emphasized, is that it was not established with the full support of the US and the UN in the first place. A second reason is that it is difficult for the Government to alleviate the anti-US emotion and dissatisfaction of the people. Thirdly, the Government is based on an unstable power balance between the US, the UN, Iraqi groups acting in Iraq, and groups of Iraqi refugees.
According to Ms. Sakai, behind the vulnerability of the Government lies a transformation in the relationship between the US, Iraqi refugee groups, and the people of Iraq after the American attacks on Falluja and Najaf in the spring of 2004-that is, before the establishment of the Government. She described how the perception of the Iraqi people towards the US troops deteriorated sharply after this incident. Besides this, she analyzed further that the group of Iraqi refugees in the IGC at that time, which had influence in Falluja and Najaf, started to criticize the US and to distance itself from the US after the incident. As a result, the Iraqi people began to expect that this group would also strengthen its assertions and take its own stance in the Government on their behalf.
However, aside from these points, in view of the nature of the Government as a caretaker authority, the Iraqi people actually hope for little from it except for the restoration of public peace and security, and the achievement of economic recovery.
Then Ms. Sakai went on to explain the important agendas that the Government should tackle immediately. She divided them into three areas: the just mentioned restoration of public order and security and the achievement of economic recovery, as well as preparation for the general election that is to be held on January 30, 2005.
By way of introduction to the agendas of the Government, she explained that there was an important conflict between the UN, which wants to give priority to the promotion of economic recovery in Iraq, and the Iraqi Government and the US, who want to resolve political problems first. Apart from this, however, with regard to the reestablishment of public peace and security she appraised an action by Prime Minister Iyad Allawi favorably, as sending a clear message that the Government is squarely facing the issue. This was Allawi’s appointment of Falah al-Naquib, son of a famous and influential soldier, to be Interior Minister in his cabinet.
On the other hand, Ms. Sakai made clear that the achievement of economic recovery would depend on the way revenue from oil was used-it amounts to between fifteen and seventeen billion dollars annually-and the supervisory authority over this revenue, which was recently transferred from the CPA to the Government. Also, she indicated the importance of overcoming nepotism, which is visible in some government agencies concerned with economic recovery.
In conclusion, she emphasized the importance of preparing and holding the January elections successfully, stating her opinion that they are the last chance for the Government and the US to gain the confidence of the Iraqi people. She suggested that if they fail, the situation would be serious.
After 2 lectures evaluations by commentators followed. With regard to Dr. Murata’s presentation, Dr. Nakamura especially criticized the wishful thinking of the US regarding the democratization of Iraq and the incompleteness of America’s occupation plan for the country. Concerning the presentation by Ms. Sakai, he questioned the significance of establishing the Interim Iraqi Government in this period. In his response, Mr. Hirano specifically asked Dr. Murata about the American strategy for successfully resolving the Iraqi problem in the future, as well as about the relationship between America’s Iraq policy and the American policy regarding the Palestinian problem. He also stated to Ms. Sakai that he could not clearly understand where the real will of the Iraqi people lay.
Then a lively discussion ensued regarding these questions, which lasted over two hours. In short, as one participant aptly said, the theme of the discussion was 'How can the US and the Iraqi Government catch the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people?'
(CISMOR Research Assistant / Graduate Student, Graduate School of Law, Doshisha University)