Thursday, January 27, 2005

Ukraine In Iraq

As most of you know, Ukraine contributed one of the 1000+ troop contingents for the Occupation of Iraq, because that was how former President Kuchma sought to avoid trouble with the US government (after it came out that the Ukrainian government allowed a black market deal concerning the sale of an aerial defense system to Saddam's regime[*]). You may also recall the explosion at an explosive disposal site killing eight Ukrainian and one Kazakh soldier on 9 January, after which Kuchma ordered an accelerated withdrawal of Ukrainian forces from Iraq.

A story that is destined to go down the memory hole (eclipsed by the helicopter crash yesterday), if taken up by the Western press at all, is that the official investigation concluded this was a resistance attack. The good people at Lunaville (who maintain the site) translated an article that has the details. The bomb to trigger the premature explosion of piled-up ordnance was hidden inside one artillery shell.

Now to Orange Ukraine. Viktor Yushchenko was finally inaugurated as President a week ago, since then he already visited Moscow (Putin finally adapting to the new situation) and Strasbourg (to scare to bureaucrats with the prospect of yet another big would-be addition after Turkey). In the election campaign, both candidates promised to withdraw troops from Iraq - however, Yushchenko and his foreign policy adviser always added a qualifier that "it will be done under consideration of relations with Ukraine's allies". But I suspect the revelation about the hidden bomb will bar him from attempting any 'realpolitik' and won't revise his predecessors' decision of accelerated pullout.

As for the wider moral of the story. If it hasn't been demonstrated ample times before, now leaders should finally take note (but won't): trying to appease Bush and his underlings by joining in their dirty work both doesn't work (the Bush junta will work against you anyway) and will bring all by itself damages as bad as facing Bush's wrath would.

(From an op-ed lambasting an inept Hungarian foreign policy in a pro-government daily: the author on one hand claimed the country's withdrawal from Iraq "damaged" Hungary, on the other asked why it wasn't used for positive PR in the Arab world!)

[*] I couldn't be bothered to check out whether the sale would have actually been in breach of UN sanctions, or would merely circumvent a US blockade and prevent US planes from enforcing the no-fly zones with impunity. Here it is always worth to remind readers that
  1. the no-fly zones weren't UN-approved [as the mainstream media seemed to assume], nor covered by the ceasefire [as Clinton tried to argue] - they were unilaterally imposed by the US, the British and the French;
  2. the humanitarian angle of their imposition is greatly reduced by the circumstance that the first was imposed a month late, after Saddam's henchmen finished their job against the Shi'a and lesser Kurd uprising (07.04.1991);
  3. further reduced by the circumstance that the first no-fly zone was in the North, and
  4. this Northern no-fly zone nicely covered oil-rich Sunni Arab and Kurdish areas but left out half of the Kurdish areas, and
  5. the Southern no-fly zone covering mostly Shi'a areas was imposed only next year(27.08.1992);
  6. to further the irony of point three, the Southern no-fly zone was extended later (03.09.1996) after Saddam intervened in an internal conflict of the - Kurdish warlords,
  7. this extension was by a Presidential decree of Bill Clinton, at which point the French began to leave the club of self-appointed guardians (they withdrew completely after Operation Desert Fox, a failed decapitation attempt justified with a fake 'crisis' resembling the one the Bush junta created four years later, an operation that beyond dead Iraqis only acheved the end of UNSCOM);
  8. even as a tool to force Saddam to tolerate UN weapons inspectors, its significance is questionable with the background of Clinton's regime change policies that hampered (and abused: see again Operation Desert Fox) rather than helped the inspectors' work.


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