OPINION

No emergency exit…

There is little doubt in most people’s minds anymore that the war in Iraq has backfired on America. Immediately after his re-election, President Bush launched a second «Shock and Awe» campaign – this time against Fallujah with the aim of «breaking the backbone of resistance» and allowing January 30 elections to run smoothly. Basically, Washington hoped to establish a legitimate pro-American government which would permit the gradual disengagement of US troops. However, three weeks before the elections, this strategy has already failed miserably. The recapturing of Fallujah is a small victory against the loss of Mosul, a city of 3.8 million inhabitants, which is fast turning into the capital of the resistance movement, as shown by the rebels’ fatal attack on the biggest US base in the country. In Baghdad, the rebels regularly execute US collaborators, most notably the capital city’s governor. Correspondents from British magazine The Economist and France’s Le Monde report that a large section of the country and the population is under the control of the rebels who are setting up courts, collecting taxes, setting prices for food and generally operating like a parallel government. The head of the secret services in Iraq estimates that the resistance movement comprises around 200,000 men – significantly more than the number of US troops on the ground. In such circumstances, it is laughable to talk about «free elections.» Even top officials of the appointed Iraqi government want the elections to be postponed. And the electoral victory of a purely Shi’ite government, with close ties to Tehran’s religious elite, would be a deeply unwelcome development for Washington. President Bush’s aides are doubtless aware of the size of these risks. But they have already burned their bridges. And postponing the elections would merely be seen as a victory for the resistance movement and would fire up the rebels…