Reconstruction and Development in Post-War Iraq: briefing

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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

24 June 2003

: Mr B. J. Tolo (ANC - Mpumalanga)

Documents handed out:
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1483


The Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs briefed the Committee on current conditions and proposed redevelopment in Iraq after returning from a Summit in Jordon. In an attempt to view the region holistically, the Summit focused on the Israeli/Palestinian Issue and the new Road Map for the area, as well as the way forward for Iraq, including the institution of a new Political Council which is to lead the country.

The aim of the meeting was to provide members with a briefing regarding post-war Iraq. The briefing was provided by Mr Aziz Pahad, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. The briefing regarding the 'Institutionalisation of African Union in relation to Implementation of NEPAD Programme' was rescheduled until after the Summit of the AU in Maputo in July.

Briefing by Deputy Minister on South Africa's role in Iraq
The Deputy Minister, Mr Aziz Pahad, briefed the Committee stating that South Africa's role in the situation in Iraq had intensified before the war took place. South Africa was involved in the call for the abolishment of weapons of mass destruction and the seeking of a nuclear-free zone in Iraq. The consequences of the war now had to be examined. The uncertainties of the new environment had to be investigated. In an attempt to gain an understanding of the current situation a delegation recently visited Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Spain and Geneva. Mr Pahad had also just returned from the Jordon Summit, an extraordinary summit at which there was good representation, and a general attendance of about 1500 people. The United States of America's delegation included Secretary of State, Colin Powell. This good representation indicated deep concern on the part of those present for the situation in the region.

Mr Pahad said that it was essential to understand where issues stood currently, which as mentioned by the King of Jordon in his speech at the Summit involved elements of both opportunity and danger. The aim of the Summit was to create development and growth in the region and stability in Iraq. A major theme underlying stability in the region was the Palestine/ Israel issue, since this impacted on relations in the whole region. It was important to look at the region holistically.

Fourteen countries recently voted in favour of United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution 1483. The collective United Nations Security Council has legitimised the interim authority in Iraq. The Deputy Minister welcomed the lifting of sanctions after thirteen years. He maintained that these had never affected the elite, but had a terrible effect on Iraqi society.

United Nations Special Representative for Iraq, Mr Sergio Vieira de Mello has been given the task of co-ordinating redevelopment, the return of refugees and the development of local and government institutions. The Deputy Minister said that a multilateral approach was needed to maintain the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Iraq until their own representative government was elected. A long delay in this process would create further instability in the area where the volatility was in danger of exploding. The problem was that while everyone was concentrated on getting rid of Saddam Hussein, no plans were made for the post-Saddam Hussein period. Therefore the process was taking longer than it should. South Africa needed to position itself in the process and decide how best to help. Contact had already been made with several different organisations in Iraq in this regard. For example, South Africa would offer to help Iraq should a Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) process be initiated there.

It was important for other countries not to walk away from Iraq while it was still volatile on the ground. In many areas water and electricity supplies had not been restored. In the Sunni belt demonstrations were taking place, and these were daily well-organised attached against United States of America (USA) personnel, which seemed to suggest more than merely a criminal element. Fifty solders had been killed in such attacks since the war ended. There had also been three oil-pipe sabotage attacks in the last three days, which did not bode well for stability in the region.

There were 400 000 ex-soldiers at large, since the whole army was recently dismissed. A decision had now been taken to continue paying the salaries of 250 000 of these to decrease possible volatility. 75% of those in the country were surviving on food rations from the UN. A new army would be created beginning next week.

The minister declined to comment on the debates about where weapons of mass destruction were. He said that congressional hearings were taking place in the USA on this issue and that it was being debated in the United Kingdom (UK) House of Commons, and that we should wait for the outcome of these processes before revisiting this matter.

The humanitarian tragedy in the region was great with UNICEF reporting that the number of children under five dying daily of malnutrition had doubled since the war ended.

A taskforce had been set up to capture Saddam Hussein. Analysts said that people feared him so much that until they know he is dead, they will not be able to move forward.

The interim Administration had been tasked with running the country until a new government was elected, delivering humanitarian aid, reconstruction, justice, jumpstarting the economy, among other things, which the Deputy Minister said seemed like quite a tall order.

The United States would leave as soon as these goals had been achieved. It might be unrealistic to expect these things to happen within a short timeframe, and could take a few years. A multi-party Political Council had been set up as the instrument through which coalition would work to create the space for democratic elections. The Secretary General of the Arab League had however said that this Political Council would not satisfy the Iraqis or the Arabs in general, and that a transitional government would be better. People would not understand what the Political Council was.

The Deputy Minister said that prior to the war he had feared that a Pandora's box of terrorism could be opened, and a wave or terrorism unleashed on the world once the war was over. There was still a danger of this happening. Kenya and Tanzania were both suffering at the moment and in Kenya the economy was on the brink of collapse. A UN Security Council report due to be released next week would indicate that long before the USA entered Afghanistan, over 800 Al Qaeda members had left, and that people such as these could become involved in third generation terrorism.

The challenges to rebuilding Iraq included the maintenance of their sovereignty, restoring security and restoring the sales of oil. Iraq had human capacity in all fields in order to accomplish these tasks.

The Deputy Minister said that long-term security under the occupation needed to be looked at. The UN should play a key role. There was now a greater understanding that the UN would be needed to cope with multifaceted challenges. The economic situation was really bad after two wars, first with Iran, then Kuwait. The country now only existed on the sale of oil. Kuwait companies had instituted compensation claims against Iraq for $320 billion. Foreign debt stood at $62 billion ($107 billion with interest). Against this the 2001 GDP of Iraq was only $26 billion. This raised the issue of how they were going to cope. There were debates at the moment around the cancelling or restructuring of this debt. There were also concerns about who was going to benefit in the post-Saddam Hussein period. There was concern from some companies that USA companies were being given all the contracts available.

He said that there was also a concern that the resources for other areas, like Africa, may be impacted negatively because of the need in Iraq. The Group of Eight (G8) had given assurance that this would not happen. Furthermore South Africa had good economic relationships with countries in the region and it was feared that these may be negatively impacted because of the volatility in the area.

Regarding the Palestine/Israel issue, President George Bush had held two summits, one with five Arab Leaders and one with the Palestinians and Ariel Sharon. The so-called Road Map for the area had the full support of President Bush.

The diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East - the United Nations, United States, Russian Federation and European Union had made an absolute commitment and view this Road Map as a last chance for a peaceful solution to avoid the whole region sliding into chaos and turmoil. The occupation of territories must be ended and collective punishment must also be ended. Israelis must understand that the creation of a viable Palestinian state was critical. The Deputy Minister said that from the point of view of South Africa, the situation would impact on South Africa that if there was volatility in the area with the possibility of increased terrorism. Mr Powell said that the peace process must not be derailed by violence, and that even when violence occured the peace process had to continue.

The Deputy Minister noted that within the United States Administration there were new conservatives (New Cons). Who were these new conservatives and did they represent the opinion of the majority? They expounded a fundamentalist right-wing analysis of the region. If they influenced thinking, peace efforts would not succeed. If there was convergence between the New Cons and the pro-Israeli lobby in the USA, this would not be good. The hegemony of the USA had to be accepted, but this group was a possible danger.

Ms D. Ramudile (ANC, Gauteng) asked about the impact on the US of the fact that weapons of mass destruction had not been found. She also asked about how there could be an assumption of peace when it was not known whether Saddam Hussein was alive or not.

Mr Z. Kolweni (ANC, North-West) concurred with the Minister's analysis and said that Palestine should be the focus. In terms of the diplomatic Quartet, he was worried about why Africa was not imposing itself even as an observer and whether the UN Security Council was exercising credibility.

The New Cons replied that the world had not understood the effect of September 11 on the thinking of every American. It had had a huge effect on the unfolding of US foreign policy. The USA argued that they were fighting an unconventional enemy in which not only pre-emptive but also preventative action needed to be taken. It would be a mistake to ignore this. Multi-lateralism was wounded prior to September11, but now there was an understanding that it was needed. South Africa needed to ask how stability could be ensured.

The Sunni-belt was the last remaining pro-Saddam Hussein area. The Shiites, who represent 60% of the Iraqis were doing things very much more quietly. However they were seen as possible fundamentalists. There were also several other tribes that needed to be taken into account and there was the Kurdish problem in Iraq, Iran and Turkey.

It was not known whether Saddam Hussein was dead.

Everyone in the region was worried about stability. There were debates between the American State Department and the Pentagon around whether 140 000 peace-keeping force was large enough. India had been asked to send further troops and the EU was supporting the Polish contingent. Iraq was strategically the most important country in the region. What would happen if it imploded?

South Africa could not be involved in the diplomatic Quartet, but could merely assist the UN and find other ways to implement the peace process. Experiences could be shared as Palestine was in the constitution-writing process. Palestine had indicated that S Africa's help had been useful and relevant to them because of recent experience in this regard.

The coalition could not take full charge of security because many more troops would be needed. They needed to win over the Iraqis.

Mr Kolweni asked about the content of the Road Map, and whether it involved new boundaries.

Mr Raju asked what was being done to address the day to day concerns of ordinary people.

Ms C Nkuna (ANC, Limpopo) asked if the government had invited President Bush to Africa, or whether he was imposing himself .

The Chair asked if the current killings were sporadic or whether they signalled a new protracted war in the country. He also wondered whether the new Road Map was sidelining Arafat. He asked what could be done to stop the USA ignoring the UN.

The New Cons said the contents of the Road Map included the UN resolution, and that the notion of a two-state solution with roughly 1967 borders. Land exchanges that were equitable were also included. The status of Jerusalem and the return of refugees would be handled in a third phase.

He said that 60% of schools in Iraq were functioning. The country had been the most affluent in the region, but now the middle classes had been decimated. There is $2.4 billion being offered by the USA for reconstruction.

He said that President Bush was not imposing himself on Africa. The proposed visit had been the subject of discussions last year. Areas of convergence between South African and the USA were that there was a free trade agreement being negotiated between South Africa and the USA. A World Trade Organisation (WTO) meeting was envisaged in Mexico, specifically with regard to agricultural subsidies, and cheaper rates for medicine. According to the G8, Africa must be assisted to deal with its problems by itself.
He felt that President Mbeki had been doing a similar thing to what President Bush would do in South Africa- exchanging ideas with others.

He said that attempts to sideline Arafat would be a mistake. He was democratically elected and although there were problems in the PLO, Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) also had no capacity to stop suicide bombers. Both had been accused of ineptitude in this regard. We must try to prevent civil war. The Palestinians were concerned about what was in it for them, since they had nothing for so long. He said that one must remember that orthodox Jews did not represent all Israelis.

Meeting was adjourned.


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