Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Iraq Is Not Like Chechnya

The reaction of the Iraqi people to the news that Saddam Hussein's two sons were killed in a shootout with U.S. troops on Tuesday has once again underlined the deep basic differences between U.S.-occupied Iraq and Russian-occupied Chechnya.

Guerrilla attacks in Iraq have been taking a daily toll on U.S. military personnel, much like the situation the Russians face in Chechnya. A mostly urban guerrilla war with hit-and-run attacks cannot actually defeat the troops, but it can undermine their morale.

It is also clear that, as in Chechnya, in Iraq the main aim is to erode support at home for a continued occupation, facilitating a sudden withdrawal: as the Americans withdrew from Lebanon in 1984 and from Somalia in 1993, and the Russians from Chechnya in 1996.

Of course, the Chechen rebels have over the years killed and wounded tens of thousands of Russian solders, destroyed hundreds of tanks, helicopters, bombers and APCs, while the Iraqi fighters have done much less harm. What is more important is that no one in Chechnya truly believes the Russians are "liberators," and not once was there a public celebration in Chechnya of the death in battle of any notorious warlord.

To Our Readers

Has something you've read here startled you? Are you angry, excited, puzzled or pleased? Do you have ideas to improve our coverage?
Then please write to us.
All we ask is that you include your full name, the name of the city from which you are writing and a contact telephone number in case we need to get in touch.
We look forward to hearing from you.

Email the Opinion Page Editor

Many of the Chechen warlords are extremely nasty men. Some have engaged in kidnapping, including the kidnapping of fellow Chechens for ransom. Many Chechens believe that the Soviet air force general and Chechen separatist president Dzhokar Dudayev was one of the main causes of the disaster that has decimated their republic.

But when in 1996 the federal forces managed to kill Dudayev, there was no public rejoicing in the streets of Grozny. This week, ordinary Iraqis have fired their Kalashnikovs in the air, puncturing the skies over Baghdad with tracer bullets to celebrate the passing of Uday and Qusay. It is clear that many Iraqis actually see themselves as liberated from Hussein's dictatorship and the Americans as liberators.

It is also clear that attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq will continue, but with the majority of the population ready to support the occupation for the time being. There is a possibility that the situation in Iraq will stabilize and in the end a pro-Western secular government will be installed, especially if Iraqis continue to inform on the whereabouts of Hussein loyalists for pay.

Many in the world may not like it, and many in the United States do not like it, but the Iraqi experience will not stop the George W. Bush crusade against the "axis of evil" that includes not only Iraq but also Iran and North Korea. If the Iraqis were "liberated," the Iranians and Koreans also should be; the "evil" states that cause so much trouble should be dismantled.

Unlike Hussein's Iraq, Iran and North Korea are extremely close to going nuclear. According to official U.S. sources, Iran has acquired uranium purification technology from Pakistan and may be ready to detonate a nuclear device in the coming two years.

North Korean officials several times have announced that their country already has the bomb. There is no direct evidence that this is so, but officials from the Russian intelligence community agree that Pyongyang may indeed have one or two nuclear devices ready for detonation or may be in the final stages of constructing them.

It is a fact that North Korea has the expertise to make a bomb and also apparently has the material. It is possible that as soon as this year Pyongyang may test a nuclear device to show the world its threats are serious.

How will Washington respond? Russian military and intelligence chiefs believe the United States will be forced to back down and negotiate, that no one ever attacks a nuclear state the way Iraq was attacked, that weapons of mass destruction are a guarantee of full sovereignty.

Apparently the leaders of Iran and North Korea believe the same, and that is forcing them to speed up their nuclear preparations. But the American response to nuclear blackmail may take everyone by surprise: The present U.S. administration may not be deterred by primitive nukes that cannot reach the territory of the United States. And Washington officials say they have no faith in any written agreements signed by representatives of treacherous totalitarian regimes and that the time for protocols with Iran and North Korea is over.

It seems that Tehran and Pyongyang should disarm, as Iraq did under UN sanctions, but still in the end they may face invasion, as did Iraq.

Pavel Felgenhauer is an independent defense analyst.