On June 28 the United States reached a turning point in Iraq by passing sovereignty over the country to an interim government composed of Iraqis and appointed by U.N. Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. But many questions remain about America's reasons for going to war, and its future in an Iraq that, while an independent country on paper, is still very much dependent on U.S. troops for its security.
The Rationale for War
Before the invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration maintained that Saddam Hussein's regime possessed weapons of mass destruction, that it had an active nuclear weapons program and had attempted to obtain uranium from Africa, that there were links between Iraq and al Qaeda, and that removing Saddam's regime was necessary to ensure the security of the U.S. But more than a year after Saddam's fall, no WMDs have been found, and the only intelligence to come to light supporting the Africa allegation has been discredited as a forgery. The independent 9/11 commission reports that it has found "no credible evidence" of an Iraq-al Qaeda connection, although the Bush administration continues to insist otherwise.
With growing questions about the Bush administration's rationale for war, how do Americans feel about U.S. involvement in Iraq? The Flashpoints USA with Bryant Gumbel and Gwen Ifill nationwide survey shows that Americans are almost evenly split on whether the war has made people in the U.S. safer, with 30% saying that America is safer now, and 31% saying that it is less safe. Nevertheless, a slight majority (53%) believe that, given everything that has happened since, it's been worth it for the U.S. to go to war in Iraq. 44% felt that the war has not been worth it. But opinion may be shifting. When the same question was asked June 25-27, 46% said the invasion of Iraq has been worth it, and 49% said it has not been worth it.
What's Next for the U.S.?
Even though control over Iraq has passed to the Iraqi Interim Government, U.S. troops won't be leaving the country anytime soon. Under the terms of the U.N. Security Council resolution passed on June 8, the 160,000 coalition troops now in Iraq will become a "multinational force" under U.S. command, and will "take all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq." The U.N mandate will expire once a permanent Iraqi government is in place (currently scheduled for the end of 2005), although analysts at the Council on Foreign Relations do not expect Iraq's armed forces to be able to defend the country on their own for two to five years.
The Bush administration maintains that it has no plans to increase troop levels above the 130,000 now in Iraq. But according to the Flashpoints USA with Bryant Gumbel and Gwen Ifill nationwide survey, 38% of Americans think that there will be more troops in Iraq six months from now. Only 25% of poll respondents think that there will be fewer troops. However, a clear majority, 65%, felt that there SHOULD be fewer troops six months from now, with only 16% feeling that there should be more troops.
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