There was one thing surprisingly absent from last Monday’s handover of Iraq’s sovereignty by Paul Bremer, leader of the Coalition Provisional Authority, to Iyad Allawi, Iraq’s new Prime Minister. It wasn’t an extravagant ceremony involving a star-spangled banner lowered to the accompaniment of a military band and a tearful speech by Paul Bremer. It was bodies. It is true that a youthful Glaswegian soldier was killed in a bomb attack in Basra, an American soldier was executed for the benefit of al-Jazeera TV viewers, and a hundred or so civilians have died in Iraq over the past week in continuing unrest. But those who predicted that this week would witness the mother of all bloodbaths, on a scale which would belittle the slaughter that accompanied the independence and partition of India in 1947, must now admit that they were wrong. When Hollywood turns its attentions to the Iraq war, more will be accidentally killed in the making of the film than died as a result of this week’s events.
Coalition forces have made many errors in the post-war running of Iraq, but the handover of sovereignty was not one of them. It was a clever strategy to complete the task in private two days ahead of its advertised date. But there is one reason above all why this week failed to see unrest on the scale that opponents of the war expected, and perhaps secretly hoped for: insurgents have very little to insurge about. The argument that nothing has changed as a result of last Monday’s events and that the Americans will continue to rule the country through a hand-picked figurehead is bunkum. Of course Iyad Allawi is a Coalition appointee rather than a leader that the Iraqis would necessarily choose, but his mandate extends for a mere seven months until next January’s scheduled elections.