Opinion and Editorial

Out of Iraq

Filed on June 22, 2006

JAPAN has decided to pull its troops out of Iraq. Although it was relatively a small force of 600 soldiers, Japanís presence in Iraq was symbolically significant on two counts: First, it had been the first military mission of the former imperial power after its defeat in the World War II sixty years ago.

Second, this was the first time that Japanese forces were deployed in the Middle East although it was essentially a peace-keeping mission. The Iraq mission, in a limited way, signified the re-emergence of Japan on the world stage. Which is why Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi refused to give in when a Japanese civilian was kidnapped in Iraq and pressure mounted on the government to bring home the troops.

This is why questions are being raised why the Japanese government has decided to pull out now. Tokyo has argued that with the new government of Iraq taking charge of Muthana Province, its mission is Ďaccomplished.í Japan, however, will remain associated with Iraq by offering aerial cover to Baghdad and Arbil.

Whatever Japanís explanation, it is clear that foreign involvement in Iraq is coming to an end. Itís the third member of the Ďcoalition of the willingí to withdraw from Iraq. Spain has already opted out and Italy is planning to leave soon. This would step up the pressure on the US and UK troops. Time is running out for the coalition to restore peace and order in Iraq. Although things are looking up with a new and more assertive government in Baghdad and killing of Zarqawi, the coalition has to go a long way before Iraq can stand on its own feet.

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