The United Nations withdrew from Iraq after a devastating attack on its headquarters a year ago. Now they are to come back early next year to help with preparing free elections. In order to avoid a similar tragedy to the explosion that among many others killed the UN special envoy, Sergio Vieira de Mello, they have addressed several countries, which are perceived in a positive light in the region, to help protect their employees. The Czech Republic was among them.
Even though the Czech government seems determined to help this time, either financially or with personnel, the opposition parties do not quite agree. The biggest opposition force - the right-of-centre Civic Democrats who have supported the US-led invasion in the past, now say they are afraid that the Czech Republic does not have the resources for such an operation as it is busy in other missions around the world.
But Radek Khol from the Institute of International Relations believes that the CR should help.
"I think it should be considered really favorably because the Czech Republic is among the smaller group of able members of the United Nations, who have the capacity - the units that could be deployed there. It still has rather good or balanced reputation in Middle Eastern countries and in Iraq specifically, and also it would fit well with the intention of the Czech Republic to put forward its nomination in the UN Security Council in coming years. Than the relative shift of preferences NATO-led operations would be at least up to a point balanced by the UN friendly face that the Czech Republic should take."
We asked a few people on Prague's streets how they felt about the possible renewed engagement in Iraq.
"Czech troops in Iraq are necessary help, but I think it's very dangerous because it will leave us open for potential terrorists."
"I don't know if it brings stability in Iraq. They don't want U.S. soldiers, they don't want anybody!"
"It's the best way how to represent the Czech Republic - the Czech Army. It's also one way to how to protect the Czech Republic from terrorist attacks."
Although Czech public opinion has expressed skepticism about the US-led invasion in the past, Radek Khol believes that many people will see things differently this time.
"I would say that this kind of unit would be slightly more acceptable, both because it would be tied to the United Nations and at the same time it would provide a self-protection. So there would be a mark difference between the public appearance of those units which might be part of an attacking force in the public imagination or those who are oriented in humanitarian activities like the field hospital that the Czech Republic deployed in Iraq shortly after the fighting stopped last May."
The Czech Republic was asked to help only last week. The final decision will depend not only on the will of the government but also on the position of the Czech parliament, which would have to approve either financial support or military deployment.
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