Poland has been one of the staunchest European supporters of the US-led operation in Iraq. The Polish president and defense ministry officials welcomed the power-transfer there, saying they were pleased with the fact that the political calendar for Iraq's stabilization was being implemented. What does it all mean for the multi-national stabilization force which includes some two and a half thousand Polish soldiers and a Polish command in south-central Iraq?
Polish politicians and analysts agree that the transfer of power will not bring an overnight change to the situation in Iraq. It is obvious, they point out, that there will be no termination of guerrilla attacks against Iraqi forces and police, and against the foreign troops. An expert in Arabic studies at Warsaw University Professor Janusz Danecki says however that for the Iraqis the handover is indeed a historic day.
'For the Iraqis it important to have their own government, although it's an interim government and hasn't got all the powers it should have, or the future government will have, but it is the Iraqis who decide about their own future, their own situation now'.
It is expected that power-transfer marks an important change for the operation of the multi-national stabilization force. Military expert Artur Golawski:
'The situation will become much more clearer for Polish troops there because now the international forces deployed to Iraq will recognized by Iraqis as a purely peacekeeping force assisting them with building security and reconstructing the country. I believe, and I'd like to see, that our troops will be much more secure than even a few weeks ago.'
According to most observers it will be some time before the role of the stabilization force is confined to peacekeeping operations. President Aleksander Kwasniewski stresses that the transfer of power was only the first step in a long peace process in Iraq.
'We have a first partner on the Iraqi side which will describe what kind of presence of international forces they accept or not in Iraq. Beginning of next year elections, under the auspices of the United Nations, to the General Assembly of Iraq, then the change of the concept of the military forces, not the mission of stabilization, but some kind of peacekeeping mission under auspices of the United Nations.'
The interim government in Iraq is now facing a formidable task of convincing Iraqis that they are no longer under foreign occupiers, as almost all Iraqis now view the foreign troops there. During the NATO summit in Istanbul plans have been drawn for NATO to take on some tasks in the stabilization force, especially in the training of Iraqi armed forces. According to Polish deputy foreign minister Andrzej Towpik this is a step in the right direction.
'It will more of involvement of international community in Iraq and we are very much in favour of this process. And second this collective efforts of NATO in the field of training and preparation of Iraqi armed forces will be very important, as not only from the point of view of development of these forces but also from the point of view that these Iraqi forces would take over some of the security functions performed now by international forces. So, it will be very important too.'
In Warsaw meanwhile, Polish anti-war groups demonstrated at the Presidential palace on Wednesday demanding the withdrawal of Polish troops from Iraq.
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