Japan in Iraq
Reposted by permission:
‘Shingetsu Newsletter No. 33 July 7, 2005
Japan’s GSDF mission to Samawa has continued to produce a steady drumbeat of news over the past two weeks. Picking up from where Shingetsu Newsletter No. 26 left off, the political responses to the June 23rd attack ultimately fell along expected lines. MOFA asserted that the attack was not “real terrorism” and that there was nothing to get excited about. Senior officials of the Koizumi administration echoed this same basic line.
Events on the ground in Samawa have continued to show deterioration, however. On June 26th, a road sign that had a picture of the Hinomaru on it was found to be blacked out with paint. On June 28th there was a demonstration in Samawa city by angry unemployed men that was fired on by the local police. Several were killed. Then, on July 3rd, a local sports group had planned to bring six busloads of Iraqi children to the GSDF camp to express support for the Japanese mission. However, threatening letters led to the cancellation of the event. Many speculated that these particular threats emanated from Muqtada al-Sadr loyalists.
In spite of these kinds of events, on June 29th the GSDF resumed limited activities outside the base camp. The first of these excursions was a visit to a British and Australian military camp about 7 km away from the Japanese base.
More has also come to light about the re-extension debate. It appears that the American request to extend the GSDF mission past its December 14, 2005, deadline came via the State Department to MOFA sometime in June, before the 23rd. This request has upset Japan’s prior plans. Apparently, the announcements that MOFA has been making in June about building an electric power plant for Samawa and the reopening of yen loans to Iraq was meant to be the opening moves in shifting the emphasis from the GSDF mission to purely civilian support for Iraq. The US request for a GSDF extension and the deterioration in local security since June 23rd has disrupted these efforts.
Two papers recently carried some interesting information of which I was not previously aware. After their arrival in Samawa in March 2004, the most significant aid activity undertaken by the GSDF was to provide purified water to local residents. However, early this year Japan provided the local authorities with purification equipment of their own through ODA funds. As a result, the GSDF discontinued their water supply service in early February 2005. Since that time, they have focused their aid activities on repaving roads and repairing schools. However, that work too is basically completed now. At the moment, the GSDF really has very little to do in Samawa, and inside the Japanese government this is a well-known fact. The newspapers produced two interesting anonymous quotes:
A Defense Agency official: “From the point of view of Iraq support, there’s already not much meaning in the GSDF mission.”
A Foreign Ministry official: “After February the SDF mission has mostly been a simple case of symbolic support for the United States.”
I always knew that the main purpose of the GSDF mission was to simply put “boots on the ground” in solidarity with Washington. I was not aware, however, that the GSDF was running out of useful things to do in Samawa.
In spite of all this nonsense, however, there is a good chance that the GSDF mission may in fact be extended. PM Koizumi has indicated that he is leaning toward accepting Washington’s request. MOFA, as expected, is arguing that Japan must continue to show solidarity with the Bush administration in order to strengthen the US-Japan security alliance. Also, the reflexively pro-American editorial page of the Yomiuri Shinbun has already come out in support of extending the mission. The argument they used, however, was a rather dishonest one about Japan needing to rebuild Iraq and to show that it is a “member of international society” (and avoiding any mention of the United States).
Adding their own peculiar voice to the debate, at about 11:15 pm on July 4th, four or five mortars or rockets were fired at the GSDF camp for the first time since January. They were fired from the northwest, flew over the Japanese camp, and landed about 1 km from the base. No Japanese were hurt. Shortly after that, local Iraqi police found a suspicious vehicle several kilometers away and got in a gunfight with unknown men. The details are still sketchy. Koizumi administration officials once again have minimized these local events.
The final decision on the GSDF extension is expected in August or September. Right now the government is too busy fighting over the post office reform plans in Japan. However, the Defense Agency has underlined the fact that they need several months notice if they are to withdraw in December. It is thus thought that September is an effective deadline for a decision to be made.
Asahi Shinbun, “Hikisai Handan Konan Masu — Tettai Shinario (Increasing Difficulty in Knowing When to Withdraw from Iraq: A Scenario of Withdrawal),” Asahi Shinbun, June 25, 2005.
Asahi Shinbun, “Iraku Churyu — Tettai e no Michisuji o Egake (The Iraq Garrison: Draw the Route to Withdrawal from Iraq),” Asahi Shinbun, June 25, 2005.
Katsumata, Hidemichi, “Hiruma ni Kogeki — Samawa de Rikuji no Sharyo o Hyoteki (A Daylight Attack: A GSDF Vehicle is Targeted in Samawa),” Yomiuri Shinbun, June 25, 2005.
Mainichi Shinbun, “Samawa no Jieitai — Kiki Kanri no Arikata Sotenken o (The SDF in Samawa: A Comprehensive Examination of the Direction of Crisis Management),” Mainichi Shinbun, June 25, 2005.
Yomiuri Shinbun, “Samawa Rikuji — Katsudo Saikai Shuake Iko — Seifu ‘Honkaku Tero Kanosei Hikui’ (The GSDF in Samawa Will Restart Their Activities after the Beginning of Next Week: The Government Says That ‘the Probability is Low That This is Real Terrorism’),” Yomiuri Shinbun, June 25, 2005.
Fujitani, Takashi and Kaise, Akihiko, “Iraku Rikuji — Bei, Haken Encho o Dashin (The American Government Sounds Out Japan over the Extension of the GSDF Mission),” Asahi Shinbun, June 26, 2005.
Kyodo News, “U.S. Urges Longer GSDF Role in Iraq,” Japan Times, June 26, 2005.
Nihon Keizai Shinbun, “Jieitai Haken Encho — ‘Shutaiteki ni Handan’ — Iraku Josei de Kanbochokan (The Chief Cabinet Secretary Says That an ‘Independent Decision’ Will Be Taken on the Extension of the SDF Mission),” Nihon Keizai Shinbun, June 26, 2005.
Mainichi Shinbun, “‘Hinomaru’ Kuroku Nuritsubusareru Samawa (The ‘Hinomaru’ is Blacked Out in Samawa),” Mainichi Shinbun, June 27, 2005.
Yomiuri Shinbun, “Iraku Saiken — Mada Hitsuyo-na Kokusai Shakai no Shien (Rebuilding Iraq: There is Still Need for Supporting International Society),” Yomiuri Shinbun, June 28, 2005.
Yomiuri Shinbun, “Samawa Jieitai Churyu Encho-ron Ukiagaru (Discussions about the Extension of the Samawa SDF Mission Rise to the Surface),” Yomiuri Shinbun, June 28, 2005.
Asahi Shinbun, “Shukueichigai no Katsudo Ichibu Saikai — Samawa no Jieitai (The SDF in Samawa Resume One Part of Their Activities Outside the Camp),” Asahi Shinbun, June 30, 2005.
Takino, Takahiro, “Rikujo Jieitai — Shukueichigai Katsudo Saikai (The GSDF Resumes Activities Outside the Camp),” Mainichi Shinbun, June 30, 2005.
Yomiuri Shinbun, “Iraku Rikuji Haken — Jikan Encho ni Maemuki — Shusho ‘Chian Jokyo Mikiwamete’ (Positive on the Extension of the GSDF Mission: The Prime Minister Says ‘We Will Appraise the Security Situation’),” Yomiuri Shinbun, June 30, 2005.
Yomiuri Shinbun, “Samawa no Rikuji Katsudo Ichibu Saikai (One Part of the GSDF Activities Resume),” Yomiuri Shinbun, June 30, 2005.
Mainichi Shinbun, “Iraku Shuken 1-nen — Chian Kaifuku e Shuhenkoku to Taiwa o (One Year of Iraqi Sovereignty: Engage the Neighboring Countries in a Dialogue on Restoring Security),” Mainichi Shinbun, July 1, 2005.
Furumoto, Yoso, and Hirata, Munehiro, “Iraku Jieitai Haken — ‘Sai-Encho’ ‘Tettai’ Rongi Susumazu (The SDF Dispatch to Iraq: The Debate between Re-extension and Withdrawal Has Not Advanced),” Mainichi Shinbun, July 3, 2005.
Kyodo News, “Jieitai Shiensha no Homon Chushi (Supporters’ Visit to the Jieitai Base is Ended),” Yomiuri Shinbun, July 4, 2005.
Nihon Keizai Shinbun, “Jieitai Iraku Haken Sai-Encho-ron Tsuyomaru (The Talk about Re-extending the SDF Mission in Iraq Strengthens),” Nihon Keizai Shinbun, July 4, 2005.
Jiji Press, “Shukueichi Chikaku Bakuhatsuon — Samawa 4, 5 Hatsu Hogeki ka (Sounds of Explosions Near the Base: Were Four or Five Shots Fired in Samawa?),” Yomiuri Shinbun, July 5, 2005.
Nihon Keizai Shinbun, “Shukueichi Tobikoe Chakudan — Samawa, Rikuji Higainashi (Shells Fly over the Base: No GSDF Members are Injured in Samawa),” Nihon Keizai Shinbun, July 5, 2005.
Nukihora, Kimihiro, “Samawa Bakuhatsuon Sukai — Rikuji Shukueichi Shuhen ni Chakudan (Several Explosions Heard in Samawa: Shells Land Near the GSDF Base),” Asahi Shinbun, June 5, 2005.
Nihon Keizai Shinbun, “Samawa Shukueichi no Chakudankon ‘Chosachu’ — Kanbochokan (The Chief Cabinet Secretary Says that the Remains of the Shells Fired at the Samawa Base are ‘Being Examined’),” Nihon Keizai Shinbun, July 6, 2005. ‘