Extension of Japan Mission In Iraq In Doubt
‘ Shingetsu Newsletter No. 58
August 9, 2005
Two and a half weeks ago Shingetsu Newsletter No. 44 predicted that the SDF mission in Iraq would certainly be extended into 2006 barring two possibilities: “a collapse of the Koizumi administration due to the bitter infighting caused by the post office privatization bill, or a lethal attack on the GSDF in Samawa.” In the time since I wrote those words, both events have become far more likely to actually occur. As a result, the balance of probabilities now seems to have dramatically shifted against the extension of the GSDF mission past the December 14 deadline.
The crucial event, of course, is the failure of the Japanese upper house to pass Koizumi’s main reform package, the postal privatization bill. PM Koizumi has long been clear about the fact that he would go to the mat rather than give up his long-cherished project, but the anti-reform sections of the LDP, through a combination of miscalculation, wishful thinking, and anti-Koizumi rage, seem to have underestimated Koizumi’s resolve. PM Koizumi has simply done what he always said he was going to do: either push through his structural reforms or destroy the LDP. He failed on the first item and is now pursuing the second.
On September 11, 2005, the most likely outcome of the snap election is that the Liberal Democratic Party, which has dominated Japanese politics since its creation in 1955, will fall from power and quite possibly unravel into its constituent parts. In all likelihood, their fifty year reign is over.
If this truly comes about, then the successor is likely to be the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), now led by Katsuya Okada. The DPJ has already let it be known that one of the main points on which they plan to fight the election is on the diplomatic policies of the Koizumi regime. In particular, this refers to China and Korea, but it has important ramifications for Iraq as well.
A DPJ victory would almost certainly spell the end of the GSDF deployment in Samawa. Okada has on several occasions demanded the pullout of the troops from Iraq, and it would be difficult for them to backtrack on that point later. Of course, after they actually came to power, they would be subject to pressures from the United States to maintain the current policies, but it seems unlikely that that would be sufficient to halt a withdrawal.
The DPJ is a mix of politicians with extremely diverse views. It has former socialists as well as hard right elements. The balance, however, seems to favor the moderate-liberal elements, and their policies would probably reflect that at the outset. However, one key person to watch would be Seiji Maehara, who will likely be given the Defense Agency portfolio. He is a conservative who has long been marked out as being a young and talented operator. His influence, along with his faction leader, Ichiro Ozawa, may push the DPJ further toward the center-right than would otherwise be the case. A DPJ government may or may not prove to be stable in the medium term.
One thing that should make it easier for a DPJ government to bring the GSDF home from Iraq is the recent situation in Samawa itself. On the 7th, a large demonstration was held in Samawa by unemployed workers and others, perhaps supported by Muqtada al-Sadr loyalists. The number of demonstrators was said to be the largest since the Japanese have been there, variously estimated at 1000 or 3000 men. Rocks were thrown and two police cars were burned. The police opened fire on the crowd, killing one and injuring about fifty.
Matters are clearly taking an ugly turn in Samawa.
A final hint about this matter just surfaced in a Kyodo News report.
Apparently, local Iraqi reporters in Samawa have received death threats warning them not to report about the local activities of the GSDF. These threats may be having some effect on the coverage of local TV stations. It is easy to guess that these particular threats are coming from Muqtada al-Sadr loyalists. ‘
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