Executive Summary: Implications of An Invasion of Iraq for Expatriates
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Overview: This AGI Executive Summary discusses the implications for security in Indonesia in the event of a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. It updates the information and advice provided in AGI Executive Summary 'Security Implications in Indonesia of a US-Led Invasion of Iraq' dated December 6, 2002.
Indonesian Government Perspective: It appears that the Indonesian government is hardening its stance against the U.S.-led coalition invasion of Iraq. The Government has recently dispatched envoys, including former Minister Ali Alatas to the U.S., the U.K. and Australia to explain its opposition to the war, to promote a peaceful resolution to the issue, and to call for restraint during any military operations.
In all likelihood, the Government (Executive) will severely oppose the intervention and we can expect strong Executive rhetoric, probably accompanied by some punitive measures however these in all likelihood will be superficial in nature. If we are correct in our assumptions, this stance is due to a number of domestic political issues rather than deep-seated enmity towards the U.S:
The Executive, particularly in the lead-up to the 2004 general elections, needs to demonstrate that it is the representative of the perceived majority view of the nation. In this case the perceived majority view is anti-U.S. and the Executive needs to demonstrate that it cares about Muslim solidarity and the protection of fellow Muslims against apparent Western/Christian aggression.
This stance will enable the Executive to deflect criticism that it is not doing sufficient to demonstrate that it represents the majority of Indonesians. This stance suggests that militant groups will have the support of the Government in anti-coalition demonstrations however Indonesian sources suggest the converse, that is that the Government - having taken such a hard position against the US-led invasion - will be in a better position to crackdown on any violent anti-invasion demonstrations and harassment. The logic is that the Executive will be able to tell the community that the Executive carries Indonesia's concerns to the Coalition partners, not street violence. AGI has also been advised that the national security apparatus has plans in place to protect foreign interests and we do not doubt that the Government has the political will, and the sincerity, to carry out these plans.
Likely Indonesian Socio-political Responses: Regardless of the legitimacy of such action under international law, there will be some form of negative response by the Indonesian public and political elite. In all likelihood, there will be two forms of reaction:
General Public Responses. These responses will be in predictable forms such as demonstrations, occasional harassment and other coercive measures designed to express religious unity, south-south solidarity, anti-US and broader anti-Western sentiment. The most likely venues for these events are (in order) the US Embassy; the UN Compound; the UK Embassy; the Istana (complaining about the lack of ID Government response); the MPR/DPR Complex (complaining about inaction by the Legislature) and the Embassies of other coalition members.
Political Responses. These reactions may also take predictable forms such as strong political rhetoric, political threats, de marches, diplomatic notes, calling-in Ambassadors, and maybe some punitive measures. Current political issues complicate these responses. For example, the Legislature is exploiting every opportunity to undermine the administration of the President. In addition, the President, the Executive and the Legislature want to ensure that they do not alienate their constituencies approaching the elections.
As well as traditional political responses, we may also see 'sponsored' public activities such as 'spontaneous' demonstrations, etc. In all likelihood, the Executive will express their displeasure concerning any invasion of Iraq. The Legislature is expected to be far more critical and vocal in their opposition to an invasion, the US and, for political advantage, towards the Government of Indonesia (GOI). Of more concern are the implications for GOI policies and foreign relations:
The 'War on Terrorism': There is a possibility that the GOI 'war on terrorism' may grind to a halt due to a parallel rise in feelings of religious solidarity post an invasion of Iraq. In addition, there may be further questions regarding the presence of foreign investigators and Indonesian sovereignty.
U.S.-Indonesian Relations: It is expected that regardless of UN sanction or not, there will be increased tension between Indonesia and the US. The GOI may publicly oppose the invasion to maintain domestic popularity but privately take on a far more moderate approach with the US. The current US approach of 'if you are not with us you are against us' would suggest that even this diplomatic method may not be acceptable to the US.
Demonstrations. The size, frequency and volume of these general public and political activities and the level of violence, ferocity or volatility of these events has been shaped by the following variable factors:
§ Unilateral Action: A greater propensity for larger demonstrations and a higher potential for volatility because the US-led coalition conducted a unilateral invasion of Iraq. The general public and the polity has contesedt the international legitimacy of a unilateral invasion.
Coalition Membership: The reaction from the Indonesian public and the polity is also influenced by the fact that the coalition membership appears to be Christian or north centric. For a variety of reasons, Turkey does not feature in the perception of the Indonesian public as a south nation or one of similar religion. The reaction of the public and the polity may be tempered by the active support of nations such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Syria.
Concurrent Events: An outburst of loosely connected events, such as an Israeli invasion of Palestine, or a disproportionate response by Israel to Palestinian provocation without a similar UN or US response will, in all likelihood, lead to claims of double standards on international norms and treatment and may serve as a driver for greater reaction by the Indonesian public and polity.
Representation of Events: Adverse media representation of the progress of the invasion or the conduct of the war, particularly events that may be perceived as inhuman, such as the apparent killing of innocent civilians, bombing of civilian targets, the massacre of the enemy, or other collateral damage may lead to claims of double standards on human rights and may serve as a driver for greater reaction by the Indonesian public and polity.
Imposition of Values: The US has expressed the necessity for regime change in Iraq similar to that enacted in Afghanistan. Unlike Afghanistan, if the new regime lacks credibility and is considered to be the imposition of western values or a form of neo-colonialism, it may serve as a driver for a greater reaction by the Indonesian public and polity.
Reactions in associated States: The reactions in Indonesia may be proportional to the reactions by the public and/or the political elites in the states of the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran as well as other vocal states such as Pakistan and Malaysia. If the reactions in these nations are relatively mute then in all likelihood there may be a similar response in Indonesia. The converse may also be true.
Progress of the Invasion: Although there is a possibility that the current regime in Iraq may crumble when effectively challenged, there is also a possibility that the regime may fight on and use the populace as a human shield or attempt to employ total war (use civilian combatants). In addition, the US objective of regime change may bring about urban warfare and the potential destruction of Baghdad. In reaction, the Indonesian public and polity may call for a cessation of hostilities prior to the achievement of coalition objectives. In all likelihood, these calls will become more vociferous and volatile as the war progresses.
Mistakes: In all likelihood, during the invasion and subsequent operations mistakes and miscalculations will occur such as the attack on or destruction of places of worship, hospitals, etc. These 'civilian objects' are specifically mentioned in Protocol 1 to the Geneva Convention 1977 and should not be the object of attack or of reprisals. If it is perceived, or manipulated to provide the perception to the Indonesian public or polity, that there were religious overtones to such an attack then in all likelihood there will be an adverse reaction by the public and polity.
Mass Organizations: The leadership of the main Islamic mass movements, Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, and those of a number of smaller organizations have already provided guidance and advice to their members on the approach of the organization towards an invasion of Iraq. They have told their members that demonstrations that express opposition to any invasion is acceptable and warranted, however violence in the expression of this dissatisfaction is unacceptable and not authorized by the leadership of these organizations. The main Islamic organizations have also conducted discussions with other religious groups - Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and Catholic - to reassure them that opposition towards an invasion of Iraq is directed at the Governments of the coalition and not at any religious groups or individuals.
Opportunism: Of concern is the opportunity that this Indonesian general public and political response provides to both militant and radical groups. Undoubtedly, militant and radical groups have lost ground in Indonesia as well as some popularity as a result of the excesses of the Bali bombing and subsequent revelations. However the commonality of the object of general public and political dissension and that of the militant and radical groups - the US - may provide an opportunity for these groups to:
Conduct terrorist activities under the cover of legitimate demonstrations and other general public responses.
Exacerbate and/or aggravate events, such as legitimate demonstrations, to the point that they become a threat to the security and safety of the object of the demonstration.
Capture the high-moral ground at the vanguard of anti-U.S. demonstrations and thereby gain broad acceptance and respectability within the community.
Broaden the forms of dissent from say demonstrations to sweepings and general harassment of Westerners.
Business Impact: It is more likely that an invasion of Iraq by a US-led coalition will be perceived by the general public and the polity as a political affair involving states in the international system rather than one that involves multinational or transnational businesses. In Jakarta in particular, where the object of dissent - the UN, the US and its coalition partners - have representation, it is assessed that it is more likely that the focus of activity will be these points of representation. However, beyond Jakarta where these forms of representation become scarce, there will be, in all likelihood, a tendency to select the next best symbols of Western influence and affluence - multinational and transnational businesses - as the focus of activity.
Of greater concern to businesses should be the potential for opportunistic activities by militant and radical groups. General public and political responses may provide cover and concealment for militant and radical activity, including terrorism.
Advice: At this stage, AGI does not see the necessity for any form of evacuation (staff, personnel or dependents) resulting from an invasion of Iraq. We recommend that the best course of action is to wait and see how the situation unfolds. Demonstrations may be controlled and peaceful, harassment may be minimal, and the Government in all likelihood will be able to control events.
It is the assessment of AGI - at this stage - that there are no reasonable grounds to conclude that an evacuation of expatriates will be warranted, particularly an evacuation that is dependent on non-commercial forms of transport such as charter aircraft, etc. Due to the likely nature of incidents that may result from an invasion of Iraq, if a call for expatriates to evacuate did occur, then commercial means of transport should remain operational and available. Obviously, there are scenarios that may alter this assessment by AGI - however remote - and we will continue to advise clients if these developments arise.
Our thanks to Assessments Group International for sharing this executive summary with the community.
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