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Rageh Omaar

THIS WEEK
Rageh Omaar and Andrew Neil on BBC One's This Week
The honeymoon period in Iraq lasted 24 hours.
Rageh Omaar, Al Jazeera
We asked Rageh Omaar, the BBC's former man in Baghdad, now working at Al Jazeera International, for his Take Of The Week.

When I reported from Baghdad, I never doubted that the invasion would end in the overthrow of Sadaam Hussein.

What I was sceptical about was what would follow afterwards.

There was a honeymoon period, and it lasted 24 hours, during that memorable day when the statue of Sadaam Hussein was torn down.

But that ended the day afterwards, and everything started unravelling from that moment on.

And what's amazing looking back three years on, even though I was sceptical to start with, was just how much has gone wrong.

Yet another cul-de-sac?

Bush and Blair have always made one fatal miscalculation. They always believed that overthrowing Saddam Hussein somehow gave them infinite legitimacy in the eyes of ordinary Iraqis for everything that followed. It hasn't.

This week, Tony Blair talked of a new beginning, but we've ben here many time before.

First came the capture of Saddam Hussein. Then came the national elections last year,which I covered in Basra.

Then came the writing of the constitution, and now we're told the formation of a new Iraqi government is a real turning point. Is it, or is it just yet another cul-de-sac?

Fundamentals haven't changed

The truth is, the fundamentals in Iraq have never really changed. We have in Iraq a government which is sovereign in name, but has no effective power of its own.

We have 150,000 British and American soldiers, who are struggling to protect themselves, let alone ordinary Iraqis.

And we have an insurgency which has never shown any signs of abating.

To cap it all, the middle classes - the intelligentsia of Iraq - are leaving in droves.

WATCH US IN BROADBAND
Rageh Omaar on BBC One's This Week

But the consequences of these failures go beyond Iraq.

Grim irony

For example, how am I as a Muslim supposed to get up and argue that the Islamic world and the West continue to have a shared interest in the War On Terror when Iraq simply plays into the conspiracy theories that say the West is out to get Muslims, in Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond?

And as a Brit, I have to ask: how have our national interst been served?

Our voice and our reputation in the Islamic world has never been worse, and our ability to influence in the United Nations and in the wider world has been undermined.

Bush and Blair are meeting in Washington, where one of the topics will be an exit strategy from Iraq.

Yet there is a grim irony to all of this. Because the majority of Iraqis don't want British and American soldiers, but they need them.

Because to pull out now would be the starting gun for a civil war.

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