We discussed the security situation in Iraq in our phone-in programme, Talking Point.
The US-led coalition in Iraq will hand over power to a transitional government by June 2004, the Iraqi Governing Council has said.
The announcement came after Iraqi leaders met the US chief administrator, Paul Bremer, in Baghdad.
Mr Bremer had earlier returned from the US, where plans for a faster handover were agreed at the White House.
The transitional body will prepare for a full sovereign Iraqi government by 2005, following a general election.
Will the US be able to hand over power to Iraq by spring? How can the authorities prevent further attacks in Iraq? Should aid agencies now withdraw from the country? Can Iraq be made secure?
This debate is now closed. The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received:
June is WAY WAY WAY to early to leave Iraq. If the US leaves in June and the UN does not replace the troops that left, then the whole nation of Iraq is going to fall into chaos.
The US is a country which appears to be after complete global power, the chances of giving up (actual) power in Iraq is very slim.
Sharaz Ahmed, UK, Wales, Cardiff
To Jon Samuel, England: Wake up!. There are no WMDs to be found. Every life, Iraqi or non-Iraqi, has been a total waste.
The guerrilla attacks are getting more sophisticated and coordinated, and the US, with its amazing technology, is unable to stop them. The only way to make the handover of power less painful is to get support from the UN.
Harmin, Colombian in USA
I'm sure that if we were to leave Iraq now, the people who are now screaming, "Get the USA out of Iraq!!" would be the first people to scream "Why did the USA 'abandon' Iraq?!".
Randy Davis, USA
I don't think Iraq can ever be made safe. The US has changed the destiny of Iraq. Whether this is for good or for bad, time will tell.
The US will not pull out due to the loss of life, only from the loss of votes the deaths may cause. After all the people in our government don't have to worry about their family dying. Every war the US has ever fought has been with the lives of the middle and lower class. I think we (US) will hand over power within a year. Elections are coming and the Democrats seem to have a slight lead already. The Republicans need to dump this mistake if they want to have a chance and they will whether or not the time is right for the people of the country.
Coalition should leave Iraq as soon as things become worse. Losing pride is better than losing human life, we have seen American troops are killed in numbers. America won't bring any stability in Iraq, it is people of Iraq who will do so. Occupation is no longer necessary because there is no evidence of WMD, now they are hunting the so-called Saddam loyalists.
Sipho Mncube, South Africa
Surely no troops cannot be withdrawn without first locating the WMD. As they can be deployed within 45 minutes, until they are found and made safe, every single life lost in the conflict so far will have been a total waste.
Jon Samuel, England
Wherever the US military entered in the name of democracy or freedom, they have created a mess. What ever is happening in Iraq was predicted. The US administration is playing with innocent lives.. ie solders as well as civilians.
Pratheep P S, Mysore, India
What happens if an elected Iraqi government asks the US to withdraw immediately? A refusal would make it difficult for the Bush Administration to characterize subsequent violence as terrorism. It may also make it impossible for some allied states to keep troops in Iraq.
Kevin Pomeroy, Greece
It's not a question of whether they can, but that they must. This isn't our country and it was never our intention to overstay our welcome. The Iraqi people need to step up to the plate and work on getting their country back in their hands. As an American, I want to see Iraqis securing their own freedoms, but I feel the world as a whole needs to be there to give them a hand should they require it.
The coalition forces should stay and complete the job as best they can. It was never going to be easy. However in future the US/UK should leave the world's problems to the rest of the world to sort out and see how far they get.
Paul Watson, UK
Should the USA hand over power? My question is to who? The UN? Does anyone not think the UN will have the same problem? They are not the occupiers and their buildings are getting blown up. The US simply has to hand over the power as the democracy emerges.
Iraq cannot be made secure. The coalition will suffer further unless they leave the country. It is not a colonial time where the people simply obey the occupying forces. The US made a mistake, but it is not too late, they can give the administration to the UN and leave the country to avoid further causalities without thinking about the prestige. The coalition should also mind that those surrounding countries are no so friendly to US.
The current situation in Iraq is positive proof that you cannot fight a Politically Correct war. Coalition forces must flatten those areas that they believe still harbour militants. Anything short of such a show of force will encourage the continued haemorrhaging of US, British, Nepalese, Danish, and now Italian lives. I'm sorry but if we won't allow our troops to protect themselves properly then we should bring them home immediately. If the Iraqis want to live in fear and chaos let them. Iraq was not worth a single British life, let alone the 50 it has cost so far.
Gavin Davis, Colwyn Bay, North Wales
The comments posted are based on political classicism. Westerners suggest pulling out, but many posters who come from countries that have limited political power suggest staying the course. As Westerners we can affect our government. People in Iraq could not. Yes, there is an occupying force ruling the country but the end result will be an Iraq that allows its citizens the benefit of self determination, something Westerners have enjoyed for many generations. Pulling out will deny the people this freedom.
Jason Stevens, United States
After the Nazi's ruled Germany for 12 years (1933-1945), it required nearly 4 more years to de-Nazify and establish a decent government in West Germany. Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq for nearly 23 years, and he was every bit as bad as Hitler was. To think that a democracy can be established after only 6 months in a country that has no prior history of democratic rule is naive in the extreme.
Robert , USA
These Iraqi citizens that you discuss, I meet them every day. The Coalition Forces may not be perfect but most of the Iraqis consider them better than Saddam. It is a few who terrorise the rest and play to the media which, in turn, laps it up. Walking away now would be a crime against humanity, the very section of humanity who suffered under Saddam. That is why the US can not handover until some form of democracy exists - like it or not.
John, Southern Iraq
A lot of nations will applaud when the US quits Iraq.
The same nations will be the first to cry out if the US doesn't intervene elsewhere. Whatever the US does, it's a no win situation.
I think the US should stay for the time being, and hand over power gradually to the Iraqi people and enable it's government to become a stable one. The US also has to do something about the ignorance and unwillingness to learn which its leaders and soldiers demonstrate every day.
Bush (and his crony Blair) ignored international opinion to invade Iraq without thinking of consequences. The handover of power to the UN - the only feasible interim advisory group until Iraqi government - is an anathema to Bush. However loss of life and financial costs are extreme and will force his political self interests to dump Iraq, leaving it in a desperate situation.
Richard Jarvis, UK
The Bush administration has yet to face reality, there is not going to be a handover and honourable departure. A quisling government won't last five minutes in an environment saturated with suicide commandos and guerrillas. Collaborators are murdered every day, judges, governors, and even laundry owners pressing US uniforms. Strip away the modern veneer and Iraq emerges as a tribal society (albeit educated and capable) that lives by the feud. Count the several hundred thousand dead from UN sanctions, add in the war dead (civilian and military) since 1990, multiply by the number of kith and kin and underline a product of ominous proportions. We will be defeated, because the cost of winning will be too high.
Victoria Sheridan, England
The US must be very careful to ensure that democracy has clearly caught on in Iraq before turning over power to Iraqis. Otherwise, Iraq could quickly deteriorate into a mafia-style system with power resting in the hands of a few regional strongmen, a la Russia of the 1990's.
Ordinary Iraqis deserve the chance to govern themselves, and that means the coalition must be extremely careful to leave the country in good hands -- i.e. the people's hands.
Jim S, Columbus, Ohio, USA
Funny, the Iraqi people don't seem to want the US troops to leave. The most vocal opponents of US troops in Iraq are those outside of Iraq. In order for Iraq to be made secure, Saddam and his now underground organization must be eliminated. Only then will Iraqis have confidence in a lasting and peaceful Iraqi state.
Handing over Iraq to the UN or any other governing body will do no good. In fact, handing it over to the Iraqi people right now would be even worse. The terrorists that are causing the bombings want chaos. They want everyone out of Iraq so they can step in and takeover with a Taliban-like regime. It amazes me how many people fail to see this.
Iraq is a Country, the people who live there deserve to vote in their own Government. America should now take a step back and step-by-step withdraw their troops. The people need help in reconstruction of the Country, but not to be dictated to by the United States Government / Administration.
Joanne Edwards, Brighton, UK
Oh yes, the Americans will hand over power in Iraq shortly when the Bush Administration finally realises that the continue occupation of Iraq is no longer profitable politically. Indeed, the handover will be swifter than anyone could have imagined once the consequences of this political action begins to manifest in opinion polls across America.
Bisi Ajiboye, Nigeria
I did not and do not believe the Bush reasons for war.
But the war is here and now the job has to be finished.
It would be another crime to leave too early.
Bush should get the UN involved any way possible.
Len Stubenfoll, USA
Good job US, for removing one of the most evil dictators on earth from power. But now I think it's time to share more power with the UN, because alone you can't handle the situation and it's not a matter of military might.
If the US troops pull out too suddenly this will cause even more chaos. They need to make sure any withdrawal is gradual and well coordinated and that each stage involves power handed over to someone basically reliable. At the moment they need to ensure that if soldiers kill civilians they are held accountable (how many Iraqis have been killed by friendly fire with no apology from Americans?) and also any Iraqis detained by US must be processed quickly and set free, rather than kept locked up for months and months without charge. That is what breeds even more resentment.
Nadeem Shaikh, UK
They have to. Bush needs to drastically reduce the number of US soldiers (and casualties) in Iraq. Otherwise his re-election is in jeopardy.
The US has completely failed in Iraq. No WMDs, successfully managed to forge the very Jihadist/Baathist links the war was supposed to end and most importantly provided every freedom fighter/terrorist (pick your term depending on your ideology) in the region and beyond with an increase in determination that the US and its allies can be defeated.
I'm tired of my country always being verbally bashed and abused by cowards who think there is only peace and light in this world. My country is standing up for itself, proactively taking care of its own interests, instead of being led into idiotic situations like Bosnia (which should have been settled by Europeans themselves). We will stay the course in Iraq, because it is in our best interest.
Lisa, Wisconsin, USA
What the US can't do, Iraq can't either. Transfer of power means failure of policy.
The US can of course hand over power in Iraq, and this is where US and Iraqi interests meet, albeit for entirely different motives. The result of such a handover would however most likely be power struggles among Iraqi factions, an unstable, undemocratic and corrupt Iraq. We have the Afghanistan example for all to see, the difference is only that the US has vested interests in Iraq.
To Dorothee of Kenya. But the US does have vested interests in Afghanistan, they need the oil pipeline running from the oil producing states of the former Soviet Union to the deep sea ports in the Gulf, the pipeline the Taliban refused to allow the US oil companies when they visited Texas before 9/11! By the way they have the pipeline now!
The coalition must hand over power to the UN which has more credibility than the US/UK in Iraq today. This is the only way out. The coalition should have heeded the call of the international community before going in.
Yes. Iraq can and will be made secure. The coalition liberators who have freed the Iraqi people from a disastrous and vicious regime will help the Iraqi create a democratic society founded upon principles that are important to the Iraqi citizens (just as they are doing in Afghanistan). A democratic and free Iraq will change the Middle East and the world for the better.
T. A. Charles, USA
Let's face reality please? As long as we occupy Iraq, soldiers will die. When we leave, everything we do may easily be undone and is likely to be so. Tell me, do any of our leaders actually reflect on history at all?
Richard Sweetman, England
Iraq can not be safe or secure when Saddam is still alive.
Kate Roberts, Sunderland, England
US have to change its military attitude in Iraq. Most US soldiers in Iraq has little or no idea on policing and winning people. Full UN piece keeping and policing force followed by local governance by Iraqis is required, which will take bulk of time. Fear is if US fails it will be another Afghanistan and if US remain for long with attacks continuing it could lead to another West Bank.
Ainul Habib, Dublin, Ireland
In Afghanistan people were having a strong distaste from the war and that's why they did not fight back. But the Iraqis they will fight back till the last drop of their blood because they don't want their country ruled by someone else. So I suggest that the US should make a Government like they did in Afghanistan and get their boys back otherwise they will lose their boys.
Jumriani, Afghanistan, Kabul
Well, anyone that wants the USA to withdraw now from Iraq is an enemy of peace, the same people asked the USA to withdraw from Somalia sometimes ago but none of them is talking of rebuilding the place now, rather they make it a haven for recruitment of their so-called Jihadist, while an average Somalis is dwelling under immense fear and poverty.
Seye Ogunrotimi, Lagos, Nigeria
A big no. Peace will only come by the Iraqi people themselves.
Mohd Khalid, Perak, Malaysia
Iraq would only be secure if US explains more clearly to Iraq people what they are trying to do now. To do this, US should first apologize to the civilians, who faced the war tragedy during the fighting and after the fighting. Civilians are very bitter, because they did nothing wrong. So US must humble, and apologize to the Iraqis, explaining them the current situation and mission. The former Iraq regime loyals will not be able to blast those bombs and attacks if they don't have civilians cooperation.
Aikande Kwayu, Tanzania
The only way Iraq can be made secure is if other countries step up to the plate and be more proactive in taking on their responsibility. If the U.S. leaves now, there will be chaos and probably a worse country than ever. Some of you on this board refuse to see real human repression until it is in your own back yard. I hope you don't ask the U.S. for help at that point.
Jeff, NYC, USA
Bush and company have painted themselves into a corner. With each passing day it becomes more and more evident that Iraq cannot be controlled as they had hoped, and as casualties mount there will be increased pressure at home to withdraw the troops. But just as the Bush administration ignored public opinion before the war, they will continue to do so in the future, for to abandon Iraq now would plunge the country into total anarchy, and the vast oil reserves would be in the hands of people who pose a far greater threat than Saddam Hussein ever did. I pity the post-Bush administration that will be stuck inheriting this legacy.
Norman, Savannah, USA
Some of the comments here are absurd. The US is an occupying force only until Iraq is ready to take control of the country. The US is trying to help Iraqis live a better life in hopes that the rest of the Middle East will change for the better. There aren't any Middle East countries willing to help them.
Joe Lane, USA
The only reason that Iraq was "secure" pre-invasion was because Saddam and co. ruled by fear and coercion. In reality the whole Gulf region was becoming dangerously unstable (in particular Saudi Arabia) and this was the real reason for US/UK action (forget the WMD nonsense - that was an easy excuse for both pro and anti war factions to latch onto). The net result is that if Iraq is allowed to slide totally into anarchy the whole Middle East will quickly follow suit. So neither the US, nor Britain nor the EU will allow a key resource producing area to be anything other than "dependable" - this is realpolitik.
Andy, Gloucester, UK
If the occupying forces don't leave, Iraq will always be a dangerous place for people coming from the Western World. No one can blame them because it was the Western World that entered theirs without even asking them. So, now it time for revenge and I believe that every human kind who would experience that stupid war would have reacted the same way.
If US take back their solders, only then the Iraq will be secure place. It is the Iraqi Freedom Fighter who is responsible for the attacks against US solders. My suggestion is to Mr Bush and his administration "before you get another Vietnam, just step back from the Iraq".
Monir, Stockholm, Sweden
I do not believe there is anyway that Iraq can be made secure in the short to medium term. Until there is an Iraqi Government in place which is accepted by the majority there will be no end to the attacks by the terrorists. The focus of the Americans and the coalition should be to re-establish the basic services of life, electricity, water, food, basic security, etc. This in itself will be a positive step which will help any fledgling Government.
Brian Morris, Perth, Western Australia
The only way to secure a country that has been illegally occupied is to leave. The US and UK are creating another Vietnam and the world will not forget! The US is the biggest threat to democracy today. Leave Iraq to the Iraqis!
No, Iraq can't be made secure. The USA is determined to stay in Iraq for controlling the oil of Mid East and taking revenge against Iran and Syria to make Israel tension free. On the other hand the young generation from Muslim World is rushing to Iraq. So logically in future Iraq will be the battle field. A remarkable loss is waiting for the USA.
Abdur Rahman Bikrom, Dhaka, Bangladesh
The only way to make Iraq secure is to secure democracy in Iraq. Democracy in Iraq would give Iraqi's and foreign firms the confidence to invest in the rebuilding of Iraq.
John Ley, London, England
Iraq can only be made secure when ALL members of the occupying forces have left. The Iraqi people must be given their country back. The occupying forces are only there to secure the oil. The fighting is a smoke screen to divert attention away from the oil fields and where that oil is going.
Bush and his men are the real terrorists seen in the eyes of Iraqi people. I'm sorry to say this occupation will be another Vietnam.
Iraq can be made secure but only by the Iraqis. The US must relinquish it strong hold to power and transfer authority to Iraqis with the help of the UN.
The problem facing the US is that a credibility gap has now evolved in the minds of many Iraqis. Before the war, many promises of prosperity through good governance were made. It is now more than six months later and little has been delivered. The failure to deliver tangible results, I believe, has infuriated many people who previously sided with the US, and turned them into new enemies. The longer the current quagmire continues, the more enemies the US will create, and the greater the suffering to US soldiers and the Iraqis in Iraq.
Mwalimu Ni Woka Muno, USA
No! It is impossible to make secure anyplace when the people become more and more hostile towards the occupiers. It is a lose-lose situation for the US now. You are gentle to the people, and they kill you easier; you are tougher; they hate you more and that makes them easier to be recruited against you. You stay, things get nastier. You abandon the place; you lose your edge to the rest of the "axis of evils". ...and you lose your moral high ground to the rest of the world. I do not envy the USA.
Peter Chin, Singapore
Nobody has mentioned the $87.5 billion dollars America is about to invest in Iraq. America will NEVER leave Iraq. The Iraqi people will realize that America cares more about them than the terrorist gangs of the region.
Armen, California, USA
Only and only when the occupying forces of the United States leave Iraq, then Iraq will automatically be secure. No other means can make Iraq secure.
As long as there is a foreign army in Iraq there will be a strong resistance, therefore making security all but impossible.
To Jen, US: Do you actually expect the aid agencies to stay while being attacked? They signed up for humanitarian service, not to fight a war. And accepting security from either side is what reduces their neutrality not leaving.
Tayo Ajayi, Los Angeles, USA
Unfortunately, the security of Iraq is not a problem that can be considered in isolation. A solution to secure Iraq must include the whole Middle East. To defang al Qa'ida and the other terrorist militants, the coalition must make compromises. The compromises necessary for a total Middle East settlement are the departure of all US troops from Saudi Arabia, the creation of a Palestinian state and the end of western interference (particularly by the US) in the Middle East region's political affairs. Only after these conditions of compromise are met will there be any chance for a secure Iraq.
RW, Atlanta, USA
Under international law, the responsibility for the provision of security falls to the occupying powers, which, in this case, means the coalition. Until the coalition shapes up, and stops shirking responsibility for security, I'm afraid conditions will steadily deteriorate.
Peter Bolton, US
Iraq cannot be made secure for some time if at all. The US Administration and Military and their exiled Iraqi allies, have mishandled the administration, economy, and have alienated many due their heavy force.
The Iraqi opposition can use this to their advantage and draw out this conflict until the costs become to high, such as Vietnam.
John H. Mesrobian, Canada
Secure for whom?
Oil cartels want security for the oil fields only. Security of the Iraq and its citizens is not the prime objective of the Bush or Blair. Security must be developed by the Iraqis with the support of the international community.
Mike Larian, Irvine, US
I think it is strange that no one sees that to most Iraqis, the Americans are the terrorists. They've killed thousands when they invaded with far more firepower than was released by the Militants in total. The US and the UN have killed off uncounted others with 12 years of sanctions. Wake up, Hussain was like a thorn in the finger compared to West's blowing off a arm and a leg.
MIke, Portland, USA
America is responsible for the attacks. America is creating more terror attacks by the unjustified occupation of Iraq. Bush Jnr. came to settle old scores Saddam had with Snr. Bush. The whole American political and security establishment doesn't respect international law and the UN. Europe must speak firmly and clearly to America. Europe knows too well about occupation of other countries in the name of colonising.
Ablai Isa Nasagri, Tamale, Ghana
Do you think the changing of regime in Iraq will go easily, without loss; it is impossible there is fire without smoke. The defeat of the terrorist in Iraq is the defeat of all evil people and extremist in the Middle East. I am sorry that UN is backing off from Iraq.
Sasi R. Zenen, Libya
It is hard to help someone who doesn't want help. We don't belong there. Saddam or no Saddam. Bring home our troops.
Iraq will only be secure when they, as a free people realize that it is up to them to make it happen. The Coalition/Iraqi war is over and the civil war is has just begun.
William Treadway,Camarillo, Ca. U.S.A.
Throughout history, the invaders and occupiers of other countries always baptised as "terrorist" the national resistance and Liberation movements. The same happens now. The unlawful occupation of Iraq from the US/ UK alliance has to end with no delay.
Gustavo Cortez Cruz, Oaxaca, Mexico
Iraqi people don't want Bush to steal their petrol. War hasn't solved anything for Iraqis, have just passed from an owner to another. They don't want an owner; they don't want someone to run their petrol. They will keep on fighting for freedom until they get a government who will grant it to them.
Irene Coggi, Milan, Italy
Iraq is not another Vietnam! The VC were fighting to liberate their country. The Baathist and foreign terrorists in Iraq are fighting to take control of Iraq. If allowed to succeed, they would become the next Saddam.
Pandora's box that many around the world warned about has been opened, and there's absolutely nothing that will improve security in the short term. From here there are only two paths - keep fighting until resistance is subdued (far cry from "liberation" and doesn't seem to work too well for Israel), or start transferring political powers to the Iraqis and involve UN in this process. I find it ironic that after years of criticizing Russia over Chechnya US/UK artificially created a similar problem for themselves.
How funny it is when the US Administration calls the Arab fighters Foreigners!! Let's face it here, the so called outsiders (foreigners) speak Arabic, they are Muslims and they know the Iraqi and Arab cultures and traditions. So, who are the Foreigners here, Arab fighters or USA?
Adam, Mississippi, USA
Iraq and Afghanistan are both examples of what happens when you try to tell people that you can run their country better than they can. For some strange reason, the people who were running that country are not happy with the new arrangements, and will fight back with every weapon at their disposal!
And it didn't take a genius to work out that Saddam's cronies, who had everything going for them before the war, would not be happy with the "New Iraq" and would make major attempts to stop the US/UK plans from working. Get the American and British troops home ASAP!