Poles in Iraq IV

Room with a View on the Euphrates: that’s the title of yesterday’s piece in the leading Polish Daily Rzeczpospolita updating the progress of the Polish contingent of troops that is now mostly in Kuwait, acclimatizing itself there and training in preparation to take over its assigned occupation sector in Iraq at the beginning of next month.

The Polish advanced party of over 1,300 soldiers has already started to move into “Camp Babylon,” the main camp for the Polish and associated troops from other nations, situated near the Euphrates as well as near the ruins of ancient Babylon and the more-recent ruins (looter-inflicted) of one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces. That palace itself has been home to a battalion of US Marines, who were relieved on Sunday by a Polish contingent.

In fact, the article reports that the actual Polish take-over of the sector is to proceed gradually, but also in advance of the official hand-over on 3 September. Polish troops will relieve the Americans in Karbala province on 26 August; on the 28th a multinational division under Polish command will take control of Wasit and al-Kadisiya; 1 September the Poles take over at Babil, and on the third the Spanish take over in an-Nadjaf province.

Last Saturday provided the occasion for a ceremony of sorts at Camp Babylon, as it was Polish Army Day. So the Poles invited the neighbors to come visit the camp and help celebrate. These guests included the (Iraqi) governor of Babil province, plus seven leading tribal chiefs from central Iraq, whose tribal lands make up 75% of the Polish sector. “They assured us,” the article states, “that if they find out about any plans to attack the Polish forces, they will do everything to prevent it.”

The article finishes with that other big question (“When are we going to derive some economic benefit out of this Polish deployment, some juicy reconstruction contracts for Polish firms?”), addressed to the leader of the International Coordinating Committee in Iraq, Prof. Marek Belka – a Pole. Patience, the professor counsels: the big money that will flow to Iraq will do so over the course of years, not just in the immediate future. In the meantime, Polish firms are opening representative offices in Baghdad, and in Kuwait, to position themselves for a piece of that pie.

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