The Japanese media
have started questioning the government�s decision of extending the Air
Self-Defense Forces (ASDF) in Iraq until July 31, 2007. The ASDF started
airlifts from Kuwait in March 2004 under a July 2003 ad hoc law to carry out
Japanese Ground Self-Defense Forces (GSDF) deployment for non-combat activities
ASDF�s airlifts were for supporting the GSDF troops stationed in the Iraqi city
of Samawa on a humanitarian and reconstruction assistance mission. Japan
withdrew its GSDF from Iraq in July, and since then the nature of the ASDF�s
activities in Iraq has systematically changed.
From July onwards,
the Japanese ASDF has been assisting the U.S.-led multinational forces by
transporting troops to Baghdad, as well as supporting U.N. teams in Irbil. The
ASDF also carry out goods for the coalition forces and the United Nations, and
make occasional flights when requested.
An editorial by
The Japan Times points out that the government has not explained why the ASDF
deployment has to be extended when the U.S. Congress is increasingly skeptical
about the Iraq war, and more importantly, the Iraqi Study Group (ISG) has
suggested a gradual withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.
The Japan Times
then asks why doesn�t the government disclose what goods the ASDF aircraft are
carrying and for what organizations? The editorial expresses its regret that
the Japanese government made the decision without providing the Diet (Japanese
parliament) and the public with concrete information on the ASDF�s activities
Based on another
article from a Yomiuri Shimbun�s staff writer, the ASDF�s activities have
deviated from the main purpose of the ad hoc law. The primary purpose for
dispatching Japanese troops to Iraq was to offer humanitarian support, and with
their assistance, help the Iraqi people to reconstruct their country. �Such a
rational might have been appropriate for the ground troops that had direct
contact with Iraqis,� The Yomiuri says.
Basically, as the
United States fooled the whole international community over its real intention
of invading Iraq, the Japanese government has so far withheld the main reason
behind its full cooperation with the Bush administration in Iraq.
The majority of
the Japanese people opposed the Iraq war and questioned former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi�s blind
endorsement of American assistance requests for the war and the aftermath. The
majority of the public disputed the government�s decision of sending Japanese
Self-Defense Forces (SDF) to Iraq in December 2003, and considered the action
as an obvious indication of violating the constitution.
beginning, oil was the common goal of both Washington and Tokyo in Iraq, and
Japan�s full support of the U.S. invasion was merely a means of re-establishing
its economic and commercial presence in that war-torn and oil-rich country. The
Japanese government saw its backing for Bush�s misguided Middle East policy as
a way of strengthening Tokyo�s access to huge energy resources in the region
and acquiring lucrative business contracts in post-invasion Iraq.
The Middle East is
the chief supplier of Japan�s imported oil, and to keep permanent access to
this oil plays a determining role in Japanese foreign policy toward the region.
Resource-poor Japan imports nearly all of the oil it consumes, and almost 90
percent of that comes from the turbulent and volatile Middle East, with Saudi
Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Iran as its three major crude-oil
exporting partners, respectively.
As a basic
national security consideration for Japan, Middle East petroleum has long
influenced all elements related to Japan�s Mideast policy, though its impact on
the country�s decision has often been downplayed in official pronouncements.
experiences of the 1970s and 1990s have taught Japan that who controls the flow
of Middle Eastern oil, dictates the terms. During the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War,
while Tokyo contributed $13 billion over the course of the U.S.-led war against
Saddam�s invasion of Kuwait, Japan was largely left out of the negotiations
over the future of the region and lost ground in commercial investments and
economic projects in the Middle East. Human sacrifice by the Japanese forces
and if necessary, �blood for oil,� was the only thing that could please the
United States in that oil war, which Japan stubbornly refused to accept.
The possible consequences of an Iraqi resistance were well understood
despite U.S. expectations in another oil conflict in 2003. Tokyo hoped this
time its military cooperation with the United States and generous financial
pledges to Iraq would be rewarded with access to the country�s extensive oil
resources and other profitable business deals, the logic that seems to be
Shirzad Azad is an East-West
Asian relations researcher in the Graduate School of International Politics, Economics and Communication, Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo, Japan.