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Can The U.N. Rebuild?

Can The U.N. Rebuild?United Nations officials vow not to let the bombing of U.N. headquarters in Iraq destroy reconstruction efforts, but Tufts experts say they cannot help but be shaken. Baghdad.

Boston [08.20.03] On Tuesday, a suicide truck bomb exploded outside of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, wounding more than 100 and killing at least 24 people, including the U.N.'s chief human rights official Sergio de Mello. Saddened top U.N. officials pledged that the incident would not affect the mission to rebuild Iraq. Despite these claims, however, Tufts experts say that the bombing will not go without serious political repercussions.

"It's good that the U.N. responded that this will not deter them from their mission," Hurst Hannum, professor of international law at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts, told The Boston Globe. "But it will make it more difficult to recruit good people to go into areas like Iraq. It will make it more difficult to take a nonmilitary approach to these kinds of situations."

Another Tufts expert agreed the incident will have lasting implications.

"You will have to watch what [U.N. officials] do, not what they say," Michael J. Glennon, professor of international law at the Fletcher School, told the Globe. "I think the reaction of the United Nations might be the same reaction the United States had after 18 servicemen were killed in Mogadishu [in 1993]. The reaction was: do we really want to get more deeply involved here?"

Glennon said that the loss of Sergio de Mello - the world body's top envoy to Iraq - was a particularly devastating loss.

"The death of Sergio exacerbates the problem that the United States now faces," Glennon told the Globe. "His absence makes it harder for the United States to put together a U.N.-related coalition. He was a person who could bring together hostile and suspicious parties."

The bombing was the latest in a series of attacks that experts believe to be part of a strategy to create an atmosphere of chaos throughout the country.

But Richard H. Shultz, director of the international security studies program at the Fletcher School, told The New York Times that the attacks may ultimately backfire on those who planned them.

"The attacks on the oil pipelines and the water are in some ways stupid, because if the United States plays it right, the government can run that back against these elements pretty effectively as hurting the average person," Shultz told the Times.

The Tufts professor also said that the bombing may quiet some critics of American policy in the region.

"In hitting the United Nations, it could put into a rather tough position those in the U.N. who might have opposed what the United States is doing in Iraq, and even opposed our entry in the war to begin with," Shultz told the Times.

Photos courtesy The New York Times and Associated Press.

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