Who Will Rule Iraq?
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While U.S. troops grind their way toward Baghdad, the administration of President George W. Bush remains in turmoil over its post-war plans to occupy Iraq.
The main issue -- who will be in charge of the occupation -- pits the Pentagon against the State Department and its allies in Europe, notably British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The Pentagon appears determined to maintain as much power for itself and its favorites in the opposition Iraqi National Congress (INC) as possible, while the State Department, backed by the intelligence community and Blair, is arguing for major roles for other U.S. allies, the United Nations, and other opposition figures.
The Pentagon recently vetoed as many as eight current and former State Department officials for key posts in the occupation administration, according to the Washington Post. Excluded were a number of former ambassadors and high-level foreign service officers (FSOs) with expertise in the Arab world.
Some sources said they were vetoed because they were "run-of-the-mill" and not "doers," while others revealed they were opposed by Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, who has supported Israel's Likud Party in the past and is said to consider some candidates to be too pro-Arab, a bias that neoconservatives believe is endemic to the State Department's Near East bureau.
Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld has also reportedly insisted that all relief and aid work come under the jurisdiction of ret. Army Gen. Jay Garner, the coordinator of the Pentagon's office of reconstruction and humanitarian assistance, who will report directly to the chief of the U.S. Central Command, Gen. Tommy Franks.
Secretary of State Colin Powell argued in a letter to Rumsfeld last week that U.S. government relief work should be headed by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which reports to the State Department. He reportedly said that international agencies and voluntary relief groups were unlikely to accept an arrangement in which they reported to the military. The aid groups themselves have called for the United Nations to assume control of relief operations.
But the Pentagon rejects that scheme. In testimony late last week, Feith insisted that as long as the situation on the ground is insecure, the military has to remain in control. "If things go well, we will be able to hand things over to the Iraqis so there would be no need for UN participation," he said.
In addition to being opposed by Powell and the relief groups, the Pentagon's anti-UN position has come under fire from Blair and the European Union (EU), which has long called for a major role for the world body in any relief and reconstruction effort, similar to that it assumed in Afghanistan after the ouster of the Taliban. "We believe that the UN must continue to play a central role during and after the crisis," EU leaders said last week. France, in particular, has threatened to veto any Security Council resolution that subordinates the UN to a U.S. occupation authority.
The breach between the Pentagon on one hand and Powell, the aid groups, and the Europeans on the other has become so serious that 29 prominent Democrats, neoconservatives, and right-wing Republicans published a joint letter this week that they proposed as the basis for an acceptable compromise.
Signed by analysts and former policymakers from the mainstream Brookings Institution and the Council on Foreign Relations, and from right-wing think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute and the Hoover Institution, the letter called for Washington to "seek passage of a Security Council resolution that endorses the establishment of a civilian administration in Iraq, authorizes the participation of UN relief and reconstruction agencies, (and) welcomes the deployment of a security stabilization force by NATO allies." The statement continues, "while some seem determined to create an ever deeper divide between the United States and Europe, others seem indifferent to the long-term survival of the transatlantic partnership." The letter stated in what some sources called an implicit rebuke to both Rumsfeld and French President Jacques Chirac, "we believe it is essential, even in the midst of war, to begin building a new era of transatlantic cooperation."