Postwar plans raising tension

Fresh rifts are exposed between U.S., allies over who does and gets what

War In Iraq

March 27, 2003|By Mark Matthews | Mark Matthews,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - In a growing struggle involving power, money and oil, U.S. planning for a postwar Iraq is exposing fresh rifts between the United States and European allies as well as divisions within the Bush administration.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who arrived at the presidential retreat at Camp David late yesterday for a two-day meeting, is pressing President Bush to accept a "central" role for the United Nations in Iraq once Saddam Hussein's regime is destroyed, a role some in the Pentagon oppose.

France, backed by Germany and Russia, refuses to endorse a U.S.-British occupation of Iraq, putting a future U.N. mandate in doubt. And within the Bush administration, debate persists over how much influence to give prominent Iraqi exiles in the leadership of the country.

Beneath the surface, a competition is brewing over billions of dollars in reconstruction contracts, use of Iraqi oil profits and the future development of oil facilities in a country that has the world's second-largest proven oil reserves.

"It will not be easy," said Judith Yaphe, an Iraq specialist at the National Defense University who also teaches at Goucher College. "There's going to be tension over who does what, who gets what, what role people play."

The Pentagon has been planning for months to occupy Iraq after Hussein's regime is destroyed by U.S., British and a small contingent of Australian forces. An Interim Iraqi Authority, headed by retired Gen. Jay Garner and senior U.S. diplomats, is gearing up to take over Iraqi government ministries and rebuild the country until a representative Iraqi government takes shape.

Success in keeping Iraq unified, stable and headed toward democracy after the war is crucial for Bush's long-term goal of spreading democracy and suppressing terror in the Middle East, as well as advancing peace between Israel and the Palestinians. At the outset, the United States is determined that Iraq sever all ties to terrorists, abandon weapons of mass destruction and coexist peacefully with its neighbors.

But the United States' Arab-world and European allies also have a big stake in Iraq's future, and some of them harbor deep worries about a U.S.-led occupation and what it means for their own interests.

To avoid the United States shouldering all the risks and costs itself, administration officials acknowledge that they have to win support from other wealthy countries despite the bitterness that accompanied this month's failure to win Security Council approval for the war.

During their Azores summit March 16, Bush, Blair and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar agreed to seek a U.N. mandate that affirms Iraq's territorial integrity, assures rapid delivery of humanitarian aid and endorses an "appropriate" post-conflict administration.

But what "appropriate" means is an open question. Blair, who will hold a second day of meetings with the president at Camp David today, has in mind something like the Afghanistan model, in which a special U.N. envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, worked closely with a number of Afghan factions developing a process for choosing a new leadership cadre for the country.

Britain also believes a U.N.-mandated peacekeeping force might be needed, as well as sizable donations from wealthy European and Asian countries and international financial institutions.

`Imperial arrogance'

The British experience in creating and running Iraq after World War I may be instructive. According to a recent paper published by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Britain at the time displayed "imperial arrogance" that stirred anti-Western sentiment and in the end failed to produce a workable system of governance.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell appears to lean toward Blair's view. In a interview Tuesday with National Public Radio, he said that during the period between the fall of Hussein's regime and the transfer of authority to a new Iraqi government, "we think there is a role for the United Nations, for the European Union, all the many organizations around the world that can bring reconstruction expertise and money, and governing expertise to Iraq."

But at the Pentagon, officials view a major U.N. role with deep skepticism, fearing it would create a bloated foreign bureaucracy and inhibit Iraq's own development of a new government and economic system.

"A long-term foreign presence in a country can be unnatural," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said in a speech Feb. 14. "This has happened in several places with large foreign presence. The economies remained unreformed and distorted to some extent. Educated young people can make more money as drivers for foreign workers than as doctors and civil servants."

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