Plan: US general to run Iraq
In Ankara and Washington, the US outlined its plans for a post-Hussein Iraq. Some Iraqi opposition leaders object.
The head of the US military's Central Command, Gen. Tommy Franks, will rule Iraq in the initial aftermath of a US invasion to overthrow President Saddam Hussein.Skip to next paragraph
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Administration officials briefed senators Tuesday on postwar planning, stressing that the US goal is "to liberate Iraq, not to occupy it," and last week a US envoy told leaders of Iraqi groups opposed to Hussein about American intentions.
The senators were told that even under good circumstances, it would take two years before the military could fully transfer control to an Iraqi government. As presented, the plan recalls postwar Germany and Japan, where American military occupations paved the way for transfers of power to democratic and constitutionally backed governments.
Some Iraqi opposition leaders are already attacking the plan, saying it amounts to a US military rule of Iraq that will favor the existing power structure in the country. Instead of turning Iraq into a beacon of democracy in the Middle East, an ambition articulated by some US policymakers, the opposition leaders say the US plan seems designed to ease the fears of Arabs and Turks unhappy with the prospect of a democratic, federal Iraq.
But Barham Salih, prime minister of an enclave in northern Iraq controlled by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), advises a pragmatic view of the US plan. "Let's not get too hot about this," he said late Tuesday in an interview at his home here. "Who is doing the heavy lifting?"
The answer is, of course, the US, and Mr. Salih's implication is that shouldering the big load brings with it a few prerogatives. He maintains an eyes-on-the-prize approach to the debate over how to run Iraq's affairs immediately after the current leader is removed: "The key thing for us is getting rid of Saddam Hussein."
Some elements of Iraq's fractious opposition, including groups funded by the US, have been determined to form a government-in-waiting in order to ensure that Iraq's sovereignty stays in Iraqi hands. They argue that Iraqis will see even a temporary US administration of Iraq as occupation, engendering anti-American sentiment throughout the Middle East.
Even so, the US has decided to run the country itself, although the structure outlined to Congress and the opposition groups envisions a "consultative council" of Iraqis selected by the US to advise American administrators.
"To be kind, it is unworkable. Either reason will prevail, or time will demonstrate to the authors [of the US plan] the error of their ways," says Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi. "I really shudder to think."
A US civilian coordinator, retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, is already presiding over committees of US bureaucrats preparing to address humanitarian relief, reconstruction, and civil administration - all part of a planning effort authorized by President Bush on Jan. 20. General Franks retains overall responsibility for a war and its aftermath.
Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday that "Central [Iraqi] government ministries could remain in place and perform the key functions of government after the vetting of the top personnel to remove any who might be tainted with the crimes and excesses of the current regime."
This formula sounds to some Iraqi opposition leaders as though much of Iraq's existing power structure, dominated by Hussein's ruling Baath Party, will maintain its role. "Power is being handed, essentially on a platter, to the second echelon of the Baath Party and the [Iraqi] Army officer corps," says Kanan Makiya, an adviser to Mr. Chalabi who discussed postwar Iraq with President Bush on Jan. 10. "It's going to have the opposite effect to what US wants it to have," he adds.