Thursday, April 10
Who will run the new Iraq?
From The Economist Global Agenda, Apr 9th 2003
Although the war is still being waged, plans for the governance of a post-Saddam Iraq are advancing. Britain's Tony Blair has persuaded President George Bush to accept a “vital” role for the United Nations, but just what this means is unclear
... Mr Jay Garner has already been in Kuwait for weeks, preparing to take over the reins of power in Iraq. He is being helped by around 300 officials, including a handful of British civil servants and Australian agricultural experts (Australia is one of the few countries to have sent troops to the Gulf).
Mr Garner has a good reputation in the region: he oversaw the restoration of order and humanitarian supplies in Kurdish-held Iraq after the first Gulf war. But he has been criticised for a perceived pro-Israeli bias since signing a declaration praising the Israeli army’s “remarkable restraint” towards Palestinian militants in 2000. [...]
With military victory apparently at hand, France, Russia and Germany will have to decide over the next few days just how flexible they will be on endorsing a post-war Iraq administration shaped by the United States. The three are holding an impromptu summit in St Petersburg this weekend.
However, it is not really in the interest of the anti-war countries to remain at loggerheads with America. ... ... But France and Russia have a list of oil contracts waiting to go ahead once sanctions are lifted, and both countries are among Iraq's biggest creditors.
America may find it has to promise that the new Iraq will honour those debts and that, even if old oil contracts are not honoured, opponents of the war will not be excluded from new contracts.
Failure to give such assurances might tempt the French and Russians to wield their vetoes on the Security Council.
A sign of the sort of commercial wrangles to come appeared on April 8th, when Lukoil, Russia's biggest oil company, threatened that it would seek to have Iraqi oil impounded if a new Iraqi government tried to kill the contract it signed in 1997 with Saddam Hussein's regime to develop the vast West Qurna oilfield.
Mr Bush emphasised at his joint press conference with Mr Blair that the coalition's aim is to establish an administration with a large Iraqi contingent. While the Pentagon has backed Mr Chalabi, and air-lifted him into southern Iraq, both the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have severe doubts about the exile (who left Iraq in 1958 at the age of 13), even though he helped lead an aborted CIA-sponsored plot to overthrow Saddam in the mid-1990s. One of the black marks against him is a sentence for bank fraud in Jordan, handed down to him in his absence—a charge he says was trumped up. Moreover, diplomats fear that he may lack credibility among ordinary Iraqis.
The Pentagon and the State Department are also rowing over which Americans should be part of the new authority. The State Department lined up a group of former ambassadors to the region. However, their names were withdrawn after the Pentagon apparently objected that they would be too Arabist in their mindset. Moreover, many at the Pentagon regard State Department officials in much the same way as they do the French—as appeasers who never really wanted this war. The Pentagon has tried to nominate James Woolsey, a former head of the CIA, as a key player in the interim government, but some at the State Department are said to be appalled at the notion of putting a former spymaster in a foreign government.
With the American army in the centre of Baghdad, these matters will have to be decided sooner rather than later. And the consequences of those decisions will last far longer than the war.