|Iraq: No quick
By Charles Recknagel
PRAGUE - The top US civilian official in Iraq,
Paul Bremer, said that reviving the economy is his top
priority as Washington has postponed plans to
immediately begin limited power-sharing with Iraqi
Bremer said at a press conference in
Baghdad that the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority
(CPA), which he heads, is developing initiatives to
create jobs and get Iraqis back to work. "I pledge that
the coalition will do everything we can to encourage and
support employment, creating economic activity. That is
my prime concern now. My economic team and I are working
hard on a number of initiatives which will help get the
economy going and provide much-needed jobs," Bremer
Bremer said one initiative is to launch a
US$70 million nationwide program in the next two weeks
to clean up neighborhoods and build community projects.
He also said the CPA would begin recruiting for a new
Iraqi army by the end of the month.
measures come after Bremer last month dissolved Iraq's
armed forces, several security bodies, and the defense
and information ministries, firing some 400,000 people.
The steps were meant to assure ordinary Iraqis that the
regime of former president Saddam Hussein has been
dismantled and former Ba'ath officials are being ousted
from positions of authority.
The dismissals have
resulted in some protests, with more than 3,000
disbanded soldiers marching on the CPA's headquarters in
Baghdad. The former soldiers said that they could no
longer feed their families and demanded compensation.
While promising new jobs programs, Bremer also
warned it will take time to turn Iraq's economy around.
He said factories are burdened by outdated technology,
which makes immediate increases in activity difficult.
"It is hard to overstate the chronic underinvestment in
Iraq's infrastructure over the past 30 years," he said.
"In almost every sector we look at, from oil to
electricity to water to sewage, we are finding
technology and machinery that dates back to the 1960s
and, in some cases, to the 1950s."
calling the economy his top priority may mark a shift in
focus for US officials, who until now often have
appeared preoccupied with Iraq's political issues.
Uppermost among those issues has been the question of
when the CPA might begin some form of power-sharing with
Iraqi leaders and how those leaders might be chosen.
The power-sharing issue was reportedly put on
hold at the weekend as a top US State Department
official told representatives of seven major Iraqi
political groups that an Iraqi leadership council to
work with the coalition will not be formed until some
six weeks from now.
Deputy Assistant Secretary
of State Ryan Crocker is also reported to have told the
seven parties - mostly former exile groups and the two
main Iraqi-Kurdish factions - that US officials have
decided to select the members of any Iraqi leadership
council rather than convene a large national conference
to choose them.
The reported US decisions come
after weeks of disagreements between US officials and
Iraqi leaders over how and when to share power. As
recently as late May, Bremer had announced that a
national conference was planned and would likely be held
next month. That date was already a month later than a
previous timeframe for forming the "nucleus of an Iraqi
government" originally announced by Bremer's
predecessor, General Jay Garner.
given no reasons for its change in plans. But some US
officials in Iraq have said privately that Iraq is not
yet ready for self-government. The Washington Post
reported late last month that "Bremer and his advisors
had concluded after weeks of little progress on
restoring security or creating a new political framework
that Iraqis wanted the United States to exert a heavier
hand, at least for now".
Iraqi political groups
are criticizing Washington's intention to select the
members of any leadership council. Spokesmen for the
Kurdistan Democratic Party and for the Shi'ite-led
Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq said
the seven major political parties still want a national
conference to choose who will advise the occupation
US officials have yet to describe
publicly just what powers they might share with any
Iraqi advisory body. The news agency Agence France
Presse reported a senior US official in Baghdad as
saying privately that the leadership council would
consist of 25 to 30 members who would advise the CPA on
economic and policy issues and name key advisers to
Iraq's ministries. Those advisers would work in close
coordination with the coalition's own overseers of the
The agency quoted the US official as
saying, "This council will emerge as the face of the
Iraqi people in its interactions with the Coalition
Provisional Authority." But he stressed that the council
will not be a "sovereign government". He said that
"ultimate authority" will remain with the occupation
powers until power can be handed over to a
democratically-elected government at some unspecified
time in the future.
The agency notes that the
CPA relies on unnamed spokesmen to leak details of its
plans for postwar Iraq to the media but rarely speaks
about them publicly, perhaps to keep all options open.
Some analysts say US officials see American control of
Iraq's reconstruction as the surest way to create a
functioning state in Iraq that clearly breaks with its
Saddam-era past and has democratic institutions.
Thomas Carothers of the Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace in Washington, DC, describes that
view by saying, "The whole world is watching to see -
can the United States build a democracy in Iraq? It is
very important for everybody to realize that first there
needs to be a state in Iraq and a state in which there
is security for citizens."
He continues: "Iraq
needs to move ahead and, given that there is no
government, the Americans are going to be making
decisions about their oil policy, decisions about the
reconstruction of their ministries, decisions about
their financial policies. So we are talking about a real
American administration of Iraq for probably at least a
year [and] potentially longer."
in his remarks that any timeline for turning full power
over to Iraqi leaders has yet to be set. He said, "You
cannot have a new government until you have elections
and the beginning of responsible government here. I am
not going to set any artificial datelines - it is too
NCA intern Sterling Wright in
Washington, DC, contributed to this report.
Copyright (c) 2002, RFE/RL Inc. Reprinted
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