PRAGUE - Washington is clearly hoping that by
reallocating some US$3.5 billion from Iraq's
reconstruction fund for use to improve security will
lead to a reduction in violence - especially with
elections just four months away.
would shift money away from Iraqi water, power and
other reconstruction projects to improve safety, boost
oil output and prepare for elections in January. The
move reflects changing priorities as an 18-month
insurgency continues with no signs of ending. The
insurgency is seen as the most serious obstacle to
Iraq's economic and political development.
the past few days, close to 200 people have died violent
deaths. These include Wednesday's clashes between
insurgents and US troops in the troubled city of Ramadi,
west of Baghdad, that killed at least 10 people and
wounded six. In Suwayra, south of Baghdad, a car bomb
blew up at an Iraqi National Guard checkpoint, killing
two people and wounding 10 others. On Tuesday,
guerrillas bombed a Baghdad shopping street full of
police recruits and fired on a police van north of the
capital in attacks that killed 59 people. In Baqouba,
northeast of Baghdad, gunmen in two cars opened fire on
a van carrying policemen, killing 11 officers and a
Julian Lindley-French, an analyst
at the Geneva Center for Security Policy, saidthe US move
to reallocate funds marks a change in strategy as the US
prepares some day to withdraw from Iraq. "I think what
is happening is that the [US] administration is
progressively realizing the scale of the task to achieve
a position where they can successfully withdraw from
Iraq, and that involves creating the environment for a
stable society," Lindley-French said.
Lindley-French said Washington wants to
achieve "a reasonable environment" prior to handing
over security to an Iraqi government. But he said
reconstruction projects are "fundamental for the future
of the country" and cannot be abandoned because of
Lindley-French said the US
administration's decision to shift millions of dollars
toward security is the only reasonable alternative and
in the end will result in quicker reconstruction. "If
you didn't do that, if you didn't make the effort [to
bring more security], the inevitable conclusion will be
chaos. Though it is very difficult, it's very tough and
it's very dangerous [to continue reconstruction
projects], the only way to provide the environment for
success is to drive through this and invest and guard
the people constructing the infrastructure - because the
alternative, frankly, is guaranteed failure,"
Colin Powell's pledge
US Secretary of State Colin Powell,
meanwhile, said on the weekend that despite the persistent violence
in Iraq, the US would stay in the country "to finish the
work that we started". He said the US plan to pacify
areas of Iraq controlled by insurgents will work. He
said halting the insurgency is "not an impossible task".
"work", incidentally, has now been branded illegal by
United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan. In an
interview with the British Broadcasting Corp (BBC), Annan said the war
was "not in conformity" with the UN Security Council or
with the UN Charter. He also said there could not be
credible elections in Iraq next January if the current
unrest continued. Asked if there was legal authority for
the war on Iraq, Annan said: "I have stated clearly that
it was not in conformity with the security council, with
the UN charter."
In his weekend remarks,
Powell did not elaborate on his plan, but he didn't need
to, according to Jack Spencer, a military-affairs analyst at
the Heritage Foundation, a private policy-research
center in Washington. Spencer told RFE/RL that the plan
Powell referred to has been in effect since coalition
forces deposed Saddam Hussein in April 2003.
Spencer said the Bush administration's plan has
never been to have Americans pacify the country, which
he calls impossible. Instead, the US military is trying
to give the Iraqis control of their own country - and
their own security - by helping to establish a
democratic system and a robust military.
Iraqi people can do it. The United States never would be
capable of, itself, defeating any sort of insurgency
because, I think, history has shown that's very
difficult to do," Spencer said. "The only thing we can
do is to help the Iraqi people empower themselves, and
that's what we're doing right now, training the Iraqi
security forces, removing Saddam Hussein to begin with."
The focus, Spencer said, is on national
elections to be held in January. The US and Iraqi
government forces hope to restore a semblance of peace
in the country in time for the vote, but there are
concerns that they will be unable to - and that the
election may have to be postponed by one month, two
months, maybe longer.
Spencer said the election
will be essential to empowering Iraqis, but he is less
concerned about when it is held, as long as it leads to
a representative government.
aspect of the insurgency is that police stations are
often targeted. Among the dead in an attack that took
place on Tuesday, for example, were Iraqi men lined up
outside Baghdad's police headquarters to apply for jobs.
Some say such attacks could hurt the effort to have
Iraqis take responsibility for their country's security.
However, Spencer said, "I think that we've been
having these problems for some period of time, and
they're still lining up [for police jobs]. And I think
that says a lot about the Iraqi people."
more pessimistic view of the insurgency is held by
Leon Fuerth, the vice-presidential national security adviser
during the administration of US President George W
Bush's predecessor, Bill Clinton. Fuerth told RFE/RL
that if the plan alluded to by Powell is the same one
that has been in place for over a year, then it may be
Fuerth said that US forces and the
current provisional Iraqi government must first reassert
political and military control of areas in Iraq where
the insurgents wield influence. But he noted that in two
prominent confrontations - in the mostly Sunni Muslim
city of Fallujah in April and last month in the Shi'ite
holy city of Najaf, they backed down rather than risk a
Both compromises, Fuerth pointed
out, have had less than satisfactory results. Now,
Fuerth said, Powell speaks of an unspecified plan, but
has not explained whether it will be more of the same
strategy, or something more confrontational.
"Does it mean his plan includes actually going
forward with an all-out use of force?" Fuerth asked.
"And if he does that, will things get better? Or will
they get worse because we will just spread hatred and
resentment of us. Having opened the door to this, what
does Mr Powell have to say?"
Fuerth said he
believes Iraqis are becoming angrier by the day with the
Americans, not merely because they believe they are
providing inadequate security. He said Iraqis are
fiercely nationalistic and are increasingly joining the
resistance as they perceive the US presence in their
country to be the problem, not the solution.
If Powell is privy to a new plan, Fuerth said, then let
him be candid about it. Fuerth said it is about time
the Bush administration devised an idea to restore peace to
Iraq. "I would like to believe that somebody's got a
bright idea on how to end this on terms that are
favorable, but right now that's not visible," Fuerth
said. "And Powell's saying that it can be done is just
one more in a long line of assertions from the
administration where the track record is they have
proved to be baseless. So what else is new? What would
be new now is to have an assertion from them that turns
out to be accurate."