| A Christian woman listens to a sermon by Pierre Whalton, bishop-in-charge of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe, in Baghdad on Friday. (Reuters)
Washington, Feb. 21: The Bush administration plans to take complete, unilateral control of a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, with an interim administration headed by a yet-to-be named American civilian who would direct the reconstruction of the country and the creation of a “representative” Iraqi government, according to a now-finalised blueprint described by US officials and other sources.
Gen. Tommy Franks, the head of the US Central Command, is to maintain military control as long as US troops are there. Once security was established and weapons of mass destruction were located and disabled, a US administrator would run the civilian government and direct reconstruction and humanitarian aid.
In the early days of military action, US forces following behind those in combat would distribute food and other relief items and begin needed reconstruction. The goal, officials said, would be to make sure the Iraqi people “immediately” consider themselves better off than they were the day before war, and attribute their improved circumstances directly to the US.
The initial humanitarian effort, as previously announced, is to be directed by retired army Lt. Gen. Jay M. Garner. But once he got to Baghdad, sources said, Garner would quickly be replaced as the supreme civil authority by an American “of stature,” such as a former US state governor or ambassador.
Officials said other governments are being recruited to participate in relief and reconstruction tasks under US supervision at a time to be decided by Franks and officials in Washington. Although initial food supplies are to be provided by the US, negotiations are underway with the UN World Food Programme to administer a nationwide distribution network. Opposition leaders were informed this week that the US will not recognise an Iraqi provisional government being discussed by some expatriate groups.
Some 20 to 25 Iraqis would assist US authorities in a US-appointed “consultative council,” with no governing responsibility. Under a decision finalised last week, Iraqi government officials would be subjected to “de-Baathification,” a reference to Hussein’s ruling Baath Party, under a programme that borrows from the “de-Nazification” programme established in Germany after World War II.
Criteria by which officials would be designated as too tainted to keep their jobs are still being worked on, although they would likely be based more on complicity with the human rights and weapons abuses of the Hussein government than corruption, officials said.
Although some of the broad strokes of US plans for a post-Hussein Iraq have previously been reported, newly finalised elements include the extent of US control and the plan to appoint a non-military civil administrator. Officials cautioned that developments in Iraq could lead them to revise the plan on the run.
Yet to be decided is “at what point and for what purpose” a multinational administration, perhaps run by the UN, would be considered to replace the US civil authority.
“We have a load of plans that could be carried out by an international group, a coalition group, or by us and a few others,” one senior US official. President Bush doesn’t want to close options until the participants in a military action are known and the actual post-war situation in Iraq becomes clear.
The administration has been under strong pressure to demonstrate that it has a detailed programme to deal with what is expected to be a chaotic and dangerous situation if Hussein is removed. The White House plans to brief Congress and reporters next week.
No definitive price tag or time limit has been put on the plan, and officials stressed that much remains unknown about the length of a potential conflict, how much destruction would result, and “how deep” the corruption of the Iraqi government goes.