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Post-war plans – US-UK SPLIT ON THE ROAD AHEAD

March 28, 2003

by Stephen Fidler, Guy Dinmore

After the bitter diplomatic battle in the UN over whether to go to war in Iraq, another could be shaping up. This time, however, it could split the closest allies in the military coalition to unseat Saddam Hussein: Britain and the US. The issue: what to do afterwards.

US plans for Iraqi reconstruction suggest a minimal role for the UN. Britain, siding this time with its partners in the European Union, sees UN administration as essential to the postwar plans. Thomas Carothers, of the Carnegie Endowment think-tank in Washington, says the current US plan calls for “a military occupation rather than an international administration.” In the Pentagon, enthusiasm for the UN was lukewarm even before the bitter diplomatic fights over the use of force in Iraq. Yet leaving out the UN would be a big problem for Britain, according to minister of international development Clare Short: “Without a UN mandate, any belligerents would be an occupying army and have no right in international law to change any of the institutional arrangements of the country.” Speaking recently in the Azores, President George W Bush said the US was “committed to the goal of a unified Iraq, with democratic institutions”.

He added: “To achieve this vision, we will work closely with the international community, including the UN and our coalition partners.” He said UN security council resolutions would be sought “to encourage broad participation in the process of helping the Iraqi people to build a free Iraq”.

Not for the first time, a mixed message on policy is emerging from Washington. One reason is that there is much still to be decided. So far, the Pentagon plans a military administration in the immediate aftermath of the war. That would be headed by Gen Tommy Franks, head of central command, or a deputy, the Arabic-speaking Lt Gen John Abizaid. A central administration responsible for civil affairs would be created under Jay Garner, a retired general.

Existing Iraqi ministries would report to Gen Garner. A team of US “advisers”, many of them retired officials from the state and defence departments and the Central Intelligence Agency, would be flown in. They would operate within ministries, among other things vetting those staff seen as corrupt or as having close ties to the Iraqi regime.

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