7 October 2003

New team to oversee Iraq effort

Publicly the White House says the new management group reflects the turn towards greater emphasis on reconstruction and political reform efforts that will follow passage of the president's supplemental budget.

But the president is also said to be frustrated with lack of a more solid sense of progress in the two countries. At the same time, opinion polls indicate similar frustration among an American public whose confidence in the president's ability to manage the postwar period is flagging.

Dissatisfaction has also surfaced within the administration over management of the Iraq reconstruction effort, with State Department officials especially unhappy at the fact the Pentagon was made the lead agency for rebuilding work.

But the new focus appears to be a tweak of the State Department as well, since it is running Afghanistan's post-conflict reconstruction.

That explains why a particular emphasis of the new coordination will be communication. Administration officials, moreover, have been frustrated that the public is not picking up on signs of hope in Iraq. 'There's a feeling in the administration that the great progress we've made in Iraq in may ways has not been reflected at home in the media, and they want to see that the word gets out better,' says James Phillips, a Middle East expert at the Heritage Foundation in Washington.

'Their real goal is to stabilize Bush's public approval rating,' says Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia. This, he adds, means 'sending the message [to people on the ground] to produce - and fast.'

A good first move for the Iraq Stabilisation Group would be a memo from NSA Rice directing everyone to read their memoes.

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