15 April 2004

Straying the course

Overviews of 9/11 World
JIM LEHRER: You are not suggesting that we pull out, are you?

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: No, I'm not. I'm suggesting that we ought to have a different strategy. I know your next segment is going to be on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. I think that issue is now conflated with Iraq. I think we will not be able to disengage unless we have progress on that issue and unless the U.N. and our allies are engaged in both issues, and they're not going to be engaged unless they have a share in the decision make. Look at the difference in Afghanistan and Iraq. In Afghanistan we have allies who are as numerous as we. We have Afghanis on our side who are really on our side because we helped them 20 years ago so and they feel grateful and committed. So we have Afghan allies, and we have a principal American there who is conciliatory and knows how to work with others. None of these three conditions apply to Iraq.

JIM LEHRER: Do you agree that it is possible to separate Iraq from the Middle East?

BRENT SCOWCROFT: I think it is; I think it is impossible. I probably don't think they're as closely conflated as Zbig does. The Arab attitude -- and in the end we need Arab help for Iraq -- there's no question about that -- the Arab attitude toward United States, toward what we are doing and so on is deeply influenced by the Israeli-Palestinian issue. And they see it every night on Al-Jazeera and other television. So their attitude to what we're doing in Iraq, and what our goals are, are inevitably influenced by the course of the peace process.

Brzezinski was Jimmy Carter's NSA. Scowcroft was Bush the Elder's.

Envoy proposes caretaker government through 2005

The United Nations envoy to Iraq, Lakhdar Brahimi, laid out a blueprint for Iraq's transition to sovereignty yesterday, proposing a caretaker government to shepherd the country to free elections by the end of January 2005.

Under the proposal, the US-appointed Governing Council would be dissolved when the United States hands over power June 30, rather than expanded to form an assembly as called for in an earlier proposal US administrators promoted. Brahimi said the caretaker government would include ''respected" Iraqis who would serve as prime minister, president, and two vice presidents to run the country in the short term.

''With the security situation that . . . has been prevailing for the last few days, I don't think you will find anybody who would tell you that elections can be held in such an atmosphere," Brahimi said at a news conference, warning that security forces must establish order for a peaceful transition of power.

The US has a simple choice. They did not establish security in the weeks after the defeat of Saddam's regime because they provided inadequate forces. That option (even if the US had troops to enforce it) is now gone. That means negotiations to establish a legitimate transitional government are the only option. I seriously doubt that Bremer is competent or capable of participating in such negotiations.

A February 2003 study by the US Army War College, Reconstructing Iraq makes interesting reading. The Pentagon was warned on the security issue.

A mass uprising against occupation forces is unlikely in the early stages of any U.S. occupation of Iraq, probably up to at least the first year.

The Pentagon was warned about the Iraqi economy.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, maintaining a force of between 75,000 and 200,000 peacekeeping troops in Iraq would cost between $17 billion and $46 billion per year.

The Pentagon was warned that oil revenues should be used.

None of these occupation costs should be funded by Iraqi oil revenues, which are expected to be diverted entirely to reconstruction efforts. Any effort to divert these funds to occupation costs would be viewed as an effort to plunder Iraq�s economic resources.

When these issues were raised, even by then army chief of staff General Shineski, the response was dismissal of the warning and of Shinseki. The occupation has been a bungled mishmash from inception and there is no sign that Bush has learnt anything or forgotten anything. The only person who benefits by the closue of al-Sadr's paper is Ahmed Chalabi. At some stage the Pentagon ahs to let go fo Chalabi or face civil war.

Evidently Brahimi knows this. That would explain his emphasis on the honesty of ITG members and Chalabi's virulent opposition to Brahimi's presence. There is no reason to think the US administration knows this or anything else about Iraq.

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