Monday, April 07, 2003

A front-page story in the Nation at War section of Wednesday, April 2, by Sarah Lyall in London, "Most Britons Back the War, but Mistrust How the U.S. Is Waging It," says there is a difference in the way British soldiers and U.S. soldiers treat Iraqi civilians.

Lyall reports that "Lt. Col. Buster Howes, the commander of a Royal Marines commando unit in the southern Iraqi port of Umm Qasr, was quoted [in an article in the Financial Times] as describing the Americans as 'more standoffish' than the British and 'very nervous about going in' because of their experience in Somalia in 1993, when 18 American soldiers were killed during a disastrous operation in Mogadishu.

"His troops are being sent with relief supplies into the city's now quiet streets without flak jackets, wearing berets instead of helmets and accompanied by Arabic-speaking interpreters, in contrast to the Americans in their full combat gear and protective chemical warfare suits."

Those Who Seek Death update: "Kirkuk on the Horizon, and a Falcon and Shells Nearby," by C.J. Chivers, on page B6 of April 2's NYT, uses the term "pesh merga" again without a translation:

"The coordinated withdrawal appeared to present an opportunity for Kurdish fighters, known as pesh merga, to advance. Given their history, it was a worrisome prospect; in 1991, during an uprising in which Kurds briefly controlled Kirkuk, many pesh merga engaged in energetic looting."

Turning to the topic of Iraq's reconstruction, "A Retired Shell Executive Seen as Likely Head of Production" (online titled "Candidate for Production Job Is a Retired Shell Executive"), by Neela Banerjee, on page B12 on April 2, reports:

"A former chief executive of the Shell Oil Company appears to be the leading contender to oversee Iraqi oil production after the fall of Saddam Hussein, industry experts who spoke to the Bush administration said yesterday [Tuesday, April 1].

"Those experts said the administration was still developing a plan for American involvement in the Iraqi oil sector, whose fields and facilities are dilapidated but whose employees are widely respected for their professionalism within international oil circles. They said it appears that the executive, Philip J. Carroll, 65, would probably be responsible for Iraqi oil production, and that someone else would probably be named to run the refining and marketing of Iraqi oil.

"After leaving Shell, Mr. Carroll became chairman and chief executive of the Fluor Corporation, a construction company based in Aliso Viejo, Calif. He retired from Fluor in February, 2002, and now lives in Houston."

I'm sure a Googling of Fluor would reveal some interesting information. But I have to move on for now.

On the same page, above the fold, Elaine Sciolino's "Europe Assesses Damage to Western Relationships and Takes Steps to Rebuild" reports:

"European officials have scoffed at Mr. Powell's characterization of the role of the United Nations in the reconstruction of Iraq as that of a 'chapeau' (the French word for hat) that would give legitimacy to American decisions, and a 'vessel' through which international aid could be funneled.

" 'Some of the damage in the trans-Atlantic relationship can be repaired if the United Nations plays the lead role in Iraq's reconstruction,' a senior European Union official said. 'That simply won't happen if the United States thinks the U.N. is merely a chapeau for an entirely American-run operation.' "

And the most interesting article in the April 2 NYT, I think, filed by David E. Sanger out of Washington: "Plans for Postwar Iraq Are Re-evaluated as Fast Military Exit Looks Less Likely" (abridged online to "Plans for Postwar Iraq Are Re-evaluated").

Seems the expectation around the White House was that the war in Iraq would be done in 30 days. Now that it's clear that it won't be, Sanger writes, "senior administration officials involved in making plans for aiding the Iraqi people, rebuilding the country and creating a new government say that . . . the American military will likely need to retain tight control over the country for longer than they anticipated."

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said the plan is still: "The Iraqi people will administer Iraq." (Though note the indefiniteness of the oh-so-important "will" -- will when?)

"Yet in private," Sanger reports, "military officials, diplomats and some officials involved in planning the reconstruction say that the Iraqi resistance and the lukewarm welcome for American troops in the south is forcing a re-evaluation of some of those plans.

"White House officials say they have decided against announcing the creation of an 'Iraqi Interim Authority,' the seed of a new national government for the country, until Baghdad is seized and the remnants of Saddam Hussein's government are swept away. The turnover of local powers to Iraqis, a move that some in the administration had hoped would help encourage revolts against Mr. Hussein, will not be possible until cities like Basra are rid of paramilitary units, they say."

Meanwhile there is also a power struggle going on between the Department of Defense and the State Department: "State Department officials, speaking on condition that they not be named, complain that the Pentagon is seeking greater control over the roster of American officials who will be appointed as liaisons to oversee the operation of major Iraqi ministries."

And the last six, important, grafs:

"On Capitol Hill, however, even the Republican-controlled appropriations committees of both the House and Senate voted today [April 1] to take control of reconstruction out of the hands of the Pentagon, and give it to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.

"The committees voted to give the State Department and other agencies authority over the $2.5 billion in post-conflict aid that the Bush administration sought for the Pentagon under an emergency appropriation.

" 'The secretary of state is the appropriate manager of foreign assistance,' said Representative James Kolbe, an Arizona Republican. 'Bottom line: reconstruction is a civilian role.'

"In a closely related argument, a number of outside organizations that will be involved in distributing aid say that the military's efforts to control the process threatens their own workers.

"InterAction, an umbrella group for aid organizations, said that the Pentagon wants aid workers to wear identification badges issued by the military. The group says that would undermine the principle that aid groups are not identified with combatants on either side.

"Mary E. McClymont, InterAction's chief executive, said, 'The Department of Defense's efforts to marginalize the State Department and force nongovernmental organizations to operate under DoD jurisdiction complicates our ability to help the Iraqi people and multiplies the dangers faced by relief workers in the field.' "