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Iraq sinks into postwar morass
June 18 2003
The United States-led reconstruction effort in Iraq is "in chaos" and suffering from "a complete absence of strategic direction", a very senior British official in Baghdad has said.
The comments paint a grim picture of American incompetence and mismanagement as the Coalition Provisional Authority struggles to run post-Saddam Iraq.
The comments were made as a US soldier was killed by sniper fire while on patrol in Baghdad on Monday evening. Forty-one soldiers have died in attacks and ambushes in Iraq since the main combat operations were declared over on May 1.
The British source revealed that Paul Bremer, the US administrator in Iraq, had "fewer than 600" staff to run a country the size of France but with a civil infrastructure on the point of collapse.
"The operation is chronically under-resourced and suffers from an almost complete absence of strategic direction," he said.
Similar frustrations have been voiced privately in London, where officials said the US had transposed Washington's inter-departmental fighting to Baghdad and ministers were said to be fed up with being "taken for granted".
For instance, the payment of salaries has been slowed down by Washington's inability to decide which currency to use - US dollars, the former regime's "Saddam dinars" or the so-called "Swiss dinars" used in the Kurdish areas.
In Baghdad, the senior British official said the chaos at the heart of the coalition was seriously hampering its ability to deliver vital services, such as salaries, electricity and security, to the Iraqi people.
"We are facing an almost complete inability to engage with what needs to be done and to bring to bear sufficient resources to make a difference," he said.
A dangerous gulf was opening up between the expectations of the Iraqi people and what the coalition was realistically able to deliver, the official said.
Some April salaries remain unpaid and the electricity supply is still extremely unreliable.
The heavy-handed presence of American soldiers and, perhaps more importantly, the lack of any visible Iraqi partnership in government is adding to resentment.
The official, who was involved in the planning for postwar Iraq from its earliest conception, said Washington had been caught out by the discovery that Iraq was no longer a functioning country.
The coalition arrived in Baghdad to find the ministries looted and destroyed and Iraqi civil servants "unable to make decisions themselves" after many years of living in a police state.
"They demand written authority to do the tiniest thing, as a consequence of living under Saddam," he said.
Within weeks it became obvious that the operation would take years, not months.
Joseph Collins, head of stability operations at the US Defence Department, conceded to congressmen last week that bringing order to Iraq had proved "tougher and more complex" than had been expected.
The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has appointed Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Britain's best-known diplomat, as his special envoy in Baghdad in an attempt to put some political muscle into the administration.
The Telegraph, London
This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/06/17/1055828331506.html