Post-war Iraq and Palestinian Road Map Bracketed at Belfast Summit

Even amid crucial battles in Iraq, US President George W. Bush has made the gesture of leaving his capital again this week for a second attempt to shore up his foremost war ally, British prime minister Tony Blair, in the fight for his political life at home. Although, according to the latest opinion polls, around 70 percent of Britons support their army’s participation in the Iraq war, Blair’s personal prestige is on the wane. Some diplomatic circles dubbed the Bush-Blair conference in Belfast this Tuesday, April 8, “the rescue Blair summit”, after last month’s Camp David encounter failed to turn the tide in his favor.
Blair believes he can win support by persuading Bush to allot the United Nations and Europe a major role in Iraq’s post-war administration and the disposition of its oil resources. He thinks Europe will be impressed if he can win the US president round to their perceptions of Middle East peacemaking. He is unlikely to get very far with Bush on either.
Interim Baghdad Regime Takes Shape
The Bush administration has set in train its post-war blueprint for Iraq without turning to partners. Three developments are worth noting:
1. The US President’s choice as head of the interim government in Baghdad is retired Lieutenant General Jay M. Garner. According to debkafile‘s Washington sources, a plan is in place for the creation of 14 “departments”, each headed by an American soldier, technocrat or diplomat supported by a staff of eight senior local officials representing Iraq’s religious-tribal-ethnic makeup. An advance group of American diplomats and technocrats is already standing by in Kuwait to start setting up the new authority. They all await presidential appointments.
2. Bush has still to decide between the opposing views of the leaders of the Pentagon and the State Department on the final shape of the interim administration, namely the ratio between its American and international personnel. Before the war – as revealed by debkafile on March 12, 2003 – he signed a military sector for the UK to govern in southern Iraq. The implied message here was that central government in Baghdad would be off-limits to non-Americans, even Washington’s most trusted allies.
Inside the Bush team, Donald Rumsfeld and Pentagon wants the interim government to be confined to American military, oilmen and experts, who will be supported by Iraqi appointee bureaucrats. The Pentagon and most other departments in Washington see all the $100 billion worth of contracts for Iraq’s post-war reconstruction and rehabilitation being handed out to American companies. The oil czar will hold the key post, his job being to redevelop and re-activate Iraq’s oil wells at top speed and bring the oil to international markets even before the fighting subsides. Pentagon leaders do not for a moment consider handing this post to anyone but an American oilman.
For their part, the State Department and Secretary Colin Powell see Iraq’s interim government as an amalgam of American and international rule, with hands-on roles for the United Nations, the Europeans and the Arabs. Their proposal for oil “minister is the Algerian oil minister Chakib Khelil, an appointment aimed at persuading the Iraqis and the Arab states that Washington will not be helping itself to Iraqi oil to defray the costs of war but will return this natural resource to the Iraqi people.
For now, the Pentagon, which rules the war arena and the Iraqi scene as a whole has placed a keep out sign for State Department officials bent on taking up posts in the interim administration.
No Handouts for War Opponents
3. The governments who opposed the American war in Iraq will be barred from partaking in its fruits. They fall into two groups. The first, led by France, Germany, Russia and the other nations, is seen as having fought the United States every inch of the road to the war, placing obstacles in every international forum, including the UN and NATO, and continuing to place cogs in the war wheel.
According to debkafile‘s Washington and Ankara sources, the Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan was persuaded by France and Germany to withhold the full-scale military cooperation that would have opened the northern front. This, according to the original war plan, would have shortened the war by reducing the hours of combat and the loss of lives entailed in taking Baghdad and Tikrit. French president Jacques Chirac and German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder promised Turkey compensation in the coin of admission to the European Union plus a hefty measure of financial aid. Powell’s talks in Ankara last week therefore yielded no more than grudging permission for the transfer of equipment – not manpower – through Turkey to northern Iraq, not enough to activate a northern front.
Nonetheless, French, Russian and German foreign ministers met in Paris last week with demands over and above a UN role in the reconstruction of Iraq; French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin criticized the awarding of contracts to US companies and said the work must be distributed “equitably” on the basis of public bidding.
The Arab governments who supported the American war effort belong to the second group of nations clamoring for a say in post-war Iraq. They are led by Saudi Arabia which, despite initial anti-war declarations, its de facto ruler, Prince Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, subsequently opened up the kingdom’s bases and air space to the passage of US troops and the staging of assaults in Iraq. Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak followed the same pattern of conduct. The big military base at Cairo-West and the Suez Canal became the two principal logistical arteries carrying US personnel and supplies to the combat units into the war arena.
In an interview with David Ignatius published in The Washington Post on April 4, Saudi foreign minister Saudi al Faisal said: “We think the worst thing that could happen after a war in Iraq is a military occupation.” He also warned: “All it would require is that the United States live up to what it promised – that it is not there to occupy Iraq; not there to steal the wealth of Iraq; that it is not there to impose its will on Iraq.” Speaking with great emphasis, the Saudi foreign minister declared: “It must allow Iraq to choose its government. It must allow Iraq to be what Iraq wants. And it must allow Iraq to use its resources as it sees fit.”
The message from Riyadh was clear: Now that you’ve won the war and got rid of Saddam Hussein, get out of Iraq and hands off our oil.
Post-war Iraq Key to Larger Scheme
All these demands and Tony Blair’s attempts to reconcile the diametrically opposed European, Arab and American approaches on Iraq will most likely fall on deaf ears with the US President. Bush and his team will reply that they did not set out to conquer one of the richest and most important Arab nations and expel its tyrannous regime in order to hand out plums to its adversaries – or even for private gain. Above all, the Bush administration has set out a blueprint for a new world order to rise after international terror is vanquished. Iraq’s post-war structure is meant to stand as a prototype for the next stages of this broad scheme.
That being the case, Bush will not be inclined to heed Tony Blair, Saud al Faisal, Hosni Mubarak, Jacques Chirac, Vladimir Putin, Gerhard Schroeder or Koffi Anan – either their views or their demands to play a significant role in the rebuilding of Iraq.
The same world leaders are just as unlikely to be afforded the lead role they seek in the diplomacy for settling the Israel-Palestinian conflict and forging a peace, a process allotted a space in the same broad scheme charted by the Bush presidency.
debkafile‘s Palestinian sources report a showdown last Thursday, April 3, between Yasser Arafat and the first Palestinian prime minister-designate, Abu Mazen, attended also by the Palestinian Authority’s incumbent interior minister Hani al Hassen.
Back from a few day sin the Gaza Strip, Abu Mazen asked to be relieved of the appointment. Arafat told him angrily he could not accept an historical appointment one minute and drop it the next. Sources close to Abu Mazen reveal that he has despaired of making inroads on Arafat’s powers and acquiring any real authority. And, as long as Arafat is in charge, Palestinian terrorism will continue to surge, closing the door to reform, an accommodation with Israel and any change in the fortunes of the Palestinian people.
At present, Israel lives with between 50 and 60 suicide terror alerts per day! Most are only averted by the presence of Israeli forces in very Palestinian urban center and constant round-ups, searches and surprise raids against terrorist strongholds.
Even if President Bush had decided to meet Tony Blair, the Arabs and the Europeans halfway by forcing the Quartet’s road map unamended down Israel’s throat, Arafat and his terror machine would sabotage any progress towards a settlement.

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