Thursday, April 15, 2004

Has the Bush administration finally realized that its plans for Iraq are a complete disaster?

U.S. Open to a Proposal That Supplants Council in Iraq

WASHINGTON, April 15 — The Bush administration accepted on Thursday the outlines of a United Nations proposal to dissolve the Iraqi Governing Council installed last year by the United States and replace it with a caretaker government when Iraqi sovereignty is restored on July 1.

Administration officials said that the proposal by Lakhdar Brahimi, the special United Nations envoy in Iraq, to create a new government of prominent Iraqis had many details to be worked out, but that for now it was acceptable to President Bush.

"I don't see anything at this point in what he's proposing that would be of concern to us," said Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, in an interview, adding that Mr. Brahimi's mission "thus far has been very successful."

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell also supported the plan, while Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, without explicitly approving it said it was likely to become a reality.

The Brahimi plan would replace the American-appointed Iraqi Governing Council with a transition government whose leaders would be appointed by the United Nations, after consultations with the United States, the governing council and other Iraqis. It could include members of the current governing council, but it is unclear how it would balance religious and regional rivalries within Iraq. By endorsing the Brahimi plan, the administration seemed to accept diminished American influence over the Iraqi political process as self-rule approaches and after power has passed back to Baghdad. The move was the latest abandonment of an element of the plan the Americans arrived at on Nov. 15, specifying the June 30 transfer.

While this is late in coming, it actual seems to represent some hope for the Iraqi people.

Up until now, the U.S. had been grooming Ahmed Chalabi for power in Iraq.

A seasoned lobbyist in London and Washington who studied mathematics at the University of Chicago and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mr Chalabi has been described as controversial, charismatic, determined, crafty and cunning.

Today, he has the backing of some top officials in the Bush administration.

His supporters include Vice-President Dick Cheney and senior figures in the Pentagon....

Mr. Chalabi seems like the kind of guy that Mr. Bush could get along with. Although he never worked at Enron...

For more than a decade, Mr Chalabi has been dogged by the collapse of a private bank he established in Jordan in the late 1980s, with the help of King Hussein's brother, Crown Prince Hassan.

Petra Bank, which became a leading private bank in the country, collapsed in 1990 amid allegations of financial impropriety by Mr Chalabi. Two years later, he was convicted of embezzlement and sentenced in absentia by a Jordanian court to 22 years in prison with hard labour. By this time, he had moved to Britain, where he had been granted citizenship...

There are many problems with the very concept of invading a country and imposing a government on that country. That said, however, there are probably a considerable number of Iraqis who would like to have a truly democratic government for their country. The United States missed a big opportunity to gain their support when Bush decided to groom people like Mr. Chalabi to take the reins of power in the new Iraq. It's difficult to convince people you are trying to bestow democracy upon them when you want to put a convicted embezzler in charge of their country. Perhaps it's too late to fix the big mess the United States has created in Iraq, but at least there is now some hope.


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