[ OUR OPINION ]
Presence in Iraq
needs international face
THE vicious bombing of the United Nations compound in Baghdad punctuated the need for increased security in Iraq and for putting Iraqis in charge as soon as possible. The Bush administration should either significantly increase the number of American troops in Iraq or, preferably, put a more international face on the current effort by supplementing it with soldiers from other countries under the auspices of the U.N.
The United States is asking that the U.N. Security Council approve a resolution to urge other nations to send troops and aid to Iraq.
Military and financial assistance needed from other countries is not likely to be offered while the U.S. insists upon being in total command of reconstruction in Iraq. Secretary of State Colin Powell is asking for a U.N. Security Council resolution encouraging contributions from former opponents of U.S. military action in Iraq without ceding any political or economic authority.
Under those terms, the council probably will reject such a resolution. In addition, an inflexible stance will appear to many that the United States is trying to exploit the Baghdad bombing to entice other countries to put their soldiers under U.S. command. The bombing took 23 lives, including the U.N.'s chief representative in Iraq.
Security Council members France, Germany and Russia are resisting such a resolution without a greater role for the U.N. Potential contributors of troops, such as India, Pakistan and Turkey, first want U.N. authorization. Russia and France, which have veto power in the Security Council, also have indicated they want more contracts for Russian and French companies in rebuilding Iraq.
"Sharing the burden and responsibility in a world of equal and sovereign nations also means sharing information and authority," said Michel Duclos, the French deputy ambassador to the U.N. That is a reasonable expectation with which U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan agrees. Annan said the presence of "a U.N.-mandated multinational force operating on the ground" would "imply not just burden-sharing but also sharing decisions and responsibility."
The Bush administration should be flexible in seeking a consensus for broadening the U.N. mandate in Iraq. Jack Straw, foreign secretary of Britain, America's chief ally in Iraq, said, "Although people's starting positions may be different, it is possible to reach a strong consensus."
The problem is complicated by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's insistence that no more troops are needed in Iraq, "that the force levels are where they should be." There are 139,000 American troops in Iraq and 21,700 from allied countries.
Disagreement within the Pentagon about troop levels surfaced in May, when Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, the since-retired Army chief of staff from Hawaii, said hundreds of thousands of troops would be needed to secure Iraq after the war. James F. Dobbins, a peacekeeping expert who was the Bush administration's special envoy to Afghanistan, said this week that the United States might need 300,000 to 500,000 troops to maintain stability in Iraq.