Iraq plan should
involve U.N.


President Bush will inform the country of the administration's plan in Iraq in a televised address scheduled today.

PRESIDENT Bush is expected today to provide an update of the plan for rebuilding Iraq, and it should include an increased sharing of cost and responsibility with America's allies. Responding to public pressure after months of difficulty in achieving stability in Iraq, the president finally has chosen to seek support through the United Nations. The White House ought to be willing to place the reconstruction effort under the control of the U.N. in order to obtain military assistance.

A proposal carried to the U.N. Security Council by Secretary of State Colin Powell asks for U.N. support of the Iraqi operation, but it would keep the military force under American command and continue to vest political authority in the American civilian administrator, L. Paul Bremer III. It seems that it would become a United Nations operation in name only.

Not surprisingly, France and Germany, both of which opposed the U.S. military action against the regime of Saddam Hussein, expressed displeasure with the latest Bush initiative. "We believe that despite what we thought about the war and the way it was fought, it must now be our goal to create a perspective of stability and democracy for Iraq," said German Chancellor Schroeder. "Such a perspective can only develop if the United Nations takes over responsibility for the political process and if an Iraqi administration is installed."

Russia, which also opposed the U.S. military action, expressed support for the U.S. draft, although adding that "serious work needs to be done."

That work obviously consists of putting the reconstruction effort under U.N. control. It does not necessarily mean removing Bremer. A sensible solution would be to leave Bremer in some sort of partnership with the replacement of Sergio Vieira de Mello, the U.N. representative who was killed in the bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad. The U.N. should have the final say on political and reconstruction matters.

In return, the United States should retain control of military and security, but under U.N. auspices. That would satisfy the requirement by some countries of a U.N. mandate in order for them to send troops to Iraq. India is prepared to send 17,000 men requested by the U.S., and Turkey is considering sending 10,000.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld continues to boast of the "international coalition" of 30 countries now militarily involved in Iraq. However, the 140,000 American troops and 10,000 British are joined by deployments of only a few hundred from each of the other coalitions, for a total of only 10,000.

The financial burden also needs to be shared. The Pentagon estimates the cost of the military occupation at $4 billion a month, and the cost of operating the civilian government, along with the loss of oil revenues, is projected at $20 billion next year. It would be foolish to ask that other countries share in the cost if they have no say in how the money is spent.



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