June 08, 2003

Bremer Flexing His Muscles The

Bremer Flexing His Muscles

The WaPo has a piece up that appears to spell bad news for some Iraqi exiles hoping to pop back in-country and promptly assume the reins of power:

"Taking advantage of a recently passed U.N. Security Council resolution that gives the United States and Britain broad authority to run Iraq, the top U.S. civil administrator here, L. Paul Bremer III, said he intends to appoint Iraqis to a council that will advise him on policy decisions instead of endorsing the formation of a full interim government, which the former opposition leaders had hoped to lead. Bremer has promised that the council will include a spectrum of Iraqis and not be dominated by former exiles.

In a recent meeting with the seven leaders, Bremer told them they "don't represent the country," participants said. U.S. officials said he repeatedly asked the Iraqis to broaden their coalition to include women, Christians and tribal chiefs, but they failed to do so.

Rebuffed by Bremer, the former opposition leaders are quietly regrouping. One of the top two Kurdish leaders, Jalal Talabani, has left Baghdad. Chalabi's group moved out of the Mansour Hunting Club and into less prominent accommodations this week. His militia, the 700-member Free Iraq Forces, an American-trained contingent of paramilitary fighters, was disbanded last month on Bremer's order."

I never liked the idea of this 700 strong "Free Iraq" Chalabi militia hopscotching about whilst receiving directives from the Hunting Club (or London). Kudos to Bremmer for realizing, among other things, that Chalabi doesn't have any significant grass root support among the Shi'a and would not be viewed as a legitimate representative by huge swaths of Shi'a society. That's not to say Chalabi might not have important roles to play--but he won't (and shouldn't) be viewed as the Hamid Karzai of Iraq. The tricky part is whether there exist enough key Shi'a leaders who want to play ball with Bremmer's office to help him pull off the mammoth task (even aside from Kurdish and Sunni angles) of ensuring that whatever Shi'a individuals assume leadership positions aren't viewed as American stooges and are otherwise viewed as legitimate by the Iraqi people. Early indications continue to show how difficult the task is going to be.

Note too that while the maelstrom re: whether the Iraq WMD threat was overstated continues with great intensity-- other aspects of Iraqi goings-ons were exagerrated too.

Posted by Gregory at June 8, 2003 11:29 AM
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