By Suzanne Freeman

Retired U.S. Lieutenant General Jay Garner waves to Kurds in the city of Irbil on April 23. (Photo: Hasan Sarbakhshian/AP Wide World)

Rebuilding Begins
By Suzanne Freeman

Monday, April 21—The Special Commissioner to Iraq arrived in Baghdad today to begin the process of rebuilding the capital city. The first priority for Ret. General Jay Garner is to get the lights back on and the water running.

"What better day in your life can you have than to be able to help somebody else, to help other people, and that is what we intend to do," Garner told reporters at the Baghdad airport after arriving from Kuwait.

Garner saw a Baghdad today on the road to recovery. Stores have reopened and people were sweeping up debris around the city. A food distribution facility was set up and a convoy of food for the animals in the Baghdad zoo arrived.

An interim police force of Iraqis and U.S. military is now working to restore order.

The process of establishing a democracy in Iraq will take about two years, according to the experts. Others say the process could take fiver years or longer. Most agree that before the first free and democratic elections can be held, a transitional government be put into place.

To make governing the country easier, the U.S. has split Iraq into three zones.

Power in the central zone will be focused on Baghdad and Tikrit. The oil-rich north will be run from Kirkuk and Mosul. In the south, Basra will serve as the center of political power.

An initial four-step plan has been drawn up, and is already being implemented, beginning with the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA). The ORHA opened in Kuwait City soon after the war began. Garner leads the organization that is charged with rebuilding the infrastructure, directing humanitarian aid, and setting up a new government. He moved his staff into Iraq during the fourth week of the war in mid-April.

The Four-Step Plan

Step 1. The ORHA will last about three months. Its main duty will be to replace Saddam Hussein's supporters in key government roles and to arrest the former President's senior allies.

Step 2. The ORHA will hand over control to a newly formed Interim Iraqi Administration (IIA). The IIA will be in charge for about nine months and will include 22 people, the same number of people in the British Cabinet. The ILA will form its own military. President Bush says the IIA members should be native Iraqis with only a few returned exiles.

Step 3. After nine months, a "Constitutional Assembly" will meet to agree on a new Iraqi system of government. This group will write the rules that will ultimately govern the nation.

Step 4. Once a constitution is written, a sovereign administration for the country will be established. Free elections should be held by the end of the two years of planning and rebuilding.

While bombs were still dropping over Baghdad in early April, meetings were being held in Northern Ireland, the U.S., and Russia to discuss the future of Iraq. Each of these meetings was independent of the others and brought up a central and unanswered question: Who will decide the future of this war-torn country?

The U.S. and Great Britain say the coalition that fought the battles should decide, but even they are not in total agreement. While British Prime Minister Tony Blair wants the UN to play a strong role, U.S. President George W. Bush says that UN participation should focus on humanitarian aid. The two leaders met in Northern Ireland on April 6. They issued a joint statement a few days later outlining their joint agreement, which still did not clear up the issue.

Bush and Blair jointly said that Iraq must be lead by Iraqis. It was the politically correct thing to say, but not exactly realistic, at least not in the short term. Who rules in the interim between when the fighting ends and the first free democratic election still must be decided.

Other Opinions

In Iraq, an exiled opposition leader returned to his homeland from the U.S. to demand a key role in a new government. Ahmed Chalabi, who heads the Iraqi National Congress (INC), returned to Iraq with 700 opposition forces. His troops joined the coalition battle for Nasiriyah. He held meetings with local dignitaries and tribal leaders in the area. Chalabi said he plans to travel from town to town to build support for his leadership.

Chalabi is a controversial figure, however, who has been exiled from Iraq for 40 years. Bush has stressed that Iraq's new leaders should come from those who suffered under Saddam Hussein's rule within the country's borders.

The leaders of countries opposed to war with Iraq met in St. Petersburg, Russia, in early April. France, Germany, and Russia want the UN to have the lead in determining Iraq's future.

"We are no longer in an era where one or two countries can control the fate of another country," said French President Jacques Chirac. "Therefore, the political, economic, humanitarian, and administrative reconstruction of Iraq is a matter for the United Nations and for it alone."

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan attended a meeting of the European Union in Athens, Greece, in mid-April. EU leaders resolved to increase pressure for the U.S. to turn over control of Iraq to the UN. France, Germany, and Russia were part of this meeting, too.

Part of the issue is who will have control of Iraq's rich oil resources. The U.S. has asked the UN to lift economic sanctions passed after the first Gulf War in 1991. Once the sanctions are lifted, the oil can be sold on an open market. The money from sales can be used to begin rebuilding Iraq's damaged infrastructure and establishing a democratic government.

The next big battle over who controls Iraq's future could well be played out in the UN as the Security Council meets to discuss lifting the sanctions. Bush said the regime of Saddam Hussein has "passed into history."

"Now that Iraq is liberated, the United Nations should lift economic sanctions on that country," Bush said recently while speaking to workers at a Boeing plant in St. Louis, Missouri.