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James Schlesinger is a former CIA director and U.S. secretary of defense and energy. Thomas Pickering was U.S. undersecretary of state in the Clinton administration and ambassador to the United Nations. The following is drawn from the report of an independent task force on post-war Iraq they co-chaired and which was sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations.

By James Schlesinger and Thomas Pickering

NEW YORK -- In the wake of a war to remove the regime of Saddam Hussein, American interests will demand an extraordinary commitment of U.S. financial and personnel resources to post-conflict transitional assistance and reconstruction. These interests include eliminating Iraqi weapons of mass destruction; ending Iraqi contacts, whether limited or extensive, with international terrorist organizations; ensuring that a post-transition Iraqi government can maintain the country’s territorial integrity and independence while contributing to regional stability; and offering the people of Iraq a future in which they have a meaningful voice in the vital decisions that impact their lives.

But U.S. officials have yet to fully describe to the U.S. Congress and the American people the magnitude of the resources that will be required to meet post-conflict needs. Nor have they outlined in detail their perspectives on the structure of post-conflict governance.

These issues require immediate attention. Action must be taken in four key areas:

1. An American political commitment to the future of Iraq: The president should build on his recent statements in support of U.S. engagement in Iraq by making clear to Congress, the American people, and the people of Iraq that the United States will stay the course. He should announce a multibillion-dollar, multiyear post-conflict reconstruction program and seek formal congressional endorsement. By announcing such a program, the president would give Iraqis confidence that the United States is committed to contribute meaningfully to the development of Iraq and would enable U.S. government agencies to plan more effectively for long-term U.S. involvement.

The scale of American resources that will be required for peace, stabilization and reconstruction could amount to some $20 billion per year for several years. This figure assumes a deployment of 75,000 troops for post-conflict peace stabilization (at about $16.8 billion annually), as well as funding for humanitarian and reconstruction assistance. If the troop requirements are much larger than 75,000 -- a real possibility -- the funding requirement would much greater.

2. Protecting Iraqi civilians -- a key to winning the peace: >From the outset of conflict, the U.S. military should deploy forces with a mission to establish public security and provide humanitarian aid. This is distinct from the tasks generally assigned to combat troops, but it will be critical to preventing lawlessness and reassuring Iraqis who might otherwise flee their homes.

As women and children will constitute the majority of refugees and internally displaced persons, special efforts should be made to ensure that they are protected from sexual assault and that their medical and health care needs are met.

The Bush administration should sustain this public security focus throughout the transition. None of the other U.S. objectives in rebuilding Iraq would be realized in the absence of public security. If the administration fails to address this issue effectively, it would fuel the perception that the result of the U.S. intervention is an increase in humanitarian suffering.

3. Sharing the burden for post-conflict transition and reconstruction: The Bush administration should move quickly to involve international organizations and other governments in the post-conflict transition and reconstruction process. This move will lighten the load on U.S. military and civilian personnel and help to diminish the impression that the United States seeks to control post-transition Iraq.

The Bush administration will likely be reluctant, especially early in the transition process, to sacrifice unity of command. On the other hand, other governments may be hesitant to participate in activities in which they have little responsibility.

The administration should address this dilemma by promoting post-conflict Security Council resolutions that endorse U.S. leadership on security and interim civil administration in post-conflict Iraq, but also envision meaningful international participation and the sharing of responsibility for decision-making in important areas. The resolutions could direct the World Food Program or another international humanitarian organization to assume lead responsibility for humanitarian assistance (and involve NGOs and Iraqi civil society in aid management and delivery); indicate that the United Nations will take responsibility in organizing (with U.S. support and assistance) the political consultative process leading to a transition to a new Iraqi government; establish an oil oversight board for Iraq; authorize the continuation of the U.N.’s Oil for Food Program; establish a consortium of donors in conjunction with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, to consider Iraqi reconstruction needs as well as debt relief; and indicate that responsibilities in other areas could be transferred to the United Nations and/or other governments as conditions permit.

4. Making Iraqis stakeholders throughout the transition process: The administration should ensure that Iraqis continue to play key roles in the administration of public institutions, subject to adequate vetting. Continuity of basic services will be essential and will require that thousands of Iraqi civil servants continue to do their jobs.

In addition, every effort should be made quickly to establish Iraqi consultative mechanisms on political, constitutional and legal issues, so that the period of interim governance will be limited and will also be characterized by growing Iraqi responsibility on the political as well as administrative level.

It makes a great deal of sense to encourage a geographically based, federal system of government in Iraq. In northern Iraq, the Kurdish population has operated outside of regime control for more than a decade. While decisions on Iraq’s constitutional structure should be made by Iraqis, a solution short of a federal system will risk conflict in a future Iraq, and U.S. officials should encourage a federal structure in their discussions with Iraqi counterparts and with Iraq’s neighbors.

With respect to oil, the Bush administration should strike a careful balance between the need to ensure that oil revenues benefit the people of Iraq and the importance of respecting the right of Iraqis to make decisions about their country’s natural resources.

In particular, the administration should emphasize publicly that the United States will respect and defend Iraqi ownership of the country’s economic resources, especially oil. The removal of the regime will not alter Iraqi obligations under the existing U.N. Oil for Food Program, but it will likely result in the need for modifications. The administration should seek a new internationally sanctioned legal framework to assure a reliable flow of Iraqi oil and to reserve to a future Iraqi government the determination of Iraq’s general oil policy. A decision-making oversight board, with international and significant Iraqi participation, could be established to assist in implementing the new framework.

(c) 2003, Council on Foreign Relations/Global Viewpoint. Distributed by Tribune Media Services International.
For immediate release (Distributed 3/20/03)