International Papers

Who Will Rebuild Iraq?

Nine days into the war in Iraq, papers are already looking forward to the end of the conflict and to the fight over who will control the country after a coalition victory. As the Financial Times observed, “Given the depth of opposition within the Middle East and worldwide to this invasion, along with the widespread perception that … it lacks international legitimacy, a huge amount is riding on how Iraq is managed after the war.” The Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland wondered, “[W]ill the US have a road-to-Baghdad conversion and change its ways, swapping pre-war unilateralism for postwar multilateralism?”

The Bush administration has stated a preference for placing a U.S. civilian in charge of postwar Iraq, at least in the short-term, while the countries that opposed the war in the U.N. Security Council—France, Germany, and Russia—are expected to “resist endorsing anything that retroactively legitimises the Anglo-American invasion.” In his visit to the United States earlier this week, British Prime Minister Tony Blair pushed for U.N. involvement in the reconstruction of Iraq. The Financial Times encouraged President Bush to listen to his friend Tony—nothing could be worse for Middle East peace than having postwar Iraq degenerate into a failed state and full-blown U.S. occupation would lead to still more anti-American sentiment in the region. Some coalition forces will be needed to keep the peace immediately after Saddam’s fall, “But this phase should be as short as possible. It should then give way to UN civil authority, which should, in turn, pave the way for a multilateral force under US leadership to handle security. But the UN would provide the umbrella and legitimacy for the constituent political process by which Iraqis would decide how to share power among themselves.”

In France, an editorial in Libération encouraged those countries that opposed the war “to accept the invasion as a fait accompli and vote as soon as possible for a U.N. resolution that would open the way for the biggest humanitarian aid operation in recent history.” Both Moscow and Paris are tempted to reject such a move, but, the paper said, “It would be a mistake by France and the other anti-war countries to block U.N. involvement in Iraq. Likewise, it would be a serious mistake for the United States to try to sideline the United Nations in the post-Saddam era. So we must wish ‘good luck’ to Tony Blair in his attempts to convince Bush to abandon his imperialist isolation and entrust the United Nations with managing the aid as well as the administration and reconstruction of Iraq.” It concluded, “Placing the country under a U.N. mandate is the only way to end this war while preventing the open wounds of Iraq and the Middle East … from becoming even more dangerously infected.”

Not everyone was in favor of a U.N.-reconstruction, though. Britain’s Daily Telegraph asked: “Who normally reconstructs a country after a war? The victors. Why, then, is it being suggested that the United Nations play a key role in the reconstruction of Iraq?” The editorial wondered how an organization that never accepted that the war was necessary could preside over its conclusion. “The idea that the three nations whose men have died—the United States, Britain and Iraq—should have to submit to any form of rule by those whose men stayed at home makes no sense. And since such countries should play no role, they should reap no rewards—in contracts or in a say in the future shape of the region.” The Sun didn’t even want the United Nations to be involved in the provision of food aid: “The useless UN failed miserably to do anything to liberate the Iraqi people. The Security Council ratted on Britain and America and forced us to go it alone. … Blair and Bush should ignore the UN and let the liberated Iraqi people spend THEIR oil money to buy their own food and medicine. That way, they can cut out the corrupt European middlemen.”