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Monday | May 26, 2003

UN criticizes US demobilization plan

UN chief warns of anti-American backlash in Iraq

Rory McCarthy in Baghdad
Tuesday May 27, 2003
The Guardian

The UN's most senior humanitarian official in Iraq warned yesterday that US attempts to rebuild the country were overly dominated by "ideology" and risked triggering a violent backlash.

Ramiro Lopes da Silva said the sudden decision last week to demobilise 400,000 Iraqi soldiers without any re-employment programme could generate a "low-intensity conflict" in the countryside.

"The reconstruction of minds is as important. We cannot force through an ideological process too much," said Mr Lopes da Silva, 54, a Portuguese UN official who served in Angola and Afghanistan before becoming the humanitarian coordinator in Iraq last year.

In unusually frank comments, he said the first three weeks after the collapse of the Iraqi regime were characterised by "talk about grandiose plans and a lot of promises but there were no decisions".

Since Jay Garner, the retired general appointed to lead postwar Iraq, was replaced this month by Paul Bremer, a former ambassador, decisions have begun to be made.

But Mr Lopes da Silva echoed the concerns of international aid agencies and the Iraqi people when he said poor security remained the overwhelming problem holding back the restoration of power, water and health services as well as the political process. "The situation is improving but law and order is still the key," he said.

It is clear many UN officials are frustrated to have been excluded from the running of postwar Iraq. Most of the decisions taken at the US authority's headquarters in Saddam Hussein's Republican Palace in Baghdad are made by Pentagon appointees who report to Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary.

Arab specialists from the state department have been largely excluded and while British diplomats have had some influence on decision-making, the UN has hardly been consulted.

Mr Lopes da Silva said the UN "disagreed" with some of the decisions made by the US-led authority in Baghdad.

He was surprised the decision to disband the Iraqi military had not been accompanied by an attempt to reintegrate soldiers into society

Low-intensity warfare means guerrilla warfare and dead Americans. This is an amazingly stupid act driven by politics and not the realities on the ground. These folks are not going to dry up and blow away and taking away their livelihoods while basically condemning them to poverty is asking for a new guerrilla army to form.

Given the stories of high level betrayal and payoffs, we're creating a situation much like post-world war one Germany. A smart person could run around talking about the stab in the back and the need to eliminate the traitors.

Another day, more bad news from Iraq.

Steve Gilliard

Posted May 26, 2003 09:08 PM | Comments (23)


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