U.S. Ponders Alternatives to Iraq Governing Council
Increasingly alarmed by the failure of Iraq's Governing Council to take decisive action, the Bush administration is developing possible alternatives to the council to ensure that the United States can turn over political power at the same time and pace that troops are withdrawn, according to senior U.S. officials here and in Baghdad.
The United States is deeply frustrated with its hand-picked council members because they have spent more time on their own political or economic interests than in planning for Iraq's political future, especially selecting a committee to write a new constitution, the officials added. "We're unhappy with all of them. They're not acting as a legislative or governing body, and we need to get moving," said a well-placed U.S. official who spoke on the condition anonymity. "They just don't make decisions when they need to."
Ambassador Robert Blackwill, the new National Security Council official overseeing Iraq's political transition, begins an unannounced trip this weekend to Iraq to meet with Iraqi politicians to drive home that point. He is also discussing U.S. options with L. Paul Bremer, civilian administrator of the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority, U.S. officials said.
The article goes on to say that the US is now considering proposals made by the French that they had previously rejected.
Meanwhile, back at the council:
Contracts Go to Allies of Iraq's Chalabi
Businessmen with close ties to a leading — and controversial — member of Iraq's Governing Council have won large contracts for the country's reconstruction, leading to charges by some council members and other Iraqis that the actions are fueling a cronyism that threatens to sabotage the nation-building effort.
The men are associates of Ahmad Chalabi, an American-trained financier who has close ties to senior Pentagon officials and is a prominent member of the council, the U.S.-appointed interim government in Iraq.
Although it is perfectly legal for entrepreneurs with ties to top government officials to land reconstruction contracts, the perception of favoritism is setting back the rebuilding effort in Iraq by discouraging some foreign companies from seeking contracts, Iraqi and U.S. businessmen and officials said in interviews in Washington and Iraq.
It is further damaging the image of a reconstruction effort already hurt by the granting of huge no-bid awards to the politically connected U.S. firms Halliburton Co. and the Bechtel Group, Iraqis said.