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US strategy of 'Iraqification' controversial
( 2003-11-17 11:42) (Xinhua)

WASHINGTON: Amid an unusual atmosphere of urgency, the Bush administration has suddenly decided to embrace the so-called "Iraqification" strategy, a buzz word in vogue here in Washington, saying that it is seeking a faster transfer of power to the Iraqis.

Speaking to reporters at the White House on Thursday, US President George W. Bush said that he had ordered Paul Bremer, top US civil administrator for Iraq, to work out a plan with the Iraqi Governing Council that will "encourage the Iraqis to assume more responsibility."

"Ambassador Bremer, with my instructions, is going back to talk to the Governing Council, to develop a strategy," he said. "And he'll report back after he's consulted with the very people that we want to assume more responsibility," Bush added.

The decision came after Bremer, summoned back to Washington at short notice on Tuesday, held two days of urgent consultations with top administration officials at the White House amid escalating attacks on US-led coalition forces in Iraq.

This represents a major shift in US strategy in Iraq because, according to US officials, the administration has prepared to give up its constitution-first approach and seeks to hand over as much responsibility to Iraqis as is feasible, as rapidly as possible.

Among various options is the so-called "Afghanistan Model," which means the United States can support the creation of a reconstituted governing body in Iraq that will assume a large degree of sovereignty by next summer, while the writing of a constitution and elections will come at a later stage.

An alternate option will be holding elections in the first half of next year to elect a new representative body, which will produce an interim government.

The United States will transfer power to the interim government and the latter will rule until a constitution is written and a formal government is elected.

Analysts believe that at least four factors forced the Bush administration to overhaul its political strategy in Iraq.

The foremost factor is the security challenge, highlighted by the escalating attacks on US-led coalition forces over the past two weeks.

The latest major attack at the Italian base in Nassiriya Wednesday morning claimed at least 18 lives, which brings the death toll of the coalition forces to more than 50 this month. On Saturday night, two Black Hawk helicopters collided and crashed in Mosul, killing 17 American soldiers.

John Abizaid, commander of the US Central Command, said last Thursday that the US-led occupation faces no more than 5,000 guerrilla fighters, but that they are increasingly well organized and well financed, and are gradually expanding their attacks to the previously calm north and south.

A latest report by the Central Intelligence Agency which painted a bleak picture of the political situation in Iraq is believed to be the second factor that has rattled the Bush administration. The report warned that the Iraqis are offering more support to the Iraqi resistant forces because they are increasingly losing confidence in the US-led occupation.

The other two factors are the Bush administration's disappointment with the dysfunction of its hand-picked Governing Council and the US presidential elections just a year away, according to US officials and analysts here.

All four factors produced the new sense of urgency in Washington. "In an atmosphere of heightened violence and instability, Iraq urgently required a new political formula," a US official was quoted by local press as saying.

The sudden shift in strategy in the Middle East country, however, is quite controversial in the United States. Some believe that a faster transfer of power to Iraqis would make US-led forces look less like occupiers. As more and more US-trained Iraqi forces or police assumed security responsibility, the United State could think of troop reduction or withdrawal.

But some others say that the "Iraqification" strategy is a losing approach because a hasty transfer of power could be very risky and diminish US control over the country's future.

They also question the rationale that "Iraqification" could reduce the security burden of US-led coalition forces because the Iraqis could fight guerrillas better than the coalition forces. The hastily-trained Iraqis may not effectively challenge the guerrilla fighters, they argue.

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