Iraq 'has three weeks to avoid falling into chaos'

By Patrick Cockburn

16 June 2003

Iraq needs a transitional administration within three weeks if it is to avoid a descent into chaos, the most prominent Iraqi leader acceptable to all sides told The Independent last night.

Adnan Pachachi, a highly regarded former Iraqi foreign minister who is expected to play a big role in a transitional Iraqi administration, criticised the heavy-handed US sweeps that have cost more than 100 Iraqi lives, calling them "an overreaction''. He said the Americans felt "very vulnerable and afraid''.

Mr Pachachi, 80, may be the only prominent opponent of Saddam Hussein who all sides are prepared to work with. He said the Americans were coming round to the idea of an Iraqi transitional administration with real authority but with the US and Britain as occupying powers. "The Iraqi people are impatient,'' he said. "They want an Iraqi government as soon as possible. The Americans can shift responsibility to it.'' Given the embarrassing failure of the US authorities in Baghdad to restore living conditions even to the low level enjoyed by Iraqis under Saddam Hussein, the option of giving some power to Iraqis is an one that clearly has its attractions for the US.

Mr Pachachi wants an interim administration to be set up within three weeks to prepare the way for elections and to draw up a constitution. The US wants to wait for four or five weeks.

He believes that the transitional period would last for about two years before a freely elected government could be in place. He said: "The Americans want to withdraw the bulk of their army within a year.''

Asked about the danger that any Iraqi administration under US occupation would be seen as an American pawn, Mr Pachachi said: "This might happen if it is perceived as a rubber stamp, but if it takes a strong stand then people will say this is as good an administration as we could get under the circumstances.''

He does not think there will be a general uprising against the US. He said: "There are sporadic attacks which are not co-ordinated. It wouldn't be easy to organise a countrywide revolt. I don't think that the people are ready for an uprising because they are dealing with an enemy which does not hesitate to use its massive fire-power.''

Mr Pachachi is probably right about the mood among Iraqis. But given the degree of force being used by the US army after a few small attacks, it might easily overreact to more serious losses, making the stabilisation of Iraq under its control extremely difficult.

c 2003 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd
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