September 14, 2003

Iraq: The Paths of Reconstruction

You will hear little more on SeeNotNews or Faux or
NotBeSeen than Calm 'Em Powell's immediate (what a
pitiful hollow idol he has turned out) rejection of
the French proposal as "completely unrealistic." So
here it is...infused with clarity of mind and the core
principles of both the Western Alliance and the UN
Security Council...The _resident had some trouble with
a pretzel in a mysterious White House incident...He
should chew his "Freedom Fries" carefully...France has
ended up on the right side of history, the _resident,
the VICE _resident and "all the _resident's men" are
going down in ignominy

Iraq: The Paths of Reconstruction
By Dominique de Villepin
Le Monde

Friday 12 September 2003

Iraq has just turned a page of its history with
the fall of the dictatorship and the hope of a better
future. However, a tragic sequence of disorder and
violence has taken hold. Attacks multiply. Fanaticism
and hate strike everywhere: the Jordanian embassy, the
United Nations and the Mausoleum of Imam Ali of

Hereafter, there is a real risk of seeing a chain
of failure, fed by the absence of any tangible
political prospect. This situation arouses a sense of
helplessness in the international organizations on the
spot and anxiety among all those who are there on the
ground. The most serious danger is the demoralization
and despair of the Iraqi people. Only a sudden change,
supported by the international community, will permit
an exit from this impasse.

The responsibility of each is clear. President
Bush demonstrated his willingness to open up and we
congratulate him for it. However, the proposed
resolution submitted to the Security Council testifies
to the still limited progress only in the role
allotted to the United Nations. We are in this regard
in an ever more paradoxical position. Can one ask the
UN to intervene further on the ground without giving
it either the ability to act or the indispensable
conditions of security? Can the proposed resolution,
in fact, be inscribed as a continuation of what has
already been done? Is that commensurate to the
situation? Is it the sort of thing capable of checking
the mechanisms of decomposition in Iraq? We don’t
think so.

Far be it from us to minimize the size of the task
and its complexity, or to entertain an illusion of
facility. However, we have a conviction: by pursuing
the present path, we run the risk of entering an
endless spiral. Time is limited. Immediately after the
war, the direct administration of Iraq by coalition
forces aroused, in spite of sustained efforts, a
persistent malaise in the population. Putting
essential public services back on track, repairs to
the infrastructure were delayed. Iraqis’ legitimate
expectations were disappointed.

Another path remains possible, putting the Iraqi
people in the center of reconstruction processes and
appealing to the international community’s

We all share the same goal: to establish stability
and the conditions for reconstruction in Iraq. France
is ready to work with the United States in the
Security Council and with the other countries engaged
on the ground for Iraq’s benefit. But it’s necessary
to depart from the ambiguity that would lead to a
failure for the Iraqi people, with the risk of
discrediting the international community. That demands
a radically new approach.

All the more so as it’s the whole region which is
threatened. We are aware that the problem goes beyond
the framework of Iraq: the stability of the
Arab-Islamic world is in play. In the Middle East, the
exclusively security-based option only maintains the
cycle of violence and of reprisals with the risk of
destroying any political prospects. This approach –
let’s have the courage to say it – leads nowhere. Far
from promoting stability, it stirs up resentments,
misunderstandings, and frustrations. Everywhere
terrorist organizations take advantage of the least
weakness to reinforce their establishment and feed a
violence that concerns us all.

How do we get out of this trap and create the
conditions for stability in Iraq? First of all, let us
acknowledge that the foreign presence in itself
constitutes a point of contention. Whatever the
goodwill of each, it crystallizes frustrations,
focuses discontents, and distorts the political
landscape: all the concerned parties define themselves
in relation to it, rather than mobilizing for Iraq’s
benefit. The reconstruction effort implies working on
clear bases and therefore that the present period of
transition have a fixed deadline. That is the key to
all progress.

It is, therefore, important above all to respect
Iraqi national feeling, nourished by thousands of
years of history and the bearer of the country’s
future stability. On the other hand, reinforcing
particularist or ethnic logics must be avoided.

Iraq is a territory of memory. Its attachments to
its traditions and identity have already led it to
reject the previously attempted impositions of foreign
trusteeships. All during the past century the result
has been jolts that have shaken the country to its
depths. From revolution to coup d'Etat, Iraq hasn’t
been able to find the peace it profoundly aspires to.

Today, it is urgent to transfer sovereignty to the
Iraqi people themselves, to allow them to completely
fulfill their own responsibilities. Then, the
different ethnic communities will find the strength, I
hope, to work together. Then, a step will have been
taken towards a greater justice: it is up to Iraqis,
in fact, to make the decisions which commit the future
of their country. But it’s also a question of
effectiveness: for the different communities, as for
the neighboring countries, only the prospect of a
sovereign political destiny can feed hope and allow
society to reconstitute itself.

Does that mean an immediate departure for
coalition forces? Certainly not, and numerous voices
have rightly been raised to underline that that would
create a worse vacuum than the present situation.
These forces could stay under the command of the
principal troop contributor. Must their composition be
enlarged? The essential, as we see it, is not to add
to the number of troops on the ground, but to define
their scope through a precise United Nations’ mandate,
limited in time, with regular, detailed reports to the
Security Council. One of the notable priorities today
is to secure the frontiers and stop infiltration. A
redeployment of coalition forces could be studied in
liaison with the Iraqis in order to respond to this
major risk.

Let’s speed up the formation of an Iraqi national
army along the lines of what we’re doing in
Afghanistan. That implies calling on a part of the
demobilized Iraqi forces, whose competence will be
indispensable for durably reestablishing security. In
the end, we could arrive at a division of tasks more
in conformity with Iraqi sovereignty and, no doubt,
more efficient: external security in priority for the
United Nations’ forces, internal security for the
Iraqi authorities.

In this framework and while the negotiation over a
new resolution begins in New York, we propose the
following sequence.

The present Iraqi institutions, that is, the
Government Council and the Ministers recently named,
would be considered by the United Nations Security
Council as the depositary of Iraqi sovereignty during
the transition period. After a very short time, for
example, a month, a provisional Iraqi government could
be constituted from these elements and executive
power, including economic and budgetary activity,
would be progressively transferred to it. A personal
envoy of the United Nations Secretary General would be
mandated to organize consultations with the existing
Iraqi institutions and the Coalition authorities and
to gather the support of the countries in the region.
This personal envoy would report to the Security
Council and would propose a timetable defining the
gradual transfer of power to the provisional
government and the modalities to achieve this
political transition.

This timetable ought to anticipate the stages of a
constitutional process targeting the submission of a
draft text before yearend. General elections could be
envisaged for as soon as possible, spring 2004.

France is ready to take on all her
responsibilities within this framework. As soon as
Iraq’s sovereignty is reestablished, an international
conference could be convoked to tackle together all
the problems linked to reconstructing Iraq. It would
aim to reestablish the coherence and efficiency of
international action on Iraq’s behalf. In the domain
of security, it would have to decide on the
contributions to a future United Nations force, as
well as to the formation of the army and the police.
In the same way, it would have to define the financial
aid commitments and assistance modalities to be
brought to restoring the Iraqi administration back to

Such is the thrust of the proposals we are
presenting to the Security Council. We do so in a
spirit of dialogue with the United States, as with all
our other partners. From Saturday on we’ll all be
together in Geneva, the permanent members of the
Security Council and Secretary General Kofi Annan,
convinced that the international community can build
its unity around a demanding and ambitious project.

This is an unprecedented challenge. It demands our
understanding and adaptation to the realities of the
terrain. It demands also that each agree to forget the
quarrels of the past and to renounce ideological
positions. The reconstruction of Iraq is a shared

Dominique de Villepin is the French Foreign
Affairs Minister.


Translation: Truthout French language
correspondent Leslie Thatcher.


Posted by richard at September 14, 2003 02:19 PM