Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2006 06:45:50 EST
*'An unbelievable mess': Memo from John Sawer, Blair's special envoy to
Iraq after Saddam's overthrow*
*Tuesday March 14, 2006
The Guardian <http://www.guardian.co.uk/>*
*Personal from special rep for Iraq*
*No 10: Powell, Manning, Campbell, Rycroft*
*FCO: PS/SOS, PS/O'Brien, PUS, Ricketts, E m, Chaplin, Chilcott*
*Subject: Personal: Iraq: What's Going Wrong?*
1. A Baghdad First strategy is needed. The problems are worst in the
capital, and it is the one place we can't afford to get it wrong.
But the troops here are tired and are not providing the security
framework needed. We need a clear policy on which Ba'athists can
return, a more concerted effort on reconstruction, and an
imaginative approach on the media. For all this, money needs to be
released by Washington. The clock is ticking.
2. Four days in Iraq has been enough to identify the main reasons
why the reconstruction of Iraq is so slow. The Coalition are widely
welcomed, but are gradually losing public support.
3. *Garner*'s outfit, *ORHA*, is an unbelievable mess. No
leadership, no strategy, no coordination, no structure, and
inaccessible to ordinary Iraqis. Bremer's arrival is not a day too
soon. Garner and his top team of 60-year old retired generals are
well-meaning, but out of their depth. *Tim Cross* is widely seen as
the only senior figure offering direction ...
4. It is clear that Baghdad is the biggest problem. Other parts of
Iraq are getting organised: there are minimal Shia/Sunni tensions;
town councils have been agreed in the sensitive cities of Mosul and
Kirkuk; and so on. But Baghdad has the worst security, a poor level
of essential services and no information flow ...
5. No progress is possible until security improves. Crime is
widespread (not surprising as Saddam released all the criminals).
Car-jackings are endemic. Last week the Ministry of Planning was
re-kitted out ready to resume work; that night it was looted again.
The evening air is full of gunfire. There is still a climate of fear
on the streets and that is casting a shadow over all else.
6. A big part of the problem is the US Third Infantry Division. They
fought a magnificent war and now just want to go home. Unlike more
mobile US units they are sticking to their heavy vehicles and are
not inclined to learn new techniques. Our Paras company at the
embassy witnessed a US tank respond to (harmless) Kalashnikov fire
into the air from a block of residential flats by firing three tank
rounds into the building. Stories are numerous of US troops sitting
on tanks parked in front of public buildings while looters go about
their business behind them. Every civilian who approaches a US
checkpoint is treated as a potential suicide bomber. Frankly, the
3rd Inf Div need to go home.
7. The military culture in the capital needs to change before their
replacements (another heavy armour division) arrives. An operational
UK presence in Baghdad is worth considering, despite the obvious
political problem. Transferring one of our two brigades is
presumably out of the question, but one battalion with a mandate to
deploy into the streets could still make an impact. *CGS* saw the
problem last Friday and can offer more professional advice.
8. Re-forming the Baghdad police ... needs to be accelerated. The
police need to start patrolling with sympathetic soldiers, rather
than with one police car sandwiched between four Humvees. Weapons,
uniforms, funds, vehicles, access to fuel and a functioning judicial
process are all problems.
9. The other fear among ordinary people in Baghdad is that the
Ba'athists could still come back. *ORHA* have made mistakes,
appointing quite senior party figures in the trade and health
ministries, at Baghdad University and so on. Several political
leaders I have seen say a line should be drawn at the "*firqa*"
level of the Ba'ath party and all those at that level and the three
above should be excluded, about 30,000 in all. Whatever, we need to
set out a clear policy.
10. With security and credible de-Ba'athification will come the
chance for durable reconstruction. Power is back, though is not
robust. Water is running but is not potable. 40% of Baghdad's sewage
is pouring into the Tigris untreated. A GSM mobile phone system is
desperately needed as communications are dire. Bechtel who have the
main contract are moving far too slowly.
11. Quick results projects are also needed to show there is
progress. We need visibly successful projects, however small:
schools and hospitals reopening, new bakeries, food distribution
points. That is not a substitute for long term development, but it
would meet genuine needs.
12. Baghdad has no TV, and no newspapers apart from party political
rags. I was given two fliers yesterday, one calling for the
assassination of all Ba'athists, the other for the killing of all US
forces. That, and rumour, are the only information flowing. An
*ORHA* TV project is due but its content will be tightly controlled
and it risks not being credible. I have pressed them, as a start, to
broadcast a Premier League game each day, but the Americans don't
yet get it.
13. More progress is being made with radio: the BBC (English and
Arabic) should be up on FM this week. But, as all political leaders
have stressed, Baghdad needs independent newspapers, radio stations
and terrestrial TV stations. One idea is to give satellite dishes
and screens to cafes so that people can have access to pan-Arab
channels - but it needs funding.
14. OFU-iA also needs a public face. Bremer's people already have
this in mind, as *ORHA*'s bunker image is painfully apparent.
*Funds and public sector salaries*
15. Finally, money needs to be available, not least to pay police
officers and public service workers. This is held up in Washington.
The US administration are refusing to release Iraqi money to pay
salaries. Decisions are needed on salary levels and which currency
should be used.
15. There are hundreds of small problems needing attention. But the
big five areas set out above, and security, is both the most
important and most sensitive. There will be an instinct in
Washington to allow Bremer time to find his feet. That will take
another week or more - and the clock is ticking. I will talk to him,
but will have to feel my way at first.
*Jonathan Powell* Downing Street chief of staff
*Sir David Manning* No 10 foreign policy adviser
*Alastair Campbell* head of press
*Matthew Rycroft* Tony Blair's private secretary on foreign affairs
*ORHA* Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, the
first US civilian adminstration in Iraq
*Jay Garner* retired US general who headed ORHA until replaced by US
diplomat Paul Bremer
*Major-General Tim Cross* Garner's British deputy
*CGS* British chief of the general staff, at that stage Sir Michael
*Firqa* Rank in the Ba'ath party just below regional command
QUOTATION FOR THE DAY to mark the death of Serbian strongman Slobodan
"I WONDER WHAT HE MEANT BY THAT?"
--A paraphrase of what Metternich said of the passing of Talleyrand