WASHINGTON—The Bush administration began circulating a draft resolution Wednesday among United Nations Security Council members that calls for foreign countries to donate more troops and money to help stabilize and rebuild Iraq.
With U.S. soldiers dying daily and anxiety rising across America and in Congress, administration officials pressed Wednesday to sell the draft U.N. measure that would put multinational military units under U.S.-led command and require the United States to report to the United Nations about operations in Iraq on a regular basis. It also would urge Iraqis to set a timetable for elections and establishing self-rule.
"Today we have begun a new effort with respect to our diplomatic efforts to generate international support for Iraq," Secretary of State Colin Powell said during a hastily arranged news conference. "With this resolution, you're essentially putting the Security Council into the game."
Bush's decision to seek U.N. help, a dramatic shift in administration policy, was well received internationally and in Washington. But the administration's resolution faces several hurdles both at home and abroad. Domestically, the measure could run into fierce opposition from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who has insisted heretofore that the United States must run operations in Iraq effectively alone.
Rumsfeld met privately with Bush Wednesday; he was not present Tuesday when Bush gave Powell the green light to seek broader U.N. support.
"Rumsfeld and the vice president (Dick Cheney) want political, military, and economic control to remain entirely and absolutely in the hands of the Americans," a senior administration official told Knight Ridder.
Seeking help from the United Nations in Iraq was a major turnabout for the Bush administration, which has resisted ceding it much of a role since France and Germany led U.N. resistance to invading Iraq last winter.
Powell spent much of Wednesday phoning key Security Council members seeking support for a new U.N. resolution. He spoke with foreign ministers Dominique de Villepin of France, Igor Ivanov of Russia and Joschka Fischer of Germany.
Some political analysts believe the United States could encounter a "payback" factor at the United Nations, with countries that vigorously opposed the war placing obstacles in the resolution's path to punish the Bush administration for its stance on Iraq.
When asked what country would do that, a State Department official gave a quick response: "France."
But French officials indicated Wednesday that they do not intend to put roadblocks in the way of the administration's new resolution.
"We are in a positive mode, we have no problem with a multinational force under a U.N. mandate," a U.S.-based French diplomat said. "We are willing to have a European approach to reconstruction—we want a coordinated approach with coalition (countries) and at the same time an independent approach for funding reconstruction."
The White House hopes the resolution will persuade other countries reluctant to get involved in Iraq without a U.N. mandate to send troops and dollars to Baghdad. Administration officials pointed to India, Pakistan and Turkey as countries poised to contribute to the Iraq effort if the Security Council approves the resolution.
Both Pakistan and Turkey—the two largest potential contributors of Muslim troops—are willing in principle to put their troops under a U.S. general, as long as the security and political efforts in Iraq have a clear U.N. authorization, according to diplomats from both countries.
Pakistan is considering sending more than a brigade of 9,000 to 11,000 troops, and Turkey is contemplating a substantial contribution. Turkey, which has a long and sometimes bitter history with its Iraqi neighbors to the south, has sent several delegations to Iraq to test the waters, according to a senior Turkish diplomat who requested anonymity. The Turkish contribution would focus on humanitarian assistance to the Iraqis, with combat troops for security being a lesser focus, the diplomat said.
On Capitol Hill, Bush received broad support for a greater U.N. presence in Iraq.
"I'm very pleased that the administration has made the decision to go to the United Nations. It's been a long time in coming," said Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the Senate Democratic leader.
Still, some Democrats and even some Republicans criticized the administration for waiting too long to internationalize the effort to rebuild the country.
"We should have done this several months ago; we should have done it before we went into Iraq," said Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., a Vietnam veteran and influential member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Yet Bush also could run into opposition from conservative lawmakers, including some in his own party, who want to ensure that the administration does not give up too much authority to the United Nations.
"We want to make sure that American troops and American interests are preserved," said Stuart Roy, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas.
Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, also voiced reservations:
"This notion on the part of some of my colleagues is that all we need to do is get more international troops or put in the U.N. The U.N. is very good at peacekeeping. The U.N. is very good at humanitarian missions. But when there is no peace to be kept they become targets.
"If you get more foreign troops in there, obviously you have an international presence. Perhaps that will lead to more of a financial contribution, but if in fact they cannot do that mission, I think you are spinning your wheels.
"I don't oppose it (a U.N. force). I just think we have to be very, very careful about where we assign various foreign troops and the U.N. in regards to the mission at hand, which is anti-guerrilla warfare."
Some U.N. members say privately that they are wary about contributing peacekeeping troops and reconstruction money to Iraq while violence is still raging there.
"To put it bluntly, it's hard to ask countries to contribute to reconstruction while deconstruction is still going on," one U.N. diplomat said on condition of anonymity. "I don't think anyone wants the U.S. to fail. But I think the major factor is it's hard for other countries to explain to their publics why they should give troops or give money while there is still a combat situation."
The "separate but coordinated" funding approach endorsed by the French diplomat also was preached Wednesday by European Union External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten, a Briton, who urged U.N. members not to let bitterness over the U.S.-led war in Iraq cloud their decision on whether to approve the new resolution.
"The question before us is not whether we should be involved in the reconstruction of Iraq, but how we should be involved and what is required for it to be a success," Patten told a meeting of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, according to a transcript of his remarks.
(Knight Ridder Newspapers correspondents Warren P. Strobel, Sumana Chatterjee and Joseph L. Galloway contributed to this report.)
(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.