American civilian will take charge of stabilised Iraq

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The Independent Online

The United States intends to take sole control of a post- Saddam Iraq and place a high-level American civilian in charge after the war for which the final arrangements are now virtually completed.

The United States intends to take sole control of a post- Saddam Iraq and place a high-level American civilian in charge after the war for which the final arrangements are now virtually completed.

Turkey signalled yesterday that it was close to agreeing to the deployment of up to 40,000 American troops on its territory, available for a second front to sweep down on Baghdad from the north.

With an attack next month seemingly inevitable, and with few doubts of an American victory, the focus is already beginning to shift to how a new Iraq will be built. And under what seems a final blueprint, officials in Washington are making clear that the country will, for a while at least, be a de facto United States protectorate.

According to The Washington Post yesterday, General Tommy Franks, who as chief of US Central Command will run the war, will stay in Iraq only until the security of the country has been established and the suspected chemical and biological weapons have been found and destroyed.

The humanitarian effort, of which the White House will give the first details on Monday, will initially be led by the retired US Army General Jay Garner. But he too will quickly make way for a new civilian administrator, perhaps a former state governor or ambassador, who will superintend the transition to an Iraqi government.

In the early post-war period, Iraqi troops will be held in PoW camps for vetting; those who had switched to the American side would be released first and trained to serve in a "post-stabilisation" force that would help in the transition.

America has told about 20 Iraqi expatriate groups that it will not accept the provisional government they had hoped to install. Instead it will run a "de-Baathification'' programme to purge members of President Saddam's party, akin to "de-Nazification" in Germany after the Second World War. But this raises one of a host of unanswered questions – the exact administrative level to which the former regime will be purged. According to current plans, a "large number" of existing officials would be retained. But the most senior officials involved in human rights abuses and programmes to make weapons of mass destruction would be ineligible.

Needless to say, the mooted plans have already raised the hackles of the exiled Iraqi opposition, which had presumed that it would be well placed to form the future government.

Uncertainty also surrounds the timetable for the transfer of power to a new Iraqi government. American officials have spoken of a two-year transition period but acknowledge that the process might take longer – perhaps years longer.

A third unknown is the role of Turkey in the post-Saddam arrangements, particularly for Kurdish northern Iraq, which Ankara does not want to become the nucleus of a new Kurdish state. Yasar Yakis, the Turkish Foreign Minister, said yesterday there was broad agreement with the US on the conditions for deploying its troops in his country. But he said some military, economic and political aspects had not been settled. Abdullah Gul, the Prime Minister, was also optimistic that a deal could be sealed "in the coming days".

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