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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Washington File

06 June 2003

U.S. Officials Tell Senators Iraq Reconstruction Will Take Years

(Say U.S. and the international community are firmly committed) (1140)
By Vicki Silverman
Washington File Staff Writer
Washington -- The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by
Senator Richard Lugar (Republican of Indiana) concluded its second
hearing June 4 on post-conflict Iraq. The hearing focused primarily on
the Bush administration's assessment of the potential costs and length
of America's direct involvement in Iraqi reconstruction.
The U.S. officials reported on the depth of decay in Iraq's
infrastructure since Iraq's economic zenith in 1979 and said the U.S.
and international efforts in Iraq were likely to take "years and not
months" to help Iraq meet its potential. Officials noted that all
parties had rallied to the effort.
Speakers for the administration included Alan Larson, the State
Department's Undersecretary for Economic, Business and Agricultural
Affairs; Dov S. Zakheim, the Defense Department's senior budget
expert; John B. Taylor, the Treasury Department's Undersecretary for
International Affairs; and Andrew S. Natsios, Administrator of the
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
Chairman Lugar said the committee appreciated the testimony of Deputy
Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and General Peter Pace May 22, which
helped clarify the current challenges facing the United States in
Iraq. He noted, however, the committee sought further clarification of
the "business plan" behind reconstruction.
"As we move into the expensive and complicated process of rebuilding
Iraq, Americans will want to know that their money is being spent
effectively and that other nations are contributing a fair share," he
Larson began by emphasizing the close, cooperative work among many
departments and agencies of the government to plan and implement the
administration's Iraq reconstructions policies. After Iraq's 25 years
of oppression and decline, he pointed out the numerous sectors -- oil,
telecommunications, agriculture, commerce -- that need significant
"It's going to require concerted efforts of the administration, the
Congress, our partners abroad and, most importantly, the Iraqi
people," Larson said. He underscored the international community's
interest in supporting a coordinated effort in Iraq embodied in U.N.
Security Council Resolution 1483.
The UNDP, World Bank, and the United States will be taking a leading
role in pulling together an initial meeting on Iraq reconstruction
issues in New York on June 24, Larson informed lawmakers. "While this
meeting is not a pledging session, it will set in motion a process of
collaboration in assessing needs and in mobilizing the resources to
meet those needs."
Larson told the senators that Iraq itself would share the cost of its
own development. "Among the sources of revenues available are $1.7
billion in invested Iraqi assets, the found assets in Iraq which
currently total roughly $600 million, and $1 billion of unallocated
Oil for Food money that will be deposited in the development fund for
Iraq," he said.
"Together these assets represent a substantial down payment on Iraq's
future, but the administration of Iraqi assets will require full
transparency and a high degree of political sensitivity," Senator
Lugar cautioned.
Treasury Department's Undersecretary for International Affairs John B.
Taylor underscored the challenge and commitment needed to modernized
Iraq's economy. "In 1979, GDP in Iraq was $128 billion. In 2001 it had
declined to about $40 billion. And income per capita has plummeted,
the people have been impoverished, and this is during a period when
the world economy has expanded," Talyor told the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee.
"There is no doubt success will be very expensive and it will take
years and not months," Undersecretary for Defense Dov S. Zakheim said,
emphasizing, however, the importance Iraq's entry into the world
community of stable, democratic nations.
During the day-long hearing, speakers also pointed to some of the
positive results of the administration's coordinated efforts in Iraq
over the past two months.
"Over 1.5 million workers and pensioners have received salaries and
emergency payments. Our financial experts in Baghdad report that
Iraqis and other observers consider this act alone to be a turning
point in the mood of many in the city. These payment have enabled
Iraqis to return to work to run the railroads, to teach school
children, and to help in the payment of other Iraqis," Taylor said.
"I think it's also important to emphasize that we have achieved
successes by avoiding catastrophic events that could have occurred, in
fact catastrophic events that we were concerned about, events which we
took actions to try to prevent. For example, instead of collapsing as
many had feared, the Iraqi currency has recovered from low levels at
the beginning of the war," Taylor said.
USAID Administrator Natsios enumerated the breadth of on-the-ground
reconstruction activities that his agency supports, from dredging the
vital Iraqi port of Umm Qasr to ensuring all the country's water and
sanitation treatment plants have chlorine.
"We bought 22 million doses of vaccines and we're beginning a mass
immunization of the children. That was also another neglected area for
4.2 million children and 700,000 pregnant women," Natsios told the
During the course of the hearing, several committee members sought
further clarification regarding the cost and efficiencies of the U.S.
military presence in Iraq through the next fiscal year. Senator Joseph
Biden, ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, spoke of
the need to better shape expectations regarding reconstruction.
"On the ground in Iraq I'm sure, Mr. Natsios, you've found the average
Iraqi looking at the awesome military power we have, does not
understand why we can't reconstruct as rapidly as we can
deconstruct.... And so the Iraqis are sitting there saying if the
United States really wanted to do this, the water and the lights would
be on, it would be like the Lord on the seventh day, you know. I mean,
and so that's a difficulty," Biden cautioned.
Chairman Lugar expressed his confidence in the U.S. government, both
the executive and legislative branches, to "stay the course" in Iraq.
"We're now talking about a successful Iraq down the trail," he told
fellow lawmakers June 4.
"Iraq is potentially that sort of situation in which we're going to
have to be successful. There really is no compromise in the event that
we're not successful with the weapons of mass destruction getting them
either secured or destroyed nor is there any option with regard to
sort of halfway with Iraq or Afghanistan," Lugar concluded.
The prepared statements the U.S. officials who testified before the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee June 4, on Iraq Stabilization and
Reconstruction are available at the following websites:
Alan Larson, the State Department's Undersecretary for Economic,
Business and Agricultural Affairs
John B. Taylor, the Treasury Department's Undersecretary for
International Affairs
Andrew S. Natsios, Director of the United States Agency for
International Development (USAID)
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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