U.S.-funded building boom in Iraq attracts scant attention back home
When and if the smoke ever clears in Iraq, Pentagon officials say the world finally will see a minor miracle.
“Most Americans don’t understand something equivalent to the Marshall Plan has been accomplished in Iraq,” said Dean G. Popps, principal assistant secretary of the Army for acquisitions, logistics and technology.
The Army is the program manager for $20 billion in U.S. tax- payer money that flowed to Iraq after the 2003 invasion to spur a building boom of more than 4,000 projects.
Amid constant deadly threats from bloodthirsty insurgents, and without a viable Iraqi private contracting sector, the Army Corps of Engineers has supervised the construction of electric grids, health care centers, schools, water and sewage treatment facilities, police stations, academies and border posts.
Not counting the deteriorating security situation, no facet of the Iraq war has received more negative press than the U.S.- and Iraqifinanced reconstruction. The Washington Times, along with
approved by a weakened Lebanese government.
“We can add this to the list of Syrian killings of anti-Syrians in Lebanon,” said David Schenker of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Mr. Gemayel was the fifth anti-Syrian figure killed in the past two years.
“There is obviously a concern that a U.N. investigation would be so thorough and comprehensive it will get to the bottom of who killed Hariri and the other murders in Lebanon, and obviously there are some people very nervous about that,” Mr. Schenker said.
Syrian officials denied any involvement in the latest assassina- tion, which rattled a Lebanese government already battered by a wave of Cabinet resignations and the threat of street demonstrations by Hezbollah.
“Syria had nothing to do with this,” said Syria’s U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari.
But Amal Mudallali, foreign affairs adviser to the head of Lebanon’s largest parliamentary faction, said Mr. Gemayal’s killing had been carefully planned.
“The assassination is aimed at stopping the international tribunal,” she said. “It is the second time they have killed a Lebanese politician when the U.N. Council was meeting on Hariri — it is not a coincidence.
“This is a struggle for the future of Lebanon and it is being written today and the Lebanese people are writing it with their blood,” she said.
Following the walkout of five Hezbollah and one Christian minister on Nov. 11, the death of Mr. Gemayal leaves the anti-Syrian Cabinet with just one member more than the minimum to maintain a constitutional quorum.
“In Lebanon you are getting very close to bringing this government down,” said Mr. Schenker. “Only two more people out of 17 have to die.”
In broader terms, analysts saw the killing as part of a concerted effort by Iran and Syria to flex their muscles just as pressure is mounting in Washington for President Bush to seek their help in stabilizing Iraq.
Syria on Nov. 21 formally established diplomatic relations with Baghdad for the first time in 20 years, while Iraqi President Jalal Talabani was expected to travel to Tehran for talks as early as the Nov. 25-26 weekend. Syria may also be represented at that meeting.
“Iran is projecting its power in the region and sending a message to the U.S.,” said Robert Rabil, director of graduate studies at the political science department at Florida Atlantic University.
“It is an assertion of Shi’ite politics, and the Islamists, led by Iran, are using Syria to project their power in the region. So now Iran has a say in the Arab-Israeli conflict, and in Iraq now they have a strong say.”
Mr. Bush, in Honolulu on his way home from an Asian summit, stopped short of specifically blaming anyone for the assassination but pledged to defend Lebanon’s democracy “against attempts by Syria, Iran and allies to foment instability and violence in that important country.”
Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns said Washington viewed the murder as “an act of terrorism. We also view it as an act of intimidation.”
Hezbollah and its supporters quit Lebanon’s Cabinet on Nov. 11 after their demands for a larger role in the government were rejected. Hezbollah’s leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, has vowed to take the group’s cause to the streets and bring down the government.
Mr. Ginsberg said it would be a fallacy to think that Sheik Nasrallah was acting for strictly domestic reasons.
“He is a pawn of Iran,” Mr. Ginsberg said. “It is like watching a chess player — Iran — begin playing some very good matches. We had better stop playing checkers or we are going to wind up handing the Middle East over to our adversaries.”
Iraqi guards of honor carry flags during the funeral ceremony of Ali al-Athab, member of the political bureau of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, in Najaf, 100 miles south of Baghdad, on Nov. 19. Ali alAthab, a senior official with the largest Shi’ite political group, was gunned down in Baghdad on Nov. 18.