NEW YORK – Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (search) on Monday called for the formation of a new international authority in Iraq to oversee the transition of power from a U.S.-led coalition to the Iraqis.
Clinton, D-N.Y., made the proposal in a foreign policy speech to the Council on Foreign Relations (search), a day after U.S. forces captured Saddam Hussein.
"This moment ... cannot be just about congratulating ourselves," said Clinton, arguing the United States government faces "a new opportunity" to internationalize the rebuilding effort by forming a new power structure.
Clinton traveled to Iraq and Afghanistan last month as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
"I am worried about the administration's announced plans to transfer sovereignty to the Iraqis by next July," she said. "The process coincides with the first major troop rotation, meaning that thousands of seasoned American forces will be withdrawn precisely during the time of great domestic sensitivity and even perhaps increased peril."
"That could be a recipe for disaster," she argued.
Instead, Clinton proposed the creation of an authority which would act as an "international bridge" to Iraqi sovereignty and "put a non-American face" on the process.
"Call it what you will, the Iraq Reconstruction and Stabilization Authority, or whatever name is chosen," she said. "It could include a proper role for NATO or the U.N. which would replace the coalition provisional authority which would add both military and civilian resources so that this was not just an American occupation."
Asked after her speech if she was seeking to delay the transfer of power, Clinton said she hoped such a new entity "could buy ourselves some time" for a smoother transition.
While the senator said she favored giving "preference" to American firms for reconstruction contracts, she criticized the Bush administration for barring lucrative reconstruction contracts to nations that did not back the war.
"So publicly prohibiting other nations from competition is unnecessarily antagonistic and may hinder our ability to gain support" for causes like Iraq debt relief and international financial aid, Clinton said.
Throughout the speech, Clinton urged Americans to be patient with the pace of U.S. military efforts, saying she worries "about how difficult it will be in the political arena to stay the course."
Suggesting American impatience has hurt efforts in Afghanistan, Clinton called Afghanistan the "forgotten frontline" in the war on terrorism, and urged a "ramp up" of efforts there, preferably with more NATO troops.
"Forgetting Afghanistan comes easy to us," she said. "We need more of a presence. We did not keep enough troops there and we have not gotten enough of our NATO friends to participate."