Iraq Occupation Plans Being Worked On

The Bush administration is working on postwar plans for Iraq that could include using American and other foreign troops as a stabilizing force until a new government is formed, the Pentagon said Friday.

"Clearly, security would be a concern in the early months," after the overthrow of President Saddam Hussein, said Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke.

Any plan would include a Defense Department role in finding and securing any weapons of mass destruction, she said.

"The United States will not cut and run," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said. "The United States and our allies are committed to find a way to help preserve the stability and maintain the peace of the region and particularly Iraq as a unified country in the event military force is used."

He said the United Nations might be called upon to help stabilize a post-Saddam Iraq, and did not rule out U.S. forces behind part of an international effort.

President Bush says he has not definitely decided on a military invasion to achieve his goal of ousting Saddam Hussein. But among a range of proposals being developed is the Pentagon's role and, for instance, whether a force might be American, comprised of whatever coalition joins in a war against Iraq, devised by the United Nations, and so on, they said.

There also have been suggestions that an Iraqi government-in-exile be set up before any invasion so it could be ready to take over sooner.

The plan is being developed by a number of U.S. government agencies.

Clarke said it was "way too soon" to say what plan would eventually be approved.

One plan being considered by the White House is based on the occupation of Japan following World War II and includes installing a U.S. commander to administer Iraq, perhaps U.S. Central Command head Gen. Tommy Franks in the role taken by Gen. Douglas MacArthur after Tokyo surrendered in 1945, The New York Times said in its Friday editions.

U.S commanders would oversee the beginnings of democratic transformation, The Washington Post quoted unnamed sources as saying in a similar story.

But officials said later Friday that such a plan is among the least likely to be approved of those being considered.

"That's not what's envisioned," Fleischer said.

A senior White House official said that while there are people in the government studying the idea of a military occupation, Bush and his foreign policy team "are not looking seriously at this."

He said Bush is committed to helping the Iraqi people establish a broad, democratic government.

Fleischer said military civil affairs units may help rebuild Iraq's infrastructure.

"The point is we want to very quickly transfer governmental power to the Iraqi people both from inside Iraq and outside Iraq," he said.

Some have warned that American military control of Iraq would enflame Iraqis and Muslims in other countries.

"I am viscerally opposed to a prolonged occupation of a Muslim country at the heart of the Muslim world by Western nations who proclaim the right to re-educate that country," former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said during Senate hearings last month.

"Some kind of peace force is absolutely critical, but peacekeeping is very different from having a viceroy or some kind of commission," Anthony Cordesman, Iraq expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Friday.

"Given Iraq's history, nothing could be resented more than if someone from outside, particularly from a Western state, takes over and dictates to Iraq" what they should do, he said.

Some officials suggested the occupation option may have been leaked by lower-level planners who wanted to kill it.

Others suggested that the idea is being floated publicly by some in the administration as the latest effort in a psychological campaign aimed at Saddam's generals. That is, they said, it suggests to them that they should join in the U.S. effort to topple Saddam or face being controlled by foreign military forces.

Officials have repeatedly warned in recent weeks that Saddam's forces should refuse orders to use chemical or biological weapons in any invasion. They also have suggested in public speeches and press conferences that the population revolt and Saddam and his family and inner circle voluntarily go into exile.

Official also have said previously that any postwar plan would also probably include war-crime trials for Iraqi leaders.

The Senate, early Friday, joined the House in passing a resolution granting Bush the powers to use the U.S. military to enforce United Nations orders that Saddam dispose of his weapons of mass destruction.

The resolution, which now goes to the president, encourages Bush to seek U.N. cooperation in such a campaign but does not require it.