Quick Help With Iraq Unlikely, U.S. Says

Times Staff Writers

Few nations will soon contribute troops or money to rebuild Iraq, even if the U.S. succeeds in negotiating a new United Nations Security Council resolution, administration officials said Thursday.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell leaves today for Geneva to discuss a compromise that would trade some U.S. authority over Iraq for more international help. The United States initially resisted the idea of sharing authority in Iraq but shifted that stand as costs and casualties increased.

Now the Bush administration is warning that significant international help will not come quickly even if Powell strikes a deal at the Security Council, congressional, administration and diplomatic sources said. But a resolution could, over time, improve the diplomatic atmosphere and win more assistance.


“Those looking for a large number of personnel [from other countries] will probably be disappointed in the short run ... but the need for a Security Council resolution to form the basis for cooperation remains very, very important,” said Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The only countries seen as likely to send troops are Turkey and possibly Bangladesh. Turkey and India have both made the sending of troops conditional on a U.N. resolution. Neither France nor Germany, which opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, is expected to offer troops, and prospects are dim for forces from Pakistan, where President Pervez Musharraf is already under pressure for his close alliance with the U.S., the sources said.

Powell has said he hopes to get 10,000 to 15,000 international troops, enough for another division in Iraq, to supplement the more than 130,000 U.S. and allied troops there now. “We’re going to push very hard,” a senior administration official said.

European governments want to put the U.N. in charge of deciding the pace and manner in which Iraqis regain political control of their nation. The U.S. wants a mandate for a U.S.-led international force but would like the U.S. civilian authority to retain control over Iraq’s political development.

Meanwhile, hopes for financial contributions are fading, said the sources, who included Republicans and Democrats, foreign and U.S. officials, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity.

Powell and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told senators this week that the bill for postwar reconstruction in Iraq was expected to run $55 billion more than the $87 billion President Bush asked Congress to provide in his speech to the nation Sunday night.

Powell, briefing senators behind closed doors, used the phrase “donor fatigue” to explain the difficulty the U.S. is facing in getting other nations to pledge money to rebuild Iraq. The administration has not received as much financial support as it would have liked for the reconstruction of Afghanistan, a far less controversial endeavor.

When senators asked how Powell and Rumsfeld thought they could fill the gap, “they looked at each other and there was sort of an embarrassing pause,” a Senate official said. “Powell said maybe we’ll get a few hundred million from Europe [the European Union] and maybe a little help from Japan.”

Administration officials said they were optimistic about the possibility of eventually reaching an agreement on a proposed resolution -- though perhaps not as quickly as they had hoped.

But even if the U.S. gets a resolution, “we might not get much else,” a diplomatic source said.

In a briefing Monday to congressional staff on Capitol Hill, mid-level administration officials also tried to lower expectations for allied help in Iraq.

Two House Republican sources said an aide to Iraq civilian administrator L. Paul Bremer III said any financial contribution the U.S. could wrest from other nations toward the estimated $142-billion cost would be “gravy.”

“If that’s the attitude, then that’s not a real good attitude to take into Geneva,” one House source said, adding that the pessimism “did not go over well.... We were just floored.”

A senior administration official said Thursday that the U.S. did not expect much to happen in Geneva, where U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has asked representatives of the U.S., China, Russia, France and Britain to try to hammer out a common position on Iraq before the Sept. 22 opening of the U.N. General Assembly.

“The discussion will center on France, Germany and Russia putting their positions in sharper relief,” the official said. “Powell will be in a listening mode.”

Said another official: “We’ve found the Russians to be constructive ... the Germans to have a different attitude than the French, and the French suggestions so far appear to us to be a denial of reality.”

France would like to see power handed over “to a U.N. structure that sadly isn’t there and an Iraqi interim authority that doesn’t exist,” the official said.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the discussions in Geneva were not designed to hammer out text but instead to discuss how the international community could help Iraqis take over the running of their country.

Washington also is no longer confident that the resolution will pass during the first week of the General Assembly session. “It’s going to take a while to put language on the table,” the official said. Asked whether American diplomats were demoralized by the slow pace, the official replied, “It would be more depressing if it were dead entirely.”

But even if a U.N. resolution would yield no immediate contributions of troops or treasure, the U.S. should seek it, said Michael O’Hanlon, an analyst with the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. A resolution, he said, could improve the political atmosphere.

“This week’s conventional wisdom is wrong [in saying] we aren’t going to get help from our allies no matter what we do,” O’Hanlon said. The administration has “so poisoned the waters that we can’t expect help now even if we go to the U.N. ... but the allies would help us down the road if we do the right thing now.”

The administration also is disappointed in the response from countries invited to attend an international donors conference for Iraq in Madrid beginning Oct. 23. Only a few donors, including the Europeans, Japanese and United Arab Emirates, have signed up, the senior administration official said.

“People are queuing up to be observers but not participating,” said the official. “They are not coming with checkbooks or a can-do attitude.”

Another senior administration official confirmed that “people are working with us, but that’s a little different than writing checks.”

He said the U.S. planned to launch a diplomatic campaign soon to seek donations for Iraq’s reconstruction.

“Until now, we’ve encouraged and cajoled and pressed,” he said. “The next stage is saying, ‘It’s time to pony up.’ Madrid’s the time to bring the checkbook.”

Bush on Thursday reiterated his view that other nations have an obligation to participate in rebuilding Iraq.

“A free Iraq will be in their nations’ benefit,” he said. “It will make the world more peaceful, more secure.”