The Foreign Service Journal, March 2005

and contracting them out to large American firms, Barton wishes the U.S. had struck the deals with capa- ble Iraqis, and trusted them. But now, with insurgents engaging in intimidation campaigns against any Iraqis who work with the Americans, Barton says: “We can’t find [capable Iraqis], and can’t get out to find them. We missed the window.” The embassy continues to work with the military to help speed reconstruction. State has established a tem- porary program management staff under its Iraq Reconstruction Management Office that is charged with overseeing disbursement of the reconstruction funds. The office works closely with the Army’s Project and Contracting Office. A November 2004 report in the Washington Post indicated that the ranking Army general in Iraq, George W. Casey, and Amb. Negroponte have devel- oped a close working relationship, contrasting with the strained relations that existed between CPA head Paul Bremer and Casey’s predecessor, Gen. Ricardo Sanchez. The report said that senior embassy officials now attend Casey’s morning briefing and are kept apprised of military operations. After the military assault on Fallujah last year, embassy officials have been deeply involved in coordinating the reconstruc- tion, the Post report said. And in advance of the embassy’s opening, seven joint State-Pentagon assess- ment teams went to Iraq to plan the transition from the CPA to the embassy. Even so, security costs are eating into the recon- struction funds. Bechtel, the largest U.S. contractor, is spending 6 percent of its budget on security, and some of the grantees and contractors are spending as much as 20 percent of their budgets on it. State acknowledges that those numbers are rising. Last December, Contrack International, an Arlington, Va.-based engineering and construction firm, abandoned a contract that could have been worth as much as $325 million to rebuild Iraqi trans- portation systems, citing security concerns. It was the first U.S. contractor to withdraw from a contract. Still, CSIS’s Barton says the reprogramming showed “considerable wisdom.” U.S. reconstruction funding, he says, “has to engage more Iraqis and have a more direct impact on their lives.” Barton argues that the U.S. needs to give more funding directly to responsible Iraqi groups and allow them to take ownership of it. “There’s this rhetoric of saying we love the Iraqis, but we aren’t giving them any authority,” he says. But Barton worries that the time when U.S. agencies could identify responsible Iraqi groups — who could use the funds wisely — has passed. At this point, he says, groups that partner with U.S. agencies “are so exposed that unless they have phenomenal private security, they’re getting picked off, and that’s a hugely irresponsible position for us to put them in.” The Power of Symbolism The establishment of Embassy Baghdad was, in and of itself, highly symbolic. It marked the handover of power, at least in name, to the Iraqis themselves. The embassy would be there to support the efforts of the fledgling government, not to rule, as the CPA had. “We’re making a bet here,” said Deputy Secretary of State Armitage in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee last June. “The bet is that Iraqis are going to fight more enthusiastically for Iraq than they fight for occupiers.” But Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., who heads the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Opera- tions, says State had no fallback plan when Iraqis did not take charge as quickly as they hoped. “We’re con- cerned that they are not thinking outside the box,” Kolbe told the Los Angeles Times last year. “They are going about methodically setting up this embassy as they would set up an embassy in any country. … They have got to have a system where they can move quick- ly, where they can adapt. Instead, they have charts with lines and boxes. ... Nobody has run an assistance program of $18 billion ever in the world, and State is approaching this like it was an embassy in Kenya.” Despite concerted efforts by insurgents to force a cancellation, and the lack of enthusiasm of the Sunni population for participating, Iraq did manage to hold legislative elections on Jan. 30 and is in the process of forming a government. However, it is far too early to predict how much that accomplishment will go toward fostering political stability or improving the security situation. That being the case, despite the best efforts of its staff, it may be a long time before Embassy Baghdad will be able to function as a tradi- tional diplomatic mission. n F O C U S 26 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / M A R C H 2 0 0 5