U.S. Troops Encircle Baghdad; Plans For Post-War Iraq Heat Up At Home And Abroad

Leader of restructuring, U.N. involvement in question.

[This story was updated on 04.06.03 at 6:50 p.m. ET.]

The whereabouts of Saddam Hussein remain unknown and Iraq's largest cities

have yet to succumb completely to coalition forces. Despite this current uncertainty, the debate over how to govern and rebuild a post-war Iraq picked up steam, both in

Washington and abroad, on Sunday.

Among the key questions facing policy makers: Which agency within the U.S.

government should take the lead in administering the peace? What role should

Iraqis who were exiled by the Saddam regime be allowed to play? And, perhaps

most importantly, where does the United Nations fit into the picture?

President Bush has designated the Department of Defense to take the lead in

the aid and reconstruction of Iraq, The Washington Post reported

Sunday. But Secretary of State Colin Powell has reportedly lobbied the White

House with a plan of his own about how post-war Iraq should be administered.(Click for map of the battlefield)

For now, members of Congress appear to be siding with Powell. The Senate

recently re-wrote parts of the $2.5 billion request for reconstruction aid

the administration submitted to Congress to ensure that State, not Defense,

distributes the funds.

"The secretary of state is the appropriate manager of foreign assistance,

and is so designated by law," said Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) of the House

Appropriations Committee.

There is also apparently no consensus on the role exiled Iraqi leaders

should play in post-war Iraq. Hard-line conservatives within the Pentagon

and elsewhere in the administration favor installing them in Baghdad as soon

as possible once the hostilities conclude, but the State Department and

others say that Iraqis within the country should take precedence over


Finally, there is the all-important question of the role the United Nations

should play in Iraq. In meetings with European leaders last week, Secretary

Powell said he believed the U.N. should be involved in some way, but

declined to commit to any specifics. Over the weekend, Deputy Secretary

of Defense Paul Wolfowitz staked out a somewhat different position.

Asked if he thought Iraq could be administered by the U.N. in the way that

international agency manages Kosovo, he said, "It's not a model we want to

follow, of a sort of permanent international administration."

Writing in The Washington Post, two key members of Congress advocated

for the involvement of the U.N. and of NATO.

"America need not and cannot take sole responsibility for the challenges of

a postwar Iraq," said Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE) and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE). "And we must not allow the U.N. Security Council and our Atlantic allies to

become casualties of war."

France, Germany and Russia have all called for the U.N. to be integrally

involved in post-war Iraq. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has expressed

similar sentiments. Bush and Blair are scheduled to meet Monday in Northern

Ireland. Undoubtedly, the shape a post-war Iraq should take will be on the


In addition, U.S. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice arrived in

Moscow Sunday for a series of talks likely to focus on Iraq.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, U.S. officials say American forces have encircled

Baghdad and now control all major roads into and out of the city of five


The arrival of U.S. ground troops at their doorstep has prompted thousands

of Baghdad residents to flee the capital. Reports indicate that Baath Party

and military leaders have been attempting to hide themselves among civilians

in convoys leaving the city. The U.S. has declared that it will allow no

traffic in or out of the Iraqi capital between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. local time.

U.S. officials now also say that all of Iraq's Republican Guard divisions

have either been destroyed or have disbanded (see "What Is The Republican



"The Iraqi military as an organized defense in large combat formations

doesn't really exist anymore," said Air Force Lieutenant General T. Michael

Moseley, who oversees the coalition forces' air campaign against the Iraqi


Still, pockets of resistance clearly remain within Baghdad. U.S. Central

Command released a statement Sunday that remnants of the Republican Guard

are holed up in various civilian landmarks in the city, including the Mother

of All Battles Mosque and the Saddam Hospital.

And despite the apparent setback, the Iraqi regime leadership remains

defiant. A statement attributed to President Saddam Hussein read on

television Saturday by his spokesman encouraged Iraqis to fight U.S.-led

forces. It also acknowledged that coalition troops were now focusing on

Baghdad, but encouraged Iraqis to resist.

"You must inflict more wounds on this enemy and fight it and deprive it of

the victories it has achieved ... you must rattle their joints and terrify

them and speedily defeat them in and around Baghdad," the statement read.

U.S. officials said Sunday that between 2,000 and 3,000 Iraqis

might have died in the fighting, including many civilians. One U.S. colonel

who took part in the action described it as "controlled chaos" to The New

York Times

Other recent key developments:

  • The U.S. landed its first plane at the recently renamed Baghdad

    International Airport on Sunday. There are now believed to be as many as

    7,000 American troops stationed at the airport, which serves as a base of

    operations for incursions into the Iraqi capital (see "Widespread Power Outage In Baghdad; Saddam Airport Under Siege").

  • Five Russian foreign ministry officials were injured Sunday as they

    tried to exit Baghdad. Their convoy came under fire along a road out of the

    Iraqi capital. Russia's ambassador was among those hurt. The U.S. expressed

    deep regret over the incident but said it had no troops in the area where

    the shooting took place.

  • British forces have pushed close to the center of Basra, in an attempt

    to finally secure the southern Iraqi city. They have met with only sporadic

    resistance, according to reports.

  • As many as 18 Kurdish fighters died in northern Iraq Sunday when their

    convoy was bombed from the air in an apparent "friendly fire" incident. A

    translator from the BBC may also have died in the attack. A total of five

    British troops and as many as nine Americans have died in fratricide

    incidents since hostilities began 18 days ago. Roughly one quarter of the

    148 American lives lost during the 1991 Gulf War were due to friendly fire.

  • Coalition forces may have killed "Chemical Ali," the Iraqi general

    allegedly responsible for murdering thousands of Kurdish Iraqi citizens with

    chemical weapons. Overnight, a U.S. precision-guided bomb was dropped on his

    home in Basra. The body of his bodyguard was recovered from the rubble


  • A second American reporter has died on the battlefield. David Bloom, 39,

    of NBC News was embedded with the Army's 3rd Infantry Division when he

    suffered a pulmonary embolism, according to the network. Bloom's death comes

    a day after Michael Kelly of The Atlantic Monthly perished in a

    Humvee accident in Iraq (see "Saddam Hussein Appears On Iraqi TV; First U.S. Journalist Killed

    "). Overall, Bloom is the sixth reporter to die in the


  • The U.S. confirmed that it has suffered its first female casualty. Pfc.

    Lori Ann Piestewa, 23, of Tuba City, AZ was one of seven bodies from the

    507th Maintenance Company that were recovered by U.S. Special Forces troops

    during their successful rescue of Pfc Jessica Lynch. Piestewa is also

    believed to be the first Native American to die in the conflict.

  • Lynch was reunited with her family at a U.S. military base in Germany.

  • Comedian Chris Rock has denied rumors that his movie studio told him to refrain from criticizing President Bush's policies toward Iraq during promotional interviews for his new movie "Head of State." The film debuted at number one two weekends ago.

— Ethan Zindler

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