WASHINGTON April 14 —
By any normal gauge, the war with Iraq is over. Saddam Hussein's
government is gone, all key cities are seized, major combat is
winding down and two aircraft carriers are going home.
Yet major questions remain, including the whereabouts of Saddam
and any weapons of mass destruction and whether Iraqis can govern
themselves after a quarter-century of one-man rule.
The role of the United Nations or individual nations in Iraq's
future also is up in the air. The United States has invited its
coalition partners to talks on rebuilding Iraq but not countries
that objected to the war such as Germany, France and Russia.
Some of these loose ends could take months or even years to tie
up, analysts suggest.
But for now, nobody is disputing the immediacy or decisiveness of
the allied military successes.
Saddam's "regime is in disarray and no longer in control of
Iraq," said Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks at Central Command
headquarters in Qatar. At the Pentagon, Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal
told reporters Monday, "I would anticipate that the major combat
operations are over."
Administration officials basked in the details:
There have been relatively few allied casualties: As of Monday,
121 American and 31 British service members had died. Four American
troops remained missing. Eight U.S. prisoners of war were
All oil fields in Iraq were under coalition control. On Sunday,
Kuwaiti firefighters extinguished the last oil well fire in southern
Iraq. One was still burning in the north.
While looting continues and there are humanitarian concerns,
including shortages of food, water and hospital beds, there was no
mass exodus of Iraqi refugees.
With the U.S.-British military victory sealed, the world's
attention was shifting rapidly to the reconstruction of Iraq.
"Among all the unanswered questions, the most complex and most
relevant is how the Iraq people will help themselves establish some
foundation for democracy," said Phil Anderson of the Center for
Strategic and International Studies.
Iraqis have lived under Saddam's rule for 24 years and have
little experience in self-government. Already, tensions have flared
between Iraqi nationals and expatriates who are beginning to return.
The makeup of the interim Iraqi government envisioned by the
administration is undecided. The country includes three distinct
ethnic groups who mistrust one another.
"Our concern is that Iraq would disintegrate and fall into
sectarian strife and civil war," Mohammed Al Sabah, Kuwait's foreign
minister, told reporters Monday as he dashed from a meeting with
Vice President Dick Cheney to one with Secretary of State Colin
"So far, thank God, things have been holding up," he added.
Ethnic tensions in Iraq were accentuated by Saddam "as a way to
divide and rule," said Jon Alterman, a Middle East expert and former
secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs. This could make it even
harder to form a stable, eventually democratic, government, he
Still, Iraq's vast oil reserves the world's second largest after
Saudi Arabia will help any new Iraqi government solidify its power,
Alterman said. "Iraq's new government will get the money from that
oil. That makes it potentially strong."
As to Saddam's fate, many U.S. officials and military analysts
believe he probably died in last week's bombing that targeted him
and his sons. If alive, U.S. military officials say, Saddam is not
exercising any military control.
U.S. Marines on Monday seized Saddam's hometown of Tikrit, his
final stronghold, while Washington turned up the heat on Syria,
warning it not to shelter fleeing Iraqi officials or to advance a
mass-destruction weapons program.
While some U.S. forces were leaving including those assigned to
the carriers USS Kitty Hawk and the USS Constellation other ground
troops were just arriving, reflecting the end of the air war and the
new focus on reconstruction and security.
"For the last several weeks, we've had to worry about Iraqis
killing American forces. Now we have to start worrying about Iraqis
killing Iraqis," said veteran diplomat James F. Dobbins, who was
Bush's special envoy for Afghanistan. "It now falls to the United
States to reimpose order."
EDITOR'S NOTE: Tom Raum has covered national and international
affairs since 1973.
|A US soldier detains a hooded
man arrested in Baghdad, Iraq Monday April 14, 2003. The
suspect is part of a group arrested while driving a vehicle
filled with weapons. US soldiers and locals claimed that the
group were non-Iraqi Arab fighters. The American military
continue operations in Baghdad trying to secure control of the
capital city. (AP Photo/David
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