Sunday, October 19, 2003

Iraq: Diplomatic advance

The Bush administration has received good news and not-so-good news regarding its policy in Iraq.

The good news is that the U.N. Security Council reversed itself after months of frowning upon U.S. involvement in Iraq. The not-so-good news is that even though the House and Senate approved the president's $87 billion request to support troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, Iraq will have to repay half the money set aside for its reconstruction. That's wrong.

We can be thankful, however, for the 15-member U.N. Security Council's diplomatic transformation. It approved a resolution that will authorize a U.S.-led multinational force to finish the mission in Iraq. It is unlikely that our allies will be offering money or troops to the effort any time soon. But the move may help the United States transform its image in the eyes of some Iraqis, many of whom now see U.S. troops as an occupying force rather than liberators. A change in our image may help decrease the almost-daily attacks on U.S. troops.

The sooner the provisions of the resolution are implemented, the quicker it can lead to the stabilization and eventual self-government of Iraq.

One of the provisions of the resolution is for the Iraqi Governing Council to come with a transition plan by Dec. 15. A successful democracy will take years to achieve, but international cooperation will expedite the process.

Meanwhile, having debt-ridden Iraq repay some of the money set aside for its reconstruction is a mistake. The State Department was right when it said loans would undermine Iraq's ability to recover and would be a disincentive for other countries to forgive debt.

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