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US Making Plans for Occupation After Saddam

In case you were wondering what the future holds for the Iraqi people. WASHINGTON, D.C.(NYT) -- The White House is developing a detailed plan, modeled on the postwar occupation of Japan, to install an American-led military government in Iraq if the United States topples Saddam Hussein, senior administration officials said Thursday.
The plan also calls for war crimes trials of Iraqi leaders and a transition to an elected civilian government that may take months or years.

Initially Iraq would be governed by a U.S. military commander -- perhaps Gen. Tommy Franks, head of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf -- who would fill a role similar to the one Gen. Douglas MacArthur had after Japan's surrender in 1945.

One senior official said the administration is "coalescing around" the concept, following discussions of various options with President Bush and his top aides. But the official and others cautioned that there had not yet been any formal approval of an occupation plan and that it is not clear whether allies have been consulted.

In contemplating an occupation the administration is scaling back the initial role for Iraqi opposition forces in a post-Saddam government. Until now it had been widely assumed that Iraqi dissidents both inside and outside the country would form a government, but it was never clear when they would take full control.

Thursday is the first time the administration has discussed what could be a lengthy occupation by coalition forces, led by the United States.

Officials said they want to avoid the chaos and infighting that occurred in Afghanistan since the defeat of the Taliban. Bush's aides said they also want full control over Iraq while U.S.-led forces carry out their principal mission of finding and destroying weapons of mass destruction.

The description of the emerging plan and the possibility of trials of Iraqi leaders for war crimes could be part of an administration effort to warn Iraq's generals of the unpleasant future they face if they continue to support Saddam.

Asked what would happen if U.S. pressure prompted a coup against Saddam, a senior official said Thursday, "That would be nice." But the official suggested the U.S. military might enter and secure the country anyway, not only to eliminate weapons of mass destruction but also to try to ensure against anarchy after Saddam's ouster.

The revelation of the occupation plan marks the first time the administration has described in detail how it would administer Iraq in the days and weeks after a possible invasion and how it would keep the country unified while searching for weapons.

It would put a U.S. officer in charge of Iraq for a year or more while the United States and its allies search for weapons and get Iraq's oil fields working.

For as long as the United States and its coalition partners administered Iraq, they would essentially control the second-largest reserves of oil in the world, comprising nearly 11 percent of the world's proven resources. A senior administration official said that the United Nations oil-for-food program would be expanded to help finance the country's stabilization and reconstruction.

Iraqis, perhaps in the form of a consultative council, would assist a U.S.-led military and, later, a civilian administration, a senior administration official said. Only after this transition would the U.S.-led government hand off power to Iraqis.

He said that the Iraqi armed forces would be "downsized," and that senior Baath Party officials who control government ministries would be removed. "Much of the bureaucracy would carry on under new management," said a senior administration official.



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