- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 13, 2003

BAGHDAD — L. Paul Bremer, who arrived in Baghdad yesterday as the new U.S. overseer of Iraq, immediately set out to jump-start the reconstruction effort and overcome impressions of an organization in disarray.

Mr. Bremer, 61, will replace retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, who arrived in Baghdad less than three weeks ago. Other key staffers — including Ambassador Barbara Bodine and spokeswoman Margaret Tutweiler — are also leaving or have gone.

“We intend to have a very effective, efficient and well-organized hand-over,” Mr. Bremer said upon arriving at the former Saddam International Airport, now a major U.S. military base. He praised Mr. Garner and denied that he was leaving under duress.

Mr. Bremer, a former ambassador to the Netherlands, has been a terrorism and security expert and worked for the consultancy firm of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger before taking up the Iraq assignment.

Baghdad residents and some Washington experts see the appointment as part of a shake-up by the Bush administration as it tries to regain control of the country, which has slid into disarray despite Mr. Garner’s presence.

“There’s a new sheriff in town, and he’s likely to reorganize and reshape the team to his own purposes,” said Francis Brooke, political adviser to the formerly exiled Iraqi National Congress (INC), which has worked closely with the Pentagon.

State Department spokesman Philip Reeker confirmed yesterday that Miss Bodine left Baghdad for Washington yesterday to work in the department’s political affairs bureau. Miss Tutweiler also was called back.

Retired U.S. Ambassador George Ward, who was serving as coordinator for relief and humanitarian assistance, will return to his job at the U.S. Institute for Peace, Mr. Reeker said.

Although Mr. Reeker insisted the reorganization was “part of the natural order of things,” the U.S. administration had come under heavy fire for its slow progress in restoring civil order and services to Baghdad.

“Results in the early weeks have not been as good as we would have hoped,” British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told Parliament yesterday. Although he pointed out that increasing numbers of Iraqi public servants were returning to their jobs, Mr. Straw noted security in the Iraqi capital was unsatisfactory.

Criticism has grown steadily from Iraqis desperate for the return of basic services and an end to the looting and arson that has destabilized Baghdad and other urban areas. Most of the 5 million residents of the capital city have been without electricity, telephone service or reliable sources of water and gasoline for more than five weeks.

“The law-and-order situation is deplorable,” said another INC official, asking not to be named. “Baghdad is a mess. And it’s getting worse.”

Appointed by President Bush and answering directly to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Mr. Bremer is seen as a can-do person, free of the policy contradictions that beset Mr. Garner’s Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA).

“It is certainly a course correction,” said a former CIA analyst who follows Iraq closely.

Mr. Garner “didn’t really seize the reins and drive the whole process where it needed to go,” added the INC official, noting that Mr. Garner’s team had been an unworkable combination of representatives of different agencies within the U.S. government and civilians.

“This is a political war that follows the military victory of who actually wields power,” said one Senate source. “Bremer has a clearer idea of how to do that.”

In a show of support, Mr. Bremer was accompanied by Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman.

Impatience can be heard at every beauty parlor, coffee shop and marketplace in Baghdad, where frustration with the American occupation is replacing jubilation over Saddam Hussein’s ouster. Anger is also echoing from the bullhorns at public demonstrations and religious leaders at Shi’ite mosques.

Despite a rapidly multiplying staff and seemingly limitless resources, ORHA has gotten off to a faltering start, unable to restore basic public utilities, provide security or show tangible progress toward the creation of a transitional government to run Iraq.

Iraqi political groups complain they have to drive ORHA officials to meetings in their own vehicles because the U.S. government prohibits its own employees from driving around the city without a convoy of armed escorts.

Sharon Behn in Washington contributed to this article.

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