- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 18, 2003

BAGHDAD — Andrew Bearpark finds himself at the center of a vicious power struggle here, one that has nothing to do with who gets to run the Iraqi Governing Council.

The British development specialist, who spent several years helping rebuild Bosnia and later Kosovo before coming to Iraq, is infrastructure czar for the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), the man ultimately responsible if the lights go off, the water stops running, the sewers back up, or the oil stops flowing.

In an impromptu interview in the hallways of the al-Rashid Hotel this week, Mr. Bearpark compared dealing with Iraq’s dilapidated and antiquated power and water systems to buying a $200 junker of a car and trying to rev it up to superhighway speeds.

The original owner, he said, knew all the quirks of limitation of the car, and could coax it out onto the roads.

“But when the new owner comes in, sooner or later he pushes that car too hard. And when you do that, the thing gives out and it isn’t coming back.”

Neglect, a decade of international sanctions, and the patchwork solutions that Iraq’s ingenious engineers devised to keep the utilities working have made the reconstruction task far more expensive and extensive than U.S. planners had expected.

The World Bank and international economists now estimate that it could take $30 billion in 2004 and 2005 to repair the country’s electrical, water and other systems, and Mr. Bearpark said that was only a rough guess.

President Bush’s $87 billion spending package now before Congress calls for $20 billion for civilian reconstruction and security for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

Walter Slocombe, security adviser to CPA head L. Paul Bremer, said yesterday that $2 billion will be needed for the building and equipping of a 40,000-man Iraqi army within a year.

Bush administration officials are anxious to enlist other nations in helping fund Iraq’s rebuilding, with a conference of donors set for next month in Madrid.

Japanese press reports yesterday said the government of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi will provide at least $1 billion in reconstruction aid, far less than the $11 billion Japan provided for military and civilian work in the 1991 Persian Gulf war.

Pledges from other countries have been slow to materialize.

Mr. Bearpark said that actual damage to Iraq’s infrastructure from the recent war was relatively light.

“Your smart bombs proved very smart, indeed,” he said.

But the infrastructure has been sabotaged by loyalists of the old regime and extensive looting in the chaos of the early postwar period that has proven far more devastating to the CPA’s efforts to generate electricity and keep oil pipelines flowing.

Just yesterday a new major fire broke out at an oil pipeline north of Baghdad, endangering shipments of crude oil from Kirkuk to the country’s largest refinery at Beiji. Investigators suspect the fire was deliberately set.

Mr. Bearpark said that improved security has cut the number of sabotage attacks in recent weeks.

But, he added, “it’s my feeling that the attacks we’re seeing now are more organized and sophisticated than in the past.”

So much copper has been looted by thieves from the country’s electrical power lines that it has actually caused a small dip in world copper prices.

And even when there is no criminal intent, the shopworn state of Iraq’s infrastructure has proven a frustration to planners.

A 25-year-old copper cable was blamed for a fire that struck the Hartha generating plant in southern Iraq. Shutting down that one facility meant electrical power in Basra, Iraq’s second largest city, was cut by two-thirds for a month.

Mr. Bearpark, who was appointed the CPA’s director of operations and infrastructure in June, said the coalition can boast some significant successes, with more power coming online and water and health services slowly but steadily improving.

Baghdad itself is receiving just short of the 4,000 megawatts of power the city maintained before the war but, even here, there is much work to do.

Planners estimate that a revived Baghdad economy will need at least twice that much power eventually, in a country where no new power plants have been built in more than a dozen years.

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