Monday, June 14, 2004


It's going to come as quite a surprise to those who haven't been paying attention.
With less than three weeks to go before sovereignty returns to Iraq, U.S. and Iraqi officials are saying that much of the transfer has already happened.

The new interim Iraqi government has been formed, the old Governing Council has been dissolved and the majority of the ministries, including some crucial ones such as oil, transportation and foreign affairs, have been turned over to Iraqi management.

Walid Saleh, planning director for the Water Resources Ministry, said his ministry used to be controlled by a team of six U.S. water experts. Now, Saleh said, these advisers have become "consultants."

"They work for us," Saleh explained. "They are very good technicians and they give us expertise. But we make the decisions."

Yet the process...provides the clearest preview yet of what the U.S.-Iraqi dynamic will be like after June 30.

On that day, Paul Bremer, the top U.S. administrator in Iraq, will most likely present a written declaration to the chief of Iraq's judicial council recognizing the nation's sovereignty and formally ending the occupation. After that, the two countries will resume diplomatic relations...

U.S. advisers say they have no more major decrees to issue. All the substantial political changes have been put in place. Several senior advisers to the Iraqi ministries are even leaving the country before June 30 because they say their work is done.

"June 1st was the big event," said one U.S. official, referring to when the new interim Iraqi government was announced.

Marc Sievers, a State Department official and senior adviser to the Iraqi foreign affairs ministry, said Iraqis recently chose diplomats to serve in the nation's 47 embassies. "We were shown the list, we weren't asked," he said. "That's a sovereign decision."

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