The top U.S. administrator in Iraq predicted Friday attacks against coalition forces will escalate over the next few months as the country prepares for a transfer from the occupation authority to a new Iraqi government. Meanwhile, President George Bush appointed longtime family friend and former Secretary of State James Baker III to restructure Iraq’s massive debt to minimize its drag on rebuilding.
“In the immediate phase ahead of us between now and the end of June we will actually see an increase in attacks, because the people who are against us now realize that there’s huge momentum behind both the economic and political reconstruction of this country,” L. Paul Bremer said in an interview with Associated Press Television News.
According to a Nov. 15 agreement between the U.S.-led coalition and Iraq’s Governing Council, caucuses will be held across Iraq to elect delegates who will convene by the end of May. One month later, the delegates will elect a transitional government with full sovereign powers, formally ending the U.S.-led occupation.
“The dead-enders can see that all this, plus the fact that the Iraqi people will get their sovereignty back, spells trouble for them,” Bremer said.
“So I think we will see a phase now when we will actually see increased attacks,” he said.
A total of 79 U.S. soldiers died in Iraq in November. Another 25 allied troops were also killed, making it the deadliest month for the coalition since the invasion of Iraq on March 20.
REINING IN IRAQ’S MASSIVE DEBT
President Bush on Friday named James Baker III his personal envoy to Iraq on the issue of that country’s $120 billion debt.
“Secretary Baker will report directly to me and will lead an effort to work with the world’s governments at the highest levels, with international organizations and with the Iraqis in seeking the restructuring and reduction of Iraq’s official debt,” Bush said in a statement.
Iraq’s huge debt, with annual servicing charges of $7 billion to $8 billion, is seen as a major impediment to reconstruction.
Bush said he made the appointment in response to a request by the Iraqi Governing Council.
“The future of the Iraqi people should not be mortgaged to the enormous burden of debt incurred to enrich Saddam Hussein’s regime,” Bush said.
“This debt endangers Iraq’s long-term prospects for political health and economic prosperity,” he said. “The issue of Iraq’s debt must be resolved in a manner that is fair and does not unjustly burden a struggling nation at its moment of hope and promise.”
Baker, a Houston attorney, is a longtime Bush family friend who has held several high government posts.
In the closely fought 2000 election, Baker headed up Bush’s strategy team during the recount battle in Florida, which eventually ended up in the Supreme Court and delivered the presidency to Bush.
He oversaw the presidential campaigns of Bush’s father in 1980, 1988 and 1992.
He served as President Reagan’s first chief of staff, and as treasury secretary in Reagan’s second term.
He left his post as secretary of state to serve as campaign manager in the first President Bush’s unsuccessful 1992 re-election bid.