The Magazine

The Government of Free Iraq

It's in London--for now.

Dec 16, 2002, Vol. 8, No. 14 • By JED BABBIN
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

That lack of understanding may soon be moot. On December 2, President Bush named of one Chalabi's friends, Zalmay Khalilzad, "special envoy and ambassador-at-large for free Iraqis." Khalilzad, also a friend of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, worked for National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and had considerable direct contact with the president. Khalilzad's appointment can only be good news for Chalabi and the INC. Because his access to Rice--and, at least indirectly, to the president--will continue, his ideas on how Iraq's new government should be shaped will be heard.

Chalabi wants American involvement in postwar reconstruction. He believes that 25,000 to 50,000 American troops should stay to protect the Iraqis' ability to hold a free election and establish a parliamentary democracy. American troops, he says, should "foster and guarantee" the building of the Iraqi democracy, and help rebuild its defense forces.

Chalabi is probably right about Iran and the mullahs, but he is cagey about the rest. The Russians are owed about $8 billion by Saddam, and the French are dependent on Iraqi oil. Germany, whose high tech companies are supplying Saddam with technology even now, will want to keep the business going. When I asked him how the French and Russians would be influencing a new government, he smiled and said that the Iraqi opposition is "conscious" of those deals. These "allies" of ours will work hard to influence the formation of the new government to protect their investments and contracts. We need to work even harder to prevent them from imposing in Iraq the kind of anti-American trade policies that the European Union now proclaims proudly.

Chalabi's weakness seems to be his optimism about how quickly a new government can be formed. It took postwar Germany six years to form a stable government. Iraq will not be destroyed as Germany was. But Germany, for all its weakness, did not have Hitler's trading partners to deal with. With the interference of Germany, France, and Russia, Iraq will face more complications than Chalabi is willing to admit.

We should promote democracy and freedom for Iraq, and not be shy about promoting them along the lines of the American model. And when it comes to participating in the new oil supplies opened by a free Iraq, we cannot be shy about reminding the new Iraqi government by whose grace Iraq is made free. If he is chosen to lead a new, free Iraq, Ahmad Chalabi seems unlikely to forget.

Jed L. Babbin, a deputy undersecretary of defense in the first Bush administration, is a frequent commentator on the Fox News Channel and MSNBC.