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Pentagon Post-Iraq War Planning Foresees Elaborate Civil Administrative Operations - 2003-03-03

Bush administration planning for a possible conflict with Iraq is so comprehensive that working groups have been established for virtually every aspect of the country's civil administration in the post-war period.

Pentagon sources say the administration has set up various working groups that are looking at the future operations of all of Iraq's government agencies, from the Agriculture Ministry to Justice and even Information.

These sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, suggest some Iraqi agencies will be disassembled for political reasons, while others will remain largely intact, such as the Health Ministry.

They say such planning is in what is termed "the preliminary stage" involving officials from various U.S. government agencies, including the Defense Department.

But the sources say the specialists being recruited for the working groups include Iraqis.

The sources tell VOA the inclusion of Iraqis, such as Iraqi-Americans and Iraqi exiles, "may not happen" before key U.S. officials, civilian and military, involved in post-war planning "go over" to the region in anticipation of the start of a war.

One working group has been set up at the Pentagon specifically to deal with communications to the Iraqi people in the post-war era via their own, indigenous news media, both print and broadcast. It is headed by Robert Reilly, a former director of the Voice of America.

Officials suggest a U.S.-led information campaign in post-war Iraq would attempt, among other things, to discourage population displacement and reassure Iraqis about plans to provide emergency aid and restore public services rapidly.

The campaign will use transmitters that have already been sent to the Middle East for military psychological operations broadcasts.

Pentagon sources deny the depth of the U.S. planning for the civil administration of Iraq indicates that war with Iraq is now a foregone conclusion.

They call it "prudent planning" and say if it is not done now, then if there is a war, there will be not be enough time later.

Nevertheless, other administration officials call it foundation-building for the kind of broad-based, representative government that President Bush favors. They say such a government should be humane to its own people and not a threat to its neighbors, not have weapons of mass destruction and not support terrorism.

Bush administration officials say the responsibility for turning Iraq into a stable, peaceful democracy falls to the people of Iraq. Senior National Security Council official Elliott Abrams says the most the United States can do "is get this monstrous regime that is preventing" Iraqis "from doing that out of the way."