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Analysts: Appointment of New US Special Envoy to Iraq Signals Shift of Emphasis - 2003-05-07

President Bush has put a new man in charge of Iraq's rebuilding. On Tuesday, it was announced that L. Paul Bremer, a former diplomat and counter-terrorism expert, would be special envoy to Iraq. The move places him above the current head of Iraq's reconstruction, retired U.S. general Jay Garner. The change signals a shift in emphasis in Iraq, and a desire by the Bush administration to speed things up there.

A retired career diplomat has supplanted a retired military officer as head of the U.S.-led Iraqi reconstruction effort. Analysts say the elevation of L. Paul Bremer as special envoy underscores a desire to emphasize a quick change to civilian rule in Iraq.

As special envoy, Mr. Bremer will oversee the work of retired general Jay Garner, head of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance. Officials here say Mr. Garner will remain responsible for the day-to-day rebuilding of infrastructure, while Mr. Bremer will concentrate on broader matters, such as getting a representative government set up and coordinating assistance from foreign governments and agencies.

Christopher Preble, director of Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, says there was a sense in the Bush administration that General Garner was not moving fast enough.

"The Bush administration is determined to complete the process of rebuilding Iraq as quickly as possible," he said. "And they're searching around for someone who will move quickly to do that. General Garner was moving relatively quickly, but my sense is that it wasn't quick enough. And the Bush administration really wants to get this problem behind them and move on to the next thing."

Mr. Bremer, 61, is a 23-year diplomatic veteran who served under six secretaries of state. His last government post was as ambassador at large for counter-terrorism matters in the Reagan administration. In 1999, he was named chairman of a National Commission on Terrorism.

Judith Kipper, director of the Middle East Forum of the Council on Foreign Relations, says the Bush administration realized it needed a diplomat heading up Iraqi reconstruction efforts.

"Well, I think that they needed somebody who has the diplomatic background and who can coordinate among the U.S. and various other agencies that are now involved in putting Iraq back together," she said. "And I don't see any other reason for the appointment, other than it adds another set of hands."

Much has been written and spoken in U.S. media about the so-called turf war between the State and Defense Departments over control of the Iraqi reconstruction effort. Mr. Preble says, however, the Bremer appointment is not part of an effort to resolve the dispute between soldiers and diplomats.

"There perhaps has been a rush to judgment on the part of some in this city to interpret this as a turf battle," he said. "There certainly hasn't been any shortage of turf battles in this city recently. But I think in this particular case that is not what happened here."

Ms. Kipper agrees. She points out that Mr. Bremer will still be reporting to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

"Well, I think that there is a serious strain between the Department of State and the Department of Defense as to who should be doing what in the reconstruction of Iraq because, after all, reconstruction is a civilian affair," she said. "But I don't think that Bremer in particular has much to do with that particular strain. He is a former Foreign Service officer, but he is going to be reporting to the Department of Defense. So I think this is something outside that larger strain."

It is not clear, however, how long Mr. Garner will remain in his post. Mr. Garner has said he will stay for an unspecified period to ensure a smooth hand-over of the reins of reconstruction.