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Analysts Question Delay in US Request to UN for Iraq Troop Support

U.S. diplomats are circulating a new resolution before members of the U.N. Security Council they hope will convince countries to help with Iraq's post-war reconstruction by providing financial and military assistance. While analysts are generally supportive of the Bush administration's decision to propose the resolution, some are questioning why it took months after the war to ask the United Nations to authorize a multinational force.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says the draft resolution will invite the Iraqi Governing Council to create what he calls "a political horizon."

The council will be asked to submit a plan and a timetable for writing a constitution and conducting free elections for a new Iraqi leadership.

The second element of the resolution will be United Nations authorization of a multinational force under American command to serve with coalition soldiers already in Iraq.

Mr. Powell says the resolution will also call for an expanded role for the United Nations to help with reconstruction efforts, generate more money for rebuilding and assist in creating an electoral process for Iraq.

"The U.N. has a number of agencies that bring great skill and experience to the task of nation building," he said. "We believe by including this in the resolution it will give a greater sense of purpose to the U.N. and give the U.N. more to work with."

While Middle East analysts are generally supportive of the proposed U.N. resolution, some question why it took the United States months after the end of major combat operations to work through the U.N. Security Council.

Roberta Cohen is a foreign policy specialist at the Washington-based Brookings Institution who worked as a consultant to the United Nations and the World Bank.

"The United States has been far too slow to acknowledge that an accommodation should be made with the United Nations so that the world community can become more involved, especially Islamic countries in helping to restore peace and security and move Iraq more quickly towards self-government," says Roberta Cohen, a foreign policy specialist at the Washington-based Brookings Institution who worked as a consultant to the United Nations and the World Bank. "Indeed, the administration's reluctance to cede authority is drawing out the process of giving the U.N. a serious role in peacekeeping and reconstruction, even though it could be a means of enhancing legitimacy and security for the entire operation."

Kenneth Pollack, a Middle East specialist and former regional director on the National Security Council, supports the idea of a multinational peacekeeping force.

Mr. Pollack says, however, U.S. officials are going to the Security Council in a much weaker position than if they had proposed a similar resolution before, or just after the war.

"In those few weeks after the fall of Baghdad most of our allies were coming back to us and saying look, we want a clean slate, we had our differences before the war, but the war is now over," he said. "We want to mend fences, we want to be part of the reconstruction, we want to help. The administration stiffed them and basically told them it is our way or the highway."

Mr. Pollack says many countries that would have been willing to help with security and reconstruction in Iraq a few months ago may now be more reluctant because of the continuing bombings and armed attacks there.

Secretary of State Powell says the resolution is being introduced now because it is important for the international community to come together to rebuild Iraq.

"It is an evolutionary step because it is a resolution I have been talking about for weeks," he said. "We just finally found it was time and it is not related to U.S. casualties."

Until last March, Flynt Leverett was the Bush administration's Senior Director for Middle East Affairs on the National Security Council and was also a former senior analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency.

Mr. Leverett says the administration does not have what he calls a "coherent strategy" to rebuild nations targeted in the war on terrorism. "If you look at the various pieces, look first of all at the states where we have intervened militarily to depose terror-supporting regimes in Afghanistan and in Iraq," he said. "What we see at this point is the same pattern in both places. We fight the war very well, but we display a mix of indifference and incompetence at managing the post-war environment."

The proposed resolution is being circulated a few weeks before President Bush is scheduled to address the opening of the U.N. General Assembly.

It appears U.S. diplomats hope to win a consensus on the resolution within the Security Council before the president's speech.