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Iraq: U.S. Seeking To Reallocate Rebuilding Funds To Security

Daily violence is stretching U.S. and Iraqi forces Washington is seeking to reallocate some $3.5 billion from Iraq's reconstruction fund and use the money to improve security. The plan would shift money away from Iraqi water, power, and other reconstruction projects in order to improve safety, boost oil output, and prepare for elections in January 2005. The move reflects changing priorities as an 18-month insurgency continues with no signs of ending.

Prague, 15 September 2004 (RFE/RL) - Washington is clearly hoping that additional funds for security will lead to a reduction in violence - especially with elections just four months away.

The anti-U.S. insurgency -- which in the past few days alone has claimed some 200 lives -- is seen as the most serious obstacle to Iraq's economic and political development.
"If you didn't make the effort [to bring more security], the inevitable conclusion will be chaos."

Baseem lives in Baghdad and works for a U.S. nongovernmental organization. He says violence is at the core of delays in reconstruction and that U.S. troops and Iraqi police seem powerless to secure peace.

"They [U.S.] have been talking about the security for a year and a half now. People are out of jobs; they want to work. I mean, if they provide money or something to build up Iraq, the Iraqis wouldn't hesitate to go ahead and will build it, but nobody did it [before]. They are just talking about giving money but until now, there is nothing," Baseem says.

Baseem says he cannot see any visible reconstruction efforts in Baghdad. Many houses remain in ruins. Poor quarters of the city are as dirty as before the war.

"Until now, there is nothing [that can be called reconstruction]. Nothing you can see. I mean, the whole construction is carried on by the Americans, by the [U.S] Army only -- building posts for them. but for the Iraqis, no. There is nothing seen on the ground," Baseem says.

Maayad al-Heidari, a freelance journalist based in Baghdad, says that amid the violence, people are afraid to work in projects financed by foreigners.

"You know, to rebuild a building or [finish] a project in Iraq or start a new project needs the conditions which allow civilians to move freely. In Baghdad, unfortunately, the movement has become difficult and dangerous," al-Heidari says.

Al-Heidari says, however, that allocating more money alone will not work. He also says more Iraqis -- and not just foreigners -- should be involved and that better controls are needed on the funds to ensure they do not end up in the pockets of bureaucrats.

Julian Lindley-French, an analyst at the Geneva Center for Security Policy, says the U.S. move marks a change in strategy as the U.S. prepares someday to withdraw from Iraq.

"I think what is happening is that the [U.S] administration [of President George W. Bush] is progressively realizing the scale of the task to achieve a position where they can successfully withdraw from Iraq, and that involves creating the environment for a stable society," Lindley-French says.

Lindley-French says Washington wants to achieve "a reasonable environment" prior to handing over security to an Iraqi government. He says reconstruction projects are "fundamental for the future of the country" and cannot be abandoned because of violence.

Lindley-French says the U.S. administration's decision to shifts millions of dollars toward security is the only reasonable alternative and in the end will result in quicker reconstruction.

"If you didn't do that, if you didn't make the effort [to bring more security], the inevitable conclusion will be chaos. Though it is very difficult it's very tough and it's very dangerous [to continue reconstruction projects]. The only way to provide the environment for success is to drive through this and invest and guard the people constructing the infrastructure -- because the alternative, frankly, is guaranteed failure," Lindley-French says.

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