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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 October, 2003, 17:11 GMT 18:11 UK
Analysis: Washington's new approach

By Peter Biles
BBC world affairs correspondent

No one expected Iraq's post-war reconstruction to be easy or even straightforward.

However, the US administration's problems in Iraq have continued to mount in the five months since President George W Bush declared an end to the war.

US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice
Rice is being given new powers, reports say
Resistance to the US-led occupation has increased. Nearly 100 American service personnel have been killed in combat since 1 May. There have been four major car bomb attacks, two of them against the United Nations.

The US-led coalition is still struggling to restore security and essential services.

In response, the White House has just announced plans to overhaul the reconstruction effort in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The creation of an Iraq Stabilisation Group, run by the National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, is designed to ensure better White House co-ordination.

New role

With about 150,000 US forces in Iraq, the Pentagon has naturally played the lead role so far.

US soldier observes a Shia demonstration in Baghdad
The US military is not best suited to peacekeeping duties
However, the New York Times which broke the story about the US reorganisation, suggests that more direct control is being given to Ms Rice, one of the President's closest confidantes.

White House officials deny that the authority of the Pentagon is being diminished, but some observers see Ms Rice's new powers as an implicit acknowledgement that US policy in Iraq has not been working.

The US army in Iraq is widely perceived as an occupying force and Iraqis have become increasingly impatient and frustrated by the slow pace of change since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

The US military is not best suited to peacekeeping duties or involvement in reconstruction efforts. Hence, Washington's desperation to "internationalise" the intervention in Iraq, bring in extra foreign troops under a UN mandate, and involve more Iraqis in the running of the country.

US debate

President Bush is currently trying to win congressional approval for $87bn for emergency spending on Iraq and the wider war on terror.

However, with the 2004 election year looming in the United States, many on Capitol Hill are now sounding far more critical of the US approach in Iraq.

A further source of concern for the White House is that Mr Bush's own popularity ratings have been falling.

The Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshiaar Zeebari, admits there has been a big debate in Washington about how the US can do a better job in Iraq.

He says the establishment of a new White House-led organisation is aimed at achieving a more focussed approach towards Iraq's reconstruction.

White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, says the move is intended to "cut through some of the bureaucracy and the red tape" in Washington and accelerate the work in Iraq.

With so much at stake, President Bush will be acutely aware of the pressure he is now under, to take firmer control of his Iraq policy.

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