NYTimes, Dec 09 2003
WASHINGTON, Dec. 9 — The Pentagon has barred French, German and Russian companies from competing for $18.6 billion in contracts for the reconstruction of Iraq, saying the step “is necessary for the protection of the essential security interests of the United States.”
The directive, which was issued by the deputy defense secretary, Paul
D. Wolfowitz, represents perhaps the most substantive retaliation to date by the Bush administration against American allies who opposed
its decision to go to war in Iraq.
The administration had warned before the war that countries that did not join an American-led coalition would not have a voice in decisions about the rebuilding of Iraq. But the administration had not
previously made clear that French, German and Russian companies would be excluded from competing for the lucrative reconstruction contracts, which include the rebuilding of Iraq’s infrastructure and equipping its army.
Under the guidelines, which were issued on Friday but became public knowledge today, only companies from the United States, Iraq and 61
other countries designated as “coalition partners” will be allowed to bid on the contracts, which are financed by American taxpayers.
Among the eligible countries are Britain, the closest American ally in Iraq, as well Poland and Italy, which have contributed troops to the American-led security effort. But the list also includes other nations whose support has been less evident, including Turkey, which allowed American aircraft to fly over its territory but barred American forces
at the last minute from using its soil as a staging point to invade Iraq from the north in March.
The directive by Mr. Wolfowitz does not spell out a precise argument for why allowing French, German and Russian companies to join in the competition for the contracts would hurt American security interests. But it suggests that the main motivation is to use the contracts as a reward for countries that participate in the American-led coalition and contribute troops to the American-led security effort.
“Every effort must be made to expand international cooperation in Iraq,” the directive says, noting that the number of troops provided by non-American countries has increased from 14,000 to 23,700 in
recent months, while the number of American troops has declined by about 12,000. “Limiting competition for prime contracts will encourage
the expansion of international cooperation in Iraq and in future efforts.”
A Republican congressman who recently returned from Iraq said in a telephone interview today that it was a mistake to exclude particular countries from the rebuilding effort.
“It strikes me that we should do whatever we can to draw in the French, the Germans, the Russians and others into the process,” said the congressman, Christopher Shays of Connecticut. “I would expect that most of the contracts would go to countries who have done the heavy lifting, but I wouldn’t want to see any arbitrary effort to shut
In a report that he issued today along with another congressman, Frank R. Wolf, Republican of Virginia, Mr. Shays said, “The administration
should redouble efforts to internationalize the rebuilding of Iraq.”
Bush administration officials, including Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, warned last spring that France and other countries would have to face the “consequences” of their efforts in the United Nations and other forums to block the American invasion of Iraq.
But until now, the American response has been mostly symbolic, including a notable absence of White House invitations to those countries’ leaders to join President Bush for cozy one-on-one sessions at his Texas ranch.
A spokeswoman for the German Embassy in Washington, Martina Nibbeling-Wiessnig, would say only that “German companies and entrepreneurs are already engaged in Iraq as subcontractors.” The French and Russian embassies in Washington did not immediately return telephone calls seeking comment.