This article in tomorrows

September 9, 2003 2:28 a.m.

This article in tomorrow’s Boston Globe says that “the US-appointed Iraqi interim government said late last month in a little-noticed statement that it would buy electricity from Syria and Iran, a deal that would probably enrich with US funds two countries that top the White House list of states that support terrorism.”

Certainly that’s an ironic development, though I’m not certain it’s more than that. One of the ideas here was that our presence in Iraq would overawe the Iranians and the Syrians into better behavior. Making our occupation dependent on their selling the Iraqis electricity would seem to make the flow of leverage and dependence run in a slightly different direction.

Having said all that, this seems more like welcome pragmatism than an error, although it does demonstrate again the chasm which too often separates the administration’s chatter from reality.

More troubling is this piece in tomorrow’s LA Times. According to the Times article, the $87 billion the White House is now requesting from congress leaves roughly $55 billion in reconstruction costs still unfunded. (Actually, this fact sheet at the White House website says it’s between $55 and $75 billion.)

Now, the White House says it’s going to pressure other countries to pay that part of the tab.

But according to everyone I’ve spoken to and everything I’ve read (see the Times article for a good discussion of this) that is vastly more than anyone thinks other countries are going to contribute.

One of the outside experts Don Rumsfeld sent out on that fact-finding mission to Iraq a couple months ago, Bathsheba Crocker, tells the Times that, “from what we have been hearing about the donors conference [next month], they’ll be lucky if they get $1 billion.”

Now, some of that extra sum should be offset by Iraqi oil revenues. But yesterday the administration again revised downward those expected oil revenues. It now predicts only $12 billion worth in 2004.

For the moment, let’s assume that Crocker is right or close to right. Congress appropriated $79 billion just after the war in April. It seems certain to appropriate this new allocation of $87, albeit with greater oversight. If you add on another $55-$75 billion you start getting perilously close to a quarter of a trillion dollars as the price tag for the first two years of this endeavor.

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