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Leader Stifled by War's Reality

Momtaz A. Morad, a senior ministry official, said in an interview that the agency has funded a one-time food distribution to 50,000 families. But he conceded that the new ministry, a creation of the U.S.-imposed provisional government that handed sovereignty to the Iraqis in June, has yet to build anything lasting, such as housing for the hundreds of thousands of displaced people in the country.

For example, the Baath Party forced Kurds from the north and replaced them with Iraqi Arabs from the south. The Baathists hoped to keep Kurds from claiming northern oil or agitating for autonomy.


Brown and son Jonathan, 4, are shown in July spending time together a few months before Brown deployed for duty as a lawyer in the Army Reserve. Brown also has a daughter, Rebecca, 10. (Michael Lutzky -- The Washington Post)

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Fired up by the enthusiastic response to the elections, Brown has resolved to push harder.

"The approach I've got to take is, 'This is what you need to do,' " he said after a visit to the ministry subsequent to the vote. The ministry is just outside the Green Zone, but security concerns dictate that Brown make the seven-minute commute in a convoy of armored Humvees.

On Feb. 3, Morad and Brown discussed a project put forward by a U.S.-based nonprofit organization that wants to build housing for Arabs displaced by Kurds returning to areas they claim as their own.

Morad, an engineer, told Brown he was skeptical about the quality of the building materials. He touted a more expensive plan to fund housing for Assyrian Christian villagers in northern Iraq. The conversation was a small example of how politics in Iraq are driven by religious and ethnic considerations. Morad is an Assyrian Christian.

Brown held firm. "I think we need to work with this group," he said, adding that inspecting the materials is another ministry's responsibility. Morad acquiesced.

On other occasions, Brown can only watch as U.S. and Iraqi officials solve the same problem again and again.

On Jan. 17, he took a seat on a U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter headed for Fallujah, the city about 35 miles west of Baghdad that witnessed intense fighting between U.S. Marines and Iraqi insurgents in April and again in November.

His destination was a meeting of Iraqi officials, officers of the U.S.-led military coalition, and civilian aid workers seeking to encourage residents to return to their bullet-riddled city. The group had met weekly for six weeks, but the main topic hadn't changed: the Marines' strict control over entry to Fallujah, intended to prevent the return of insurgents.

The discussion went in circles: Coalition officers pressed the Iraqis to provide more services for returning residents -- bring in police, restore water and electricity, offer compensation. The Iraqis said they couldn't get into the city to do this work.

Brown's ministry oversees the provision of some humanitarian supplies to displaced residents of Fallujah. But his Iraqi colleagues, who had driven from Baghdad, were absent because they couldn't clear the Marine checkpoints. With no one to advise, Brown sat on the sidelines.

After about four hours, the session ended as earlier gatherings have, with commitments to improve access.

Each side blamed the other. An Iraqi official who declined to be identified further said, "The power is on the side of the Americans."


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