The interim Iraqi prime minister announced a reorganization of the country's fledgling security forces Sunday and declared that all of Iraq's military resources, including the army, will be used to combat anti-U.S. insurgents, whom he denounced as "enemies of God and the people."
The prime minister, Ayad Allawi, acknowledged that Iraq still needed help from "our friends in the multinational forces" to meet the threat posed by daily bombings, assassinations and other attacks. But his announcement, at a news conference organized by U.S. soldiers, sought to play down the dominant role played by U.S. troops here and suggested that Iraqis would take over once formal sovereignty is transferred on June 30.
"We are deeply grateful for the sacrifices from friendly nations here to help us in our struggle," he said, "but the struggle is first and foremost an Iraqi struggle."
U.S. military officials, however, have made clear that they and their 138,000 American soldiers intend to be in charge of security for the foreseeable future. The U.N. Security Council resolution passed June 8, accompanied by an exchange of letters between Allawi and the Bush administration, gives U.S. commanders the authority to conduct military operations as they see fit even after June 30.
Allawi acknowledged, for instance, that he was not involved in Saturday's decision by U.S. commanders to launch precision weapons on what they described as a safe house in the rebellious city of Fallujah. Allawi said he was informed of the strike just before it was launched, but he added that the interim government supports it.
"This pattern will change, of course, once full sovereignty has been transferred," he said.
The U.S. military said the attack was aimed at anti-occupation fighters loyal to Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian linked by U.S. officials to al Qaeda and said to have directed some of the suicide car bombings that have jolted Baghdad in recent weeks. The attack, which Fallujah residents said came from warplanes, killed 20 people, including women and children, according to Fallujah officials.
The U.S. strike targeting foreign fighters was consistent with a theme evoked by Allawi and frequently brought up by members of his government: Iraqis are not the authors of the worst insurgent attacks. Many Iraqis outside the government also have expressed doubt that their countrymen could be persuaded to take innocent lives and commit suicide by driving a bomb-laden vehicle into a crowd.
"We do not believe that those behind these attacks can be Iraqis," Allawi said, adding that many insurgents are "supported financially and logistically by foreign resources."
Interior Minister Falah Naqib made similar charges two days ago. Neither he nor Allawi backed up the allegations with details or identified the foreign countries or resources.
Allawi said his plan to reorganize Iraqi security forces was discussed with Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, who visited last week for four days. The main emphasis, he said, is to throw all possible resources into the fight against the insurgents to enable Iraq to build a democratic system and hold elections in January.
"We are prepared to fight and, if necessary, to die for these objectives," he said.
To that end, he said the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, a paramilitary security service organized by U.S. occupation authorities, will be transformed into the Iraqi National Guard and put under a unified command with the Iraqi army. Allawi said the army will participate fully in the fight against insurgents.
This is a tender point because many of the worst abuses committed under former president Saddam Hussein were carried out by the army. In recognition of that, U.S. occupation authorities, starting up what they hoped would be a new Iraqi military last year, laid out a vision of an army to be used only for national defense.
Under U.S. planning, the Iraqi army was to be reconstituted at 35,000 members. The Civil Defense Corps, renamed the National Guard, was to number 40,000, and the Iraqi police force was to have 90,000 officers.
Allawi did not say what changes he planned in those numbers. But as things stand on the ground, none of the services has trained to anywhere near its authorized level, and U.S. soldiers stand guard at checkpoints around the country.
The Marines announced that one of their men was killed Saturday in Anbar province west of Baghdad in "security and stability operations." Troops from the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force have clashed frequently with Iraqi fighters around Fallujah, 35 miles west of Baghdad, but the Marine command routinely withholds the circumstances of casualties.
Insurgents also kept up their attacks against Iraqis cooperating with the occupation. Two members of an antiterrorism advisory panel, identified as Abdulkarim Tamimi and Majeed Azzawi, were gunned down as they sat in a Baghdad cafe, Sharqiah television reported. A bomb exploded near the central bank, killing a guard and wounding several people. And a bomb planted beside the road to the airport killed two Iraqi soldiers and wounded 11, the Associated Press said.
Allawi, recognizing Iraqi forces are not yet ready for his plans, pleaded for more help from abroad in military training and in providing a special force to protect future U.N. operations. The world body has suspended its work here because of security fears.
An anti-insurgency force, which has begun training under U.S. officers, will be the army's principal direct contribution to internal security, Allawi said. But he added that the National Guard, an internal security force, will also be under army command. He said the air force, which recently contracted to buy a pair of reconnaissance aircraft and still has a few helicopters, will surveil the oil pipelines and transport rapid reaction troops within the country.
As he has in the past, Allawi said the U.S. decision to disband the former Iraqi army was a mistake. He has suggested several times in recent days that officers and units not involved in abuses under Hussein could be reactivated.