US Military Reshuffle Timed for New Iraqi Interim Government

DEBKAfile Intelligence

26 May 2004

In the reshuffle of top US army ranks in Iraq ahead of sovereignty transfer, Gen. George W. Casey, deputy chief of staff of US ground forces is expected to take over from Lt.-Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who is alleged to have been present in Abu Ghraib during some cases of mistreatment of prisoners. Before the abuse scandal erupted, Sanchez was in line to head the Southern Command based in Miami, Florida and charged with responsibility for US forces in the southern hemisphere. This command is now reported by official sources to have been assigned to Lt.-Gen Bantz J. Craddock. After conducting US military operations against Iraqi insurgents, foreign Arab fighters, al Qaeda terrorists and radical Shiite militia for more than a year, Sanchez is left without a post and may find himself eased out of top US command. Another appointment reported by Pentagon officials ahead of the two-day meeting next Tuesday, May 26, of US military commanders worldwide is that of commander of US military operations in Iraq. Brig.-Gen Mark Kimmitt is expected to hand over to Lt.-Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s senior military assistant.

Maneuvers also begin ahead of the transfer of sovereignty to Iraq and announcement next week by UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi of the nominations to the interim government. Answering French questioning of the transfer’s credibility, British PM Tony Blair insisted that the Iraqi government will have veto power over major coalition military operations, like the US offensive in Fallujah or the current confrontation with Sadr militias in Najef. On the other hand, he denied that British troops would serve under the orders of the Iraqi government.

Brahimi has promised the provisional administration would reflect ethnic diversity. The prime minister’s job is expected to go to Shiite, the presidency to a Sunni Arab and the two vice presidents will be a Shiite and a Kurd. They will run 26 ministerial departments. Some key ministries like foreign affairs, defense or oil may be assigned to Kurds.