BAKER HEADING TO IRAQ?….More changes due for Iraq?

The White House hopes to persuade former secretary of state James A. Baker III to take charge of the physical and economic reconstruction of Iraq as part of a broad restructuring of post-war efforts, administration sources said today.

Under the plan, L. Paul Bremer, the chief U.S. administrator in Iraq, would focus on rebuilding the country’s political system. The new structure is still in the discussion stages, and a source close to Baker said he has not accepted the job.

I was mulling over this story during lunch, trying to figure out what it means, and I’m having a hard time. Baker is obviously a very senior guy, he has lots of international experience, and he’s practically the Bush family consigliore, so in some way it makes sense that he might be chosen to head up Iraq.

The problem is, he’s not being chosen to head up Iraq. He’s being chosen for a very specific role: “physical and economic reconstruction.” As far as I know, Baker has no expertise in this area at all, so it’s hard to see what he brings to the table. Wouldn’t a better choice be some high profile executive who’s actually had a lot of experience bossing big infrastructure projects? Or maybe a Wall Street economic guru?

The only thing I can figure out that’s unique to Baker is that he’s completely loyal to the Bushes. There must be something about Bremer that Bush doesn’t like, so he wants to get somebody over there that he completely trusts, someone that he knows won’t be pursuing an agenda of his own.

That’s the best I can come up with at the moment anyway. Unless, of course, Bremer is just completely screwing things up and Bush is getting set to throw him overboard.

Aside from the obvious jokes about sending Baker over there to supervise Iraqi elections, does anyone have any other ideas?

UPDATE: In the ten minutes it took me to write this, the Washington Post replaced this story with a completely different version that (a) doesn’t include my excerpt above, (b) plays down the whole Baker angle, and (c) suggests that Baker’s role would be focused only on restructuring Iraq’s debt.

Now I’m even more confused….

UPDATE 2: Uggabugga has both the original Post story and the updated version here.