One year ago, Saddam Hussein held power in Iraq. Today, that power is in the hands of the civilian administrator of Iraq, L. Paul Bremer III. But that transfer of power was anything but smooth. Now that June 30 has become the date in which the United States plans to return power to the Iraqis, we are faced with the prospect of reckless abandonment.Indeed, the freedom Iraqis now have comes at a high price. Daily attacks by insurgents mar the U.S. occupation and take the lives of both U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians. These attacks continue today-a rocket attack Sunday killed two Iraqis and two Americans-with no end in sight.

Such sacrifices were not without cause. A torturous dictator is now out of power and rebuilding efforts have improved many public services in Iraq to above pre-war levels.

Still, the hurdles the Bush Administration must clear before June 30 seem insurmountable. An already decreasing U.S. occupation force is having an increasingly difficult time maintaining order and preserving peace in this crucial time of transition. The constitution which Iraqi governors recently passed does not appear to have the legitimacy or the strength to act as the foundation of an independent government.

The construction of this provisional constitution illustrates the diplomatic minefield that awaits any governmental attempt at unifying post-Saddam Iraq. The various ethnic and religious groups vying for control of the new Iraq do not appear to be prepared to make this leap. The social and political barriers between Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds have yet to even enter the public discourse of our exit strategy. These facts do not bode well for our purported June 30 transfer of power.

If the United States is now willing to admit it cannot shoulder this burden alone, it must be forthright in its conversations with the United Nations about possible U.N. assistance in the reconstruction efforts. This is the only course the United States can now take if it is honest in its current mission to improve the lives of the Iraqi people.