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Iraq Chaos Puts U.S.-Chosen Council Failures In Spotlight

by Peyman Pejman

UN Won't Help U.S. As Long As "Stooges" Run Iraq Government
(IPS) BAGHDAD -- Faced with threats of its own extinction, the Iraqi governing council is promising to reform itself.

But the promise might be too little, too late.

The White House unexpectedly summoned Iraq's civilian administrator L. Paul Bremer to Washington for consultation this week, and there are widespread reports in Baghdad and Washington of a major shakeup of the group, if not its complete liquidation.

The bomb blast in Nasiriya which killed 31 people including 18 Italians has been followed by reports that the United States is becoming eager to hand over control to Iraqis. What is less clear is exactly how the United States proposes to do this and who those Iraqis might be.

Reports here speak of a number of possibilities ranging from reforming or dissolving the governing council altogether to appointing an Afghanistan-style "leader" backed by a provisional government.

The reasons for Washington's -- and Bremer's -- disappointment with the council are many.

Hoping to cut its losses in the months before the presidential elections, Washington had hoped the U.S.-appointed council would get on with the task of drafting a constitution that would pave the way for elections.

This has not happened. While in public Bremer and his top advisers have nothing but praise for the members, they are less than shy about criticizing them in private.

"You've got a bunch of people who are more interested in their private business deals and boosting their political and personal portfolio among the Iraqis than they are about getting the job done," says an official of Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) who asked not to be named.

Under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1511, the governing council must present a timetable and a program by Dec. 15 for drafting a constitution and holding elections.

Secretary of State Colin Powell said in September that Washington believes six months is enough time to draft the constitution. Iraqi officials say they need nine to 12 months. But they are still debating the basic framework and principle of the constitution, and Washington thinks it is losing time.

Governing council officials say they have heard Washington's message and are acting on it.

"The governing council understands that it needs to reorganize itself into a more effective decision-making body," says Qubad Talebani, the council's current chairman Jalal Talebani's son and assistant. "It realizes that there is a lack of executive authority within the governing council and the members are seriously deliberating among themselves to find a mechanism that would give them executive authority."

There are reasons why the council needs reorganization.

In its current structure, council decisions have to be approved by a majority of the 24 members. That is turning out to be a problem.

"You are talking about a council in which a representative of the Socialist Party sits next to the Muslim Brotherhood who sits next to the Communist Party. It is not 24 people, it's almost 24 different ideologies," says a senior adviser to a council member. "It is not easy for these people to agree on anything."

One suggestion being discussed is to change the decision-making process so that an executive body of three or four members can make decisions.

Another reform proposal is to control the travels of the members more tightly. One of the major complaints of U.S. officials here is that about half the council members are traveling at any one time, or do not attend the sessions.

"We are probably unhappier than they are," says council member Adnan Pacheche, referring to the U.S. disappointment with the council. "We would have wanted for things to move more quickly."

But Pacheche and others say some of Washington's demands are shortsighted.

"To have a proper constitution done, many, many things need to be done first," he says. "You have to have election laws, a population census, choose a voting system, and reform the judicial system."

Some members suggest the Afghanistan model as a way out of the dilemma facing the U.S. administration. Under that a provisional government would be appointed for a period of several months, and then a constitution drafted and voted on.

The question is who would appoint the provisional government and who its leader would be.

"We realize that appointing a provisional government by us would be almost the same as appointing the governing council, just putting in new bodies, and that probably won't solve the problem," says the CPA official. "And we don't know of any Iraq 'strongman' who can be the figurehead until elections are held."

Members of the governing council, on the other hand, want to ensure their own political survival. Some say they will push Bremer to expand the existing council and turn it into a provisional government.

If that fails, they say they will ask for the council to appoint a provisional government.

"Provisional governments usually are not elected, so the governing council will appoint it," says Pacheche. "We may be able to find a way of making it more 'electable', or representative if you will, by having a sort of emergency election without having to go through regular requirements like population census."

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Albion Monitor November 13, 2003 (

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