Thursday, May 13, 2004

The sovereignty question

A report out today on the "handover of sovereignty" in Iraq, from the Wall Street Journal, is worth quoting at length:

In a series of edicts issued earlier this spring, Mr. Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority created new commissions that effectively take away virtually all of the powers once held by several ministries. The CPA also established an important new security-adviser position, which will be in charge of training and organizing Iraq's new army and paramilitary forces, and put in place a pair of watchdog institutions that will serve as checks on individual ministries and allow for continued U.S. oversight. Meanwhile, the CPA reiterated that coalition advisers will remain in virtually all remaining ministries after the handover.

In many cases, these U.S. and Iraqi proxies will serve multiyear terms and have significant authority to run criminal investigations, award contracts, direct troops and subpoena citizens. The new Iraqi government will have little control over its armed forces, lack the ability to make or change laws and be unable to make major decisions within specific ministries without tacit U.S. approval, say U.S. officials and others familiar with the plan.

The moves risk exacerbating the two biggest problems bedeviling the U.S. occupation: the reluctance of Iraqis to take responsibility for their own country and the tendency of many Iraqis to blame the country's woes on the U.S.

Nechirvan Barzani, who controls the western half of the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq, warns that the U.S. presence in the country will continue to spark criticism and violence until Iraqis really believe they run their own country. For his part, Mr. Abadi, the communications minister, says that installing a government that can't make important decisions essentially "freezes the country in place." He adds, "If it's a sovereign Iraqi government that can't change laws or make decisions, we haven't gained anything."

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