Iraqi sovereignty: June 30, 2004

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June 30, 2004, which marks the one-year anniversary of the Coalition Provisional Authority's governance in Iraq, the CPA is scheduled to "handover" leadership of Iraqi sovereignty. However, the burning question, particularly in light of the April 2004 Shiite Muslim uprising in Iraq, the continuously growing allegations of acts of brutality, abuse, and torture at the Enemy Prisoner of War complex Abu Ghraib, and the recent Ahmed Chalabi: Fall from Grace, has become a question of "handover" of what to whom? Follow the countdown at the Center for American Progress's Iraq Transition: xx Days and Counting ....

Iraqi sovereignty: Exit Strategy from Iraq


The Reality

Yochi J. Dreazen and Christopher Cooper had already said it all in the May 13, 2004, Wall Street Journal article "Behind the Scenes, US Tightens Grip on Iraq's Future."

Evelyn Leopold reports in the May 27, 2004, Reuters' article "U.S. Pressed to Make Changes in Iraq UN Resolution" that the United Nations Security Council wants the United States "to give Iraqis more authority over their political and military future" and the "draft now calls for a review in a year, which means the [military] force's mandate is open-ended unless the council adopts another resolution to withdraw the foreign troops."

Rahul Mahajan wrote May 25, 2004, at Empire Notes that the "new draft resolution is an attempt to pull the wool over all our eyes. Under the guise of a 'transfer of sovereignty', the Bush administration is seeking from the Security Council the legal authority to continue the occupation indefinitely. The current draft resolution before the Security Council authorizes the continued presence of the multinational occupying force with the following language:

6. Reaffirms the authorization for the multinational force under unified command established under UN Resolution 1511 (October 16, 2003), having regard to the letter referred to in preambular paragraph 10 above, decides that the multinational force shall have authority to take all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq including by preventing and deterring terrorism, so that inter alia the United Nations can fulfill its role in assisting the Iraqi people as outlined in paragraph five above and the Iraqi people can implement freely and without intimidation the timetable and program for the political process and benefit from reconstruction and rehabilitation activities, and decides further that the mandate for the multinational force shall be reviewed 12 months from the date of this resolution or at the request of the Transitional Government of Iraq.

Mahajan comments: "As Zeynep Toufe of Under the Same Sun points out, although the authorization can be reviewed (either after 12 months or by the Transitional Government of Iraq - which is not the same as the Interim Government that will be created on June 30), any review is in the hands of the Security Council, where the United States has veto power."

"This is a dramatic new step," Mahagan writes. "Until now, the only Iraq resolution in the postwar period that deals with the status of the occupying forces is UNSCR 1511."

He adds: "Further extension of the presence of those occupying forces would require passage of another Security Council resolution.

"If the draft resolution passes in the form it's in now," he writes, "this gets turned on its head. The mandate for continuing the occupation is indefinite, subject to review in the Security Council. All the United States has to do to maintain legal authority to keeps its forces there is to veto any proposed Security Council resolution calling on it to withdraw."

... and Bush administration "plans" for post-occupation Iraq

On May 25, 2004, CNN reports that "Japanese and South Korean media have panned U.S. President George W. Bush's speech on post-occupation Iraq, labeling the address a damage control ploy in the wake of the prisoner abuse scandal." The Star Tribune says that Bush's speech "wasn't about Iraq. It was about the general election on Nov. 2 and Bush's frantic desire to stop his inexorable slide in public opinion polls." The San Francisco Chronicle editorial comments that "Bush grasps for an Iraq plan, [with the] Bush administration moving on several fronts to extricate itself from the lethal morass it created in Iraq." [1] [2]

All three major networks "pulled the plug" on Bush's prime time May 24, 2004, speech and did not run live coverage. And, now that it's over, Newsday states what should have been the obvious: "The president continues to hope for the best in Iraq without planning for the worst, imagining a democracy that may take decades to build." [3] [4]

Dana Milbank reports in the May 25, 2004, Washington Post that, in his address at the Army War College the evening before, "Bush disclosed few new details of the scheduled June 30 handover of limited sovereignty to Iraqis, declining to name the Iraqis who will take power or to clearly define the future U.S. military presence in Iraq. Instead, he used the speech to draw public attention to elements of the transition that were generally known, repackaging the U.S. policy as a five-step plan." See White House Fact Sheet.

  • Hand over authority to a sovereign Iraqi government;
  • Help establish the stability and security in Iraq that democracy requires;
  • Continue rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure;
  • Encourage more international support; and
  • Move toward free, national elections that will bring forward new leaders empowered by the Iraqi people.

"Bush's speech was coordinated with the release of a proposed United Nations Security Council resolution, which the United States began to circulate earlier Monday [May 24th]. The draft resolution was also silent on key details of the transition. While the resolution would endorse the June 30 handover and a U.S.-led multinational force, it did not say how much influence Iraq's new government would have over use of the security forces," he writes.

The "symbolic highlight" of his speech, Milbank writes, in an attempt to "counter growing criticism that Washington has lowered the goal posts for its year-long occupation," Bush pledged to "destroy the notorious prison" at Abu Ghraib, "the scene of Saddam Hussein atrocities and the U.S. military's prisoner abuse" [and] "vowed that the United States would succeed in turning Iraq from violence and chaos to democracy and peace." [5]

The May 25, 2004, New York Times Op-Ed "The President's Speech" points out that:

  • Bush "talked in general terms of expanding international involvement and stabilizing Iraq."
  • Bush "spoke after nearly 14 months of policy failures, none of them acknowledged by the president, which have left Iraq increasingly violent and drained Washington's credibility with the Iraqi people and the international community."
  • Bush did not "make a clean break with those policies."
  • Bush's speech "reflected the fact that Mr. Bush has been backtracking lately" and "did not come close to charting the new course he needs to take."
  • Bush's "'five steps' toward Iraqi independence were merely a recitation of the tasks ahead."
  • Bush "has yet to come up with a realistic way to internationalize the military operation and to get Iraq's political groups beyond their current game of jockeying for power and into a real process of drafting a workable constitution."

However, members of the Iraqi Governing Council spoke to the press at the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad, on May 25, 2004, about the UN resolution and the "American blueprint for post-occupation Iraq." They said that "they must have greater control over their country's own security forces." [6]

"'We found it less than our expectations,' council president Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer told reporters after a gathering to discuss the resolution." [7]

al-Yawer also said that "Iraqis must have control of revenue from the country's oil sales, which are now conducted by the U.S.-led occupation authority. Proceeds go to the Development Fund for Iraq, an account subject to international oversight. ... The draft resolution proposes putting that fund in Iraqi hands with continued international oversight, a step Yawar said was short of the demand advanced by a range of Iraqi politicians for full control of the sales and revenue." [8]

"Council member Ahmad Chalabi went further, saying the draft resolution 'will fail the test for Iraqi sovereignty.'" [9]

Robin Wright, in the May 23, 2004, Washington Post, wrote that the "road ahead could get bumpier. France and Germany are urging that any new U.N. resolution stipulate a cutoff date for U.S. and foreign forces in Iraq. And negotiations by the U.N. and U.S. envoys in charge of identifying a new president, prime minister, two vice presidents and more than two dozen cabinet ministers have been complicated by a Kurdish threat not to participate unless a Kurd gets one of the two top positions."

The BBC/UK reported on May 25, 2004, that, although "UK Prime Minister Tony Blair says that after the transfer of power on 30 June, Iraq's interim government will have a veto on operations by coalition troops, ... France - which has the power to block a US-UK resolution on Iraq at the UN - has expressed reservations. ... President Jacques Chirac set out French concerns in a phone conversation with US President George W. Bush on Tuesday." [10]

"Chirac thought the plan was a 'good basis for discussion' but that oil resources, security and the length of the multinational force's mandate needed discussion, his spokeswoman said. ... Earlier, French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said the new Iraqi government would not be credible unless it was given real powers." [11]

Christopher Scheer, writing for the May 7, 2004, online journal AlterNet said in "Bush's New, New Lie" that "June 30 simply marks the selection of yet another 'governing council,' picked by foreigners (some combination of the UN, U.S. and UK) to act as a front for the U.S.-led occupation army. It will be just business as usual, except for a new set of misleading titles. For example, the 'Coalition Provisional Authority' will be renamed the 'United States Embassy,' staffed by some 2000 employees. ... That's about it. Really."

In hindsight, the Bush regime's commitment to the "handover", although it at first appeared to be firm, was actually "evolving" in scope--beginning with President Bush's April 10, 2004, pledge that "Iraqi sovereignty will arrive on June 30th."

At that time, according to Bush, the CPA was scheduled to "close for business" on June 30th and "expected to open its doors the next day as the largest US Embassy in the world, with 3,000 employees." [12]

Of course, the applied definition of "sovereignty" is Orwellian indeed. It includes no authority over U.S. occupying forces, according to Congressional testimony of senior State and Defense officials during the third full week of April 2004. [13]

During a news conference on April 16, 2004, with "British prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush said of the June 30 handover:

"'One of the essential commitments we've made to the Iraqi people is this: They will control their own country. No citizen of America or Britain would want the government of their nation in the hands of others and neither do the Iraqis. This is why the June 30th date for the transfer of sovereignty will be kept.'" [14]

However, hints of the beginning of the "handover" evolution were reported on April 14, 2003, by Boston Globe writers Anne Barnard and Farah Stockman who reported that with "fewer than 80 days to go, it is still unclear who will assume sovereignty. The US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council will cease to exist June 30, but it has yet to agree on what kind of interim government will rule and how it will be chosen. It is widely expected that its replacement will comprise many of the same members, including returned exiles who have little public support. ... [A] senior adviser to the Iraqi Ministry of Trade who asked not to be identified for fear of alienating the Bush administration" called it "an artificial handover ... People really need to think about what sovereignty really means when you have more than 100,000 troops on the ground." [15]

Then, on April 20, 2004, Reuters' reporters Vicki Allen and Donna Smith related that the Bush administration said "the June 30th transfer of authority in Iraq was just a step toward self-rule and not 'a magical date'. ... Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz called June 30th 'just one step in a process,' and not 'a magical date' in which the U.S.-led occupation will shift responsibilities to a new Iraqi government." [16]

Next, on April 22, 2004, Josh White and Jonathan Weisman, writing for the Washington Post, announced that limited Iraqi sovereignty was planned for July 1st. Iraqi sovereignty was only to be "over the country [but with] no authority over U.S. and coalition military forces already there." [17]

Writing for the April 22, 2004, edition of the New York Times, Steven R. Weisman reported that Bush administration officials admitted during the day's "Senate Foreign Relations Committee's hearing on the goal of returning Iraq to self-rule on June 30[, that the administration's] "plans for a new caretaker government in Iraq would place severe limits on its sovereignty, including only partial command over its armed forces and no authority to enact new laws [and] ... Only 10 weeks from the scheduled transfer of sovereignty, the administration is still not sure exactly who will govern in Baghdad, or precisely how they will be selected."

Although leadership of Iraq's 25 ministries should go to the Iraqis, CPA "senior advisers" have been in charge of them for the past year, with ultimate control of both "budgets and policy. ... After June 30, ministries will theoretically become free from US control; their budgets will be set by the Iraqi interim government. The people now acting as provisional authority advisers may stay on, US officials say, but only as consultants to the Iraqi ministers." [18]

"In testimony before the Senate and the House Armed Services committees, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz and Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman said the United States will operate under the transitional law approved by the Iraqi Governing Council and a resolution approved by the U.N. Security Council last October. Both those provisions give control of the country's security to U.S. military commanders.
"Whereas in the past the turnover was described as granting total sovereignty to the appointed Iraqi government, Grossman yesterday termed it limited sovereignty because 'it is limited by the transitional law . . . and the U.N. resolution.'"
"Under the current plan, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's special adviser, Lakhdar Brahimi, will appoint a temporary government that will run Iraqi government agencies for six months and prepare the way for January 2005 elections of an assembly that will select a second, temporary government and write a constitution.
"Wolfowitz described the July 1 government as purely temporary and there to 'run ministries . . . but most importantly, they'll be setting up elections.' In addition he said, the government will run the police force 'but in coordination with Centcom [the U.S. Central Command], because this is not a normal police situation.'"
"'Sovereignty is not something we can, or want, to take back,' Wolfowitz said yesterday, outlining efforts to develop a large, new armed force there. 'The security of Iraq . . . will be part of a multinational force under U.S. command, including Iraqi forces.'"

US officials admitted two days earlier, on April 20, 2004, that "Iraqi forces won't be ready to take over security chores by the handover date, and have extended the missions of some 20,000 US troops scheduled to be moved out. They also said more soldiers could be sent in if necessary." [19]

The Iraqi Armed Forces and Iraqi Intelligence Service, "built up with much fanfare over the past year, will still be under the control of US generals, who are expected to retain more than 100,000 troops in the country for an undetermined period." [20]
Occupation forces in Iraq will not be leaving anytime soon, nor do they have "permission" to stay. "Although US officials promised to get a written agreement with the Iraqi Governing Council before June 30 authorizing US troops to stay in the country, the agreement was scrapped amid increasing Iraqi criticism that the unelected governing council did not represent them. ... Now senior US officials justify staying in Iraq after June 30 with a legalistic interpretation of Security Council Resolution 1511. That measure conferred the mandate for a multinational force to occupy the country until the political process is complete, a stage that US officials say will come only with an elected government. That is expected to be formed no earlier than December [2004]." [21]

Additionally, an Iraqi national budget does not yet exist. The Boston Globe reported on April 14, 2004, that "... coalition advisers to the trade ministry do not appear to be giving up their clout: They have written and circulated drafts of the ministry budget, for 2005." [22] The Reconstruction of Iraq remains pretty much under U.S. control, with "Iraq's economy ...largely remain[ing] in US hands. The $18.4 billion in US assistance will still be managed by Americans, who have set up the network of contractors to rebuild the country's ruined infrastructure." [23]

In fact, Barnard and Stockman say, "For much of the past year, US officials touted June 30 as their last day in power, after which Iraqis will be in charge of everything from health to security. Yet the revolt by a Shi'ite militia during the past week raised fears that the country could disintegrate, and American officials now take pains to emphasize that not much will change. ... It is becoming increasingly clear that in many critical areas, Americans will still largely retain control after June 30." [24]

Unsurprisingly, Walter Pincus and Colum Lynch, in the April 27, 2004, Washington Times article "Nominee Assures Senate on Iraq" cite "President Bush's nominee for ambassador to Iraq, John D. Negroponte" as saying on April 26th that "Iraqis will have 'a lot more sovereignty than they have right now' when an interim government takes over on July 1, but that the transfer of power will 'be a work in progress and it's going to be evolutionary.'"

On April 29, 2004, Reuters reported Secretary of State Colin L. Powell as saying that "some might question how sovereign Iraq will be on July 1 if U.S.-led foreign troops remain in the country. [25]

"'Because a large military presence will still be required under U.S. command, some would say 'Well you are not giving full sovereignty'. But we are giving sovereignty so that sovereignty can be used to say, 'We invite you to remain'. That is a sovereign decision,' Powell said."

However, China View (xinhuanet) reported on April 29th that "Powell's recent remarks that the coming Iraqi government would not take the full sovereignty have destroyed the hopes of Iraqis, observers here said.

"Frankly and publicly, Powell last Monday announced that the coming interim government after power transfer by the end of June would have to give up some of the sovereignty to let the US-led coalition forces freely move in the country.
"These declarations disappointed Iraqis, especially those who support the Americans and who want the ending of the occupation in June 30 and return of full sovereignty to the country.
"According to Powell, the American plan for the coming Iraqi government also includes that the Iraqi army would be under the command of the Americans.
"Iraqis wonder now what kind of a state with sovereignty that Washington is giving them after the power transfer in June 30 if the government does not have the right to legislate laws, does not control its army, and Washington chooses its leadership and government.
"The declarations consolidates the situations of extremists in both Shiites and Sunnis, who think that the US does not intend to withdraw its troops from Iraq, and that's why the people should fight to throw them out and regain its sovereignty."
"The US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) said that it is now holding 3-day conference to agree on the form of the coming government, but it is very well known that the government would only be decided by Paul Bremer, the American civil governor in Iraq, as his last task here."

Before his departure, however, Walter Pincus adds on May 12, 2004, that, "With less than two months before the Coalition Provisional Authority is to transfer sovereignty to an Iraqi government, CPA administrator L. Paul Bremer III has been establishing rules for key agencies in the fields of intelligence, defense and the law that analysts say may not survive long because they reflect American rather than Middle Eastern values." [26]

Also see Iraqi sovereignty: June 30, 2004 (External Links)


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