12 November 2003

US ups pressure on Iraqi council

Insisting that relations with the Americans 'are not difficult,' Mr. Noor Alzin says nevertheless that the Council has made many decisions that have yet to be implemented because Bremer has not signed off on them.

Some Iraqis say the members of the governing council are thieves, 'Ali Babas' who are only interested in creating jobs for their family. But a surprising number praise a group that was only assembled in July, and are impressed when disputes and political differences are played out publicly in a country that is accustomed to a monolithic political face.

At the same time, however, there is a strong sense that in the end, the Americans remain all-powerful and will have their way - a perspective that would only be cemented if the US decided to alter or replace the council.

'America wants Iraqis to lead Iraqis, but we know America wants a president who will do what America wants,' says Mr. Hussein, the mechanic. 'If the Americans want my father to be president,' he says grinning, 'he will be president.'

I doubt much will come of this. Despite the Bush administration's obsession with its own autonomy, there's a limited number of people who would make credible IGC members. The IGC already contains a number of marginal figures like Ahmed Chalabi who owe their seats exclusively to US patronage.

Think about the Kurds. They have an established leadership. Are other Kurdish figures going to betray their leaders in order to serve the CPA? Are the Kurdish IGC members to be retained while others are dismissed? Indeed what authority is the council as a whole going to hold if it's arbitrarily dismissed by the US?

The Bush administration has a long record of blaming others for their own failures. I guess they could try it in Iraq, but finding others willing to serve them might be a challenge. Finding others to constitute some kind of valid IGC would be impossible.

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