27 May 2004

Behind the Scenes, US Tightens Grip on Iraq's Future

In March, for instance, Mr. Bremer issued a lengthy edict consolidating control of all Iraqi troops and security forces under the Ministry of Defense and its head, Ali Allawi. But buried in the document is a one-paragraph 'emergency' decree ceding 'operational control' of all Iraqi forces to senior U.S. military commanders in Iraq. Iraqis will be able to organize the army, make officer appointments, set up new-officer and special-forces courses, and try to develop doctrines and policies to govern the forces. But they can't actually order their forces into, or out of, combat -- that power will rest solely with U.S. commanders.

U.S. Maj. Gen. David Petraeus, who participated in the original Iraq invasion, will soon assume responsibility for training the new forces. With American commanders retaining the power to order the forces into combat, Mr. Allawi or his successor will be left with only 'administrative control' of the forces.

Meanwhile, the media and telecom commission Mr. Bremer created will be able to collect media licensing fees, regulate television and telephone companies, shut down news agencies, extract written apologies from newspapers and seize publishing and broadcast equipment.

One of the new watchdog agencies, the Office of the Inspector General, will have appointees inside every Iraqi ministry charged with combating malfeasance and fraud. Appointed to five-year terms, the inspectors will be allowed to subpoena witnesses and documents, perform forensic audits and issue annual reports.

The other watchdog, the Board of Supreme Audit, will oversee a battery of other inspectors with wide-ranging authority to review government contracts and investigate any agency that uses public money. Mr. Bremer will appoint the board president and his two deputies. They can't be removed without a two-thirds vote of Iraq's parliament, which isn't slated to come into existence until sometime next year.

Few of the positions have been filled so far, but officials at the CPA and the Governing Council say they expect to name the new officials within weeks. The advisers inside the ministries are likely to be almost exclusively American, while the inspectors and members of the various new commissions will all be Iraqi. Individual ministers can dismiss their advisers, but many U.S. officials assume they'll be reluctant to do so for fear of antagonizing the U.S.

This is just another proof of how incomplete the transfer of complete sovereignty is going to be. These tactics are authorised by by Articles 48 and 49 of the transitional administrative diktat. It's only a guess, but I wonder how much of UN Envoy Brahimi's difficulties in constructing a government are due to the CPA making these appointments over his head. The defence minister, for instance, has a fixed 5-year term and cannot be removed by the prime minister or the presidency council.

Without basic changes, the interim constitution is simply unworkable. What for instance, is going to happen 3 or 4 years down the track when a US adviser tries to overrule a minister on a fundamental issue? Are the Iraqi government or people really going to accept a set of 5-year training wheels laid down by a subcommittee of the CPA?

Paul McGeogh's opinion piece is worth reading as well.

Tip via DailyKOS

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