26 May 2004

US Emphasizes Intent to Transfer Full Power to Iraqis - With Limits

A day after President Bush declared in a major speech that Iraqis would exercise authority over their own affairs, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in London that Iraq's interim government would have the right to veto specific military operations by the U.S.-led coalition, a view American officials immediately disputed. And French President Jacques Chirac told Bush in a telephone conversation that France wanted any new U.N. Security Council resolution to spell out clearly that the Iraqis would have a say over U.S.-led military operations.

The dispute over how much authority the new Iraqi government would wield came at a crucial diplomatic and political moment for the White House. While the U.S. is negotiating a Security Council resolution seen as critical for bestowing international legitimacy on the interim Iraqi administration, U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is struggling to name a government.

Why would Tony Blair make a statement if he knew the White House would contradict him? Was this an effort to try and force Bush's hand? Or is this another of this administration's flip-flops that happened to catch Blair firmly between the eyes?

In any case the confusion could (in theory) easily be resolved by including specific language in the new UN resolution. Sadly that seems not to be the way that diplomacy works. Evidently the White House wants to hold on to Article 59 no matter what.

That will destroy any legitimacy the transitional government might claim, but exemplifies the 'What, me worry?' approach the White House has taken to this entire war.

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