[Marxism] Behind the Scenes, U.S. Tightens Grip on Iraq's Future (WSJ)

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Thu May 13 22:10:41 MDT 2004

(This is one of the most remarkable reports I've seen.
It shows in precise and exact detail how the US is now
in control of virtually every single aspect of Iraq's
government. Anyone who believes that any "sovereignty"
will be given to Iraq on June 30th must also believe in
the tooth fairy. 

(When you read the recently-released five-hundred page
"Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba" document, 
it's filled with references to what a new government 
in Cuba MIGHT want to consider. That's all diplomatic
folderol. In this article, from the front page of the
central organ of US corporate leadership we see what 
the US actually DOES to a country where it succeeded, 
for the moment, in installing an obedient regime.

(I would very highly recommend that, after you've read
this Wall Street Journal article, you read or re-read
two commentaries on Iraq and Cuba written a few short
months ago, by friends of Cuba, for broader context:

Sharminie Peries: The Bush Plan For Cuba:

Julie Webb-Pullman: Cuba in the Sights:

This should be quickly shared as widely as possible.

Walter Lippmann, Moderator, CubaNews list

May 13, 2004

Behind the Scenes,
U.S. Tightens Grip
On Iraq's Future

Hand-Picked Proxies, Advisers
Will Be Given Key Roles
In Interim Government
Facing Friction Over the Army

May 13, 2004; Page A1

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Haider al-Abadi runs Iraq's Ministry of
Communications, but he no longer calls the shots there.

Instead, the authority to license Iraq's television
stations, sanction newspapers and regulate cellphone
companies was recently transferred to a commission whose
members were selected by Washington. The commissioners'
five-year terms stretch far beyond the planned 18-month
tenure of the interim Iraqi government that will assume
sovereignty on June 30.

The transfer surprised Mr. Abadi, a British-trained
engineer who spent nearly two decades in exile before
returning to Iraq last year. He found out the commission
had been formally signed into law only when a reporter
asked him for comment about it. "No one from the U.S. even
found time to call and tell me themselves," he says.

As Washington prepares to hand over power, U.S.
administrator L. Paul Bremer and other officials are
quietly building institutions that will give the U.S.
powerful levers for influencing nearly every important
decision the interim government will make.

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."

U.S. officials say their moves are necessary to prevent an
unelected interim government from making long-term
decisions that the later, elected government would find
difficult to undo when it takes office next year. U.S.
officials say they are also concerned that the interim
government might complicate the transition process by
maneuvering to remain in power even after its term comes to
an end.

The fear is not a hypothetical one: The U.S.-appointed
Governing Council embarrassed and angered the U.S. by
publicly lobbying to assume sovereignty this summer as
Iraq's next rulers.

A Tangled Path to Sovereignty

The U.S. has frequently revised its plans for giving power
back to Iraqis.

• April 2003: With the invasion over, Coalition Provisional
Authority assumes responsibility for the day-to-day
administration of Iraq.

• May 12: L. Paul Bremer replaces former general Jay Garner
as the top American occupation official in Iraq.

• July 13: Mr. Bremer hand-picks 25-member Iraqi Governing
Council, but they are given little real power.

• Sept. 22: Mr. Bremer says U.S. occupation will continue
until Iraqis draft a constitution and elect a permanent
government, a process likely to take at least two years.

• Nov. 15: U.S. officials announce accelerated timetable
for transferring sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government
selected by regional caucuses the following summer.

• Feb. 23, 2004: U.N. Iraq envoy Lakhdar Brahimi rejects
caucus plan, sending American officials back to the drawing

• April 14: Mr. Brahimi calls for interim government led by
a ceremonial president and powerful prime minister; U.S.
says it accepts the proposal.

• June 30: Interim government scheduled to assume limited
control of Iraq; CPA set to formally dissolve.

• January 2005: Elections are supposed to be held for an
Iraqi government that will draft a permanent constitution
and prepare to assume full sovereignty over Iraq.

Source: WSJ research

Those concerns are shared by the country's top Shiite
cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. With Shiites making up
nearly 60% of Iraq, Mr. Sistani and his followers don't
want important decisions made until an elected government
-- which he expects Shiites to dominate -- takes power.

U.S. officials say many Iraqi political leaders also
tacitly approve severely restricting the powers of the new
government, even if they don't say so publicly. "The Iraqis
know we don't want to be here, and they know they're not
ready to take over," says a State Department official with
intimate knowledge of the Bush administration's plans for
Iraq. "We'd love a welcoming sentiment from the Iraqis, but
we'll accept grim resignation."

Currently, the Coalition Provisional Authority, which
answers to the Pentagon, has total control of the
governance of Iraq. It can issue decrees on virtually any
topic, which then immediately become law. It will formally
cease to exist on June 30. The Governing Council exists
largely as an advisory body. Its members can pass laws, but
the legislation must be approved by Mr. Bremer. The council
has no control over the U.S. military, and in practice has
little influence on civil matters.

It's unclear what powers the interim government, which will
be set up by United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, will
have. It will not control Iraq's security forces or
military. In theory, it will have the ability to enforce
and interpret laws on its own, though it will as of now
lack the ability to write new ones or make large changes to

One thing is clear: The government's actions are likely to
be heavily influenced by dozens of U.S. and Iraqi
appointees at virtually all levels.

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

The nerve center of the U.S. presence in Iraq will be a
massive new embassy. CPA officials recently decided that
most employees of the new embassy will remain in a former
palace used by Saddam Hussein even though the building is
seen by many Iraqis as a symbol of Iraqi sovereignty. The
embassy needs the space: It will ultimately employ
approximately 1,300 Americans, as well as 2,000 or more
Iraqis. The current occupation authority employs 1,500

The U.S. plans to convert a nearby building into the formal
embassy that incoming U.S. ambassador John Negroponte can
use for ceremonial functions. In an unusual move, two of
Mr. Negroponte's top deputies will also have ambassadorial
rank. James Jeffrey will become the deputy chief of mission
at the embassy. Blunt and often profane, Mr. Jeffrey, a
former Army special forces officer, is currently the
ambassador to Albania and has held senior posts in Turkey
and Kuwait. Ron Newman, currently the ambassador to
Bahrain, also has a military background and is likely to
join the embassy in Iraq in a senior position such as
defense attaché.

The U.S. push to continue guiding events in Iraq has been
led by the State Department, where officials have grown
convinced that placing the country under full Iraqi control
now would plunge it deeper into violence and political
turmoil, according to people familiar with the matter.

U.S. officials had once talked of occupying Iraq for
several years, a period more in keeping with the precedent
set by the seven-year occupation of Japan after World War
II. Last November, however, the White House accelerated the
timetable. Despite a wave of bombings the previous month,
the administration believed the insurgency was limited to a
small number of what Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
called "dead-enders."

The Bush administration also felt Iraq's Sunni minority,
which had controlled Iraq under Mr. Hussein, had been
neutralized by the disbanding of the army and the firing of
tens of thousands of government officials. Iraq's Shiite
majority was seemingly unified behind Mr. Sistani, who
counseled his followers to cooperate with the coalition.
And Iraq's ethnic Kurds, who controlled the country's
north, had moderated their long-held demands for full

Many of those assumptions haven't yet panned out. Sunnis
angry over their forced disenfranchisement have put up a
stiff resistance to the U.S. occupation in cities like
Fallujah, and Iraq's fledgling security forces have been
unable or unwilling to help fight them. Thousands of
Shiites have taken up arms against the U.S. under the flag
of Muqtada al Sadr, an anti-American cleric once dismissed
by Washington as a bit player in Iraq.

The Kurds, meanwhile, remain deeply wary of joining up with
the rest of the country. With the violence surging in
recent weeks, the State Department official with knowledge
of the administration's plans says the U.S. "realized that
what we put on the table in November wasn't flying."

U.S. officials settled on making an array of appointments
intended to allow them to influence the interim government.
The CPA official charged with setting up the new embassy,
John C. Holzman, downplays the possibility of disputes, and
says the role of the advisers will change after June 30
because they will no longer be answering to an occupation
authority with full authority over Iraq.

"There will be a huge difference because we're not going to
be issuing orders anymore," he says. "We won't be the
sovereign here anymore."

But many Iraqis and Americans concede that friction is all
but inevitable. If recent events are any indication, the
most serious disagreements between the U.S. and the new
government could arise over the best strategy for fighting
the ongoing insurgency. When fighting flared in Fallujah
and Najaf, U.S. commanders ordered newly trained Iraqi
units into combat alongside American forces, but the Iraqis
proved largely ineffective. Many units deserted entirely,
while others joined the insurgents.

It's also unclear if Iraqi political leaders will want
local units to fight -- especially if the enemy is other
Iraqis. The U.S. decision to use heavy weaponry like
helicopter gunships against targets in Fallujah caused the
resignations of two Iraqi political leaders who had been
appointed by the U.S. almost a year earlier, and sparked
searing denunciations of the coalition by numerous other
Iraqi officials. The Iraqis insisted on a nonviolent
solution to the dispute and accused the U.S. of acting with
a heavy hand and causing needless civilian casualties.

If the U.S. pressed ahead with the offensive anyway, it
would risk embarrassing the new government and persuading
ordinary Iraqis that the body is powerless. But if it gave
in, American commanders could find themselves hamstrung in
the fight against insurgents.

--Bill Spindle contributed to this article

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