Edition 14 Volume 1 - October 23, 2003
Options for Iraq
Issues on the horizon -
A Shia drift away from federalism would be a warning sign of trouble ahead.
What to do about Iraq…and the United States -
The deal to save the US from its own neo-colonial incoherence and quagmire in Iraq must be explicit.
Turning Iraq into a democratic and prosperous country: ten priorities -
Iraq is likely to become a direct EU neighbor around 2015.
Issues on the horizon
by Ellen Laipson
With the unexpected unanimous passage of a new United Nations Security Council resolution on Iraq, the international community is closer to consensus about how to proceed in assisting Iraq to build a new political system. There is nominal agreement that Iraqis should move quickly to establish a process that will lead to a new constitution and elections in a timeframe that is neither as fast as some Iraqis would want nor as slow as some had feared. The new UN resolution should also, in theory, generate more financial and security partners for the US/UK forces in Iraq, although it may turn out that Security Council members were more motivated to help Iraq clarify the issues of governance than to help Washington manage the daunting burdens of its ambitious Iraq policy.
The focus should now move to Iraq, where various Iraqi actors are showing higher levels of energy and optimism than was the case in the first months after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Some of the activity in Baghdad and other major cities is violent, but it is important to keep separate the attacks on American (and other foreign) forces in the country, from the now emerging new politics of Iraq. Violence against American troops may be the critical consideration for Washington policymakers who need to manage the political and budgetary consequences, but the security environment, dangerous as it may be, does not explain the totality of what is going on in Iraq today. After the initial trauma of the war and the fall of Saddam Hussein, moderate Iraqis of many political persuasions are emerging from the shadows and gaining momentum and confidence in building a new Iraq.
At least three issues are worthy of attention: the debate over sovereignty and how to launch the political process, the credibility of the Iraqi Interim Governing Council, and the possible tradeoffs between federalism and Shia interests.
Perhaps the most useful outcome of the new Security Council resolution is to put to bed the debate over sovereignty. There was much rhetoric through the summer about the status of Iraqi sovereignty. Some international players, governments and non-government organizations fueled the debate by insisting that a sovereign Iraqi authority, not the occupation forces, was needed to legitimize any foreign humanitarian or development activities in the country. Without venturing into all the legal and academic perspectives, the question of sovereignty was a political problem for the governing council, and was adding to resentment about the pace of political transition.
The new UN resolution may help resolve the question, by giving greater recognition to the council and its responsibility to provide the Security Council with its timetable for a constitution and elections, thus making clear that Iraqis, not Americans, will report to the Council on the political future of Iraq. Some have also argued that sovereignty was never in dispute since the legal status of the Iraqi state remained intact, and recent acceptance of Iraqi officials at the Arab League and other international organizations has seemed to resolve the debate, or to take the sting out of the issue.
Less clear is whether the Governing Council and its membership have gained in credibility and stature. The two dozen members are learning to work together, and have established transparent procedures, including rotating leadership, that have reassured Iraqis and many in the international community. But some perceive its representative nature--the careful way the United States worked to make it symbolically inclusive of all major Iraqi groups--as a problem for Iraq's political future. Some Iraqis and Arab elites outside Iraq have reacted badly to the American creation of the council, arguing that it looks like Lebanon, or sends the signal that America cares more about the appearance of fairness and diversity than about the quality of leadership. According to this argument, Iraqis would have preferred to see people chosen on their individual merits and professional qualifications, rather than identified as representing an ethnic or sectarian grouping.
There is also grumbling from various quarters about the unsavory pasts and practices of some members. This criticism applies not only to the returned exiles, but to leaders who remained during the Saddam years. Some may complain out of jealousy or disgruntlement, but the United States needs to be sensitive to the fact that American values of inclusiveness and diversity are not the only or the most important values that Iraqis will want to see protected in their new political culture.
Iraqis have many critical choices to make in the months ahead. As they begin a long national conversation about the core principles of a new constitution, many believe and hope that Iraqis will find federalism a useful mechanism to manage regional differences, to protect minorities, and to preserve national unity. Federalism is probably a key requirement for the Kurds, even if the federal state in which most Kurds would live would not be called Kurdistan, and would include important numbers of Arabs and Turcomen. But an equally powerful impulse is to ensure Shia empowerment and to uphold basic democratic principles of equality. It seems that the Shia, currently distracted by their own internal political disputes and leadership struggles, may be less persuaded that federalism is a virtue, when their numbers provide them such comfort and strength.
The months ahead will provide much excitement and stress for fledgling Iraqi democrats. Learning to listen and respect one another and to come to closure on political choices will be hard. The hardest task of all is to balance the demands of the Shia majority for empowerment and respect, with the need to address past and potential grievances of Kurds and Sunnis. The interests of all three key groups need to be addressed; a Shia drift away from support for federalism would be a warning sign of trouble ahead.-Published 23/10/2003©bitterlemons-international.org
Ellen Laipson is president and CEO of The Henry L. Stimson Center in Washington. She was vice chair of the National Intelligence Council from 1997 to 2002.
What to do about Iraq…and the United States
by Rami Khouri
The continuing violence in Iraq, coupled with the very conflicting worldviews on how to resolve the situation (especially evident at the United Nations last week) suggest that the world must address two very different challenges. The urgent task is to stabilize Iraq, restore native sovereignty, revive economic growth, and end the Anglo-American-led occupation. The equally significant longer-term challenge is how to deal with the unilateral projection of American power around the world. These two issues can only be addressed effectively if they are addressed together, as two sides of the same problem. The wider context for this requires a global consensus on how the world should respond to states that might represent a threat to peace and security, and specifically when and how to sanction foreign armed intervention in a troubled sovereign state.
The very frustrating immediate dilemma is that American actions have forced the world to deal with Iraq as a crisis management situation, with no easy answers to the key issues of ensuring security, ending the occupation, establishing a new political system that is credible to Iraqis, revitalizing the economy, and maintaining a stable regional order. Even the American frustration at being handed a messy fait accompli by United States President George Bush's super-hawk neo-cons was obvious in the piqued US Senate's demand last week that half the $20 billion reconstruction funds for Iraq be offered as American loans, not grants. This frustration is likely to increase as the slightly desperate American attempt to buy or rent foreign armies to help it police Iraq stumbles--which is happening already with the floundering idea of sending 10,000 Turkish troops to the country.
We should not turn a difficult situation into a catastrophic one by looking for instant solutions. A hasty American retreat from Iraq would probably lead to political chaos, internal fighting, and regional complications; but a prolonged American presence would generate more anti-American political and military resistance in Iraq and throughout the region, and would make a shambles of the UN-based global peace-making system. The best that can be done now is to combine moves that aim to address simultaneously the immediate and long-term challenges: a stable, sovereign Iraq, on the one hand, and a more humble America that sheaths its neo-con-driven instinct for unilateral militarism, on the other.
Such an approach could include the following elements:
- a new UN resolution with a genuine rather than illusory consensus, providing for an American-dominated but truly international military force to stabilize Iraq, faster training of security personnel in Iraq and neighboring countries, reinstating much of the de-Baathified former army and police, and introducing Arab and foreign peacekeepers and human rights monitors as per Iraqi wishes;
- giving the Security Council, rather than the US, responsibility for restoring full political authority and sovereignty to Iraqis;
- vastly expanding the Iraqi component of the Coalition Provisional Authority and the administration of Iraq, which now still rely heavily on decisions made by Paul Bremer and other Americans;
- announcing a realistic, clear, fast-track schedule for resumption of full Iraqi sovereignty within a maximum of one year, perhaps based on interim use of Iraq's pre-Baathist constitution and its existing governorates for decentralized decision-making, thus allowing for speedy regional and local elections and, subsequently, appropriate constitutional revisions determined by the Iraqi people;
- launching a global economic support mechanism that would allow the whole world to engage in the economic reconstruction of Iraq, including massive aid, privatization as deemed appropriate, and writing off much of Iraq's debt; and
- consulting much more widely with Iraqis from all walks of life about their political aspirations and how they wish to make their transition to freedom, sovereignty, and democracy.
These elements could only happen--and other countries would only participate--if the package were to be based on an explicit agreement that security and financial appropriations decisions would be made through a mechanism in which Iraqi and UN voices dominate, with Anglo-Americans and others in the occupation coalition playing a reduced role. Movement towards this concept is happening already, with the agreement a few days ago for the UN and the World Bank to handle spending decisions from the new fund to be established at Madrid this week.
The deal to save the US from its own neo-colonial incoherence and quagmire in Iraq must be explicit: an integrated package of measures to improve conditions for all in Iraq must immediately curb the prevailing American control of the situation, and reaffirm critical multilateral approval for any such foreign intervention in a sovereign state. Internationalizing the stabilization, democratization, economic revitalization, national reconfiguration, and political transition in Iraq must be done in a way that reduces and negates the Anglo-American occupation, rather than provides it with a fig leaf and political-economic relief.
We must explicitly acknowledge the twin threats that have to be curbed now: occupation-related tensions and violence in Iraq, and the continuing American penchant for unilateral military actions. We must rebuild a violent, fragile Iraqi state, and prevent the emergence of a violent, predator American state.-Published 23/10/03©bitterlemons-international.org
Rami G. Khouri is the executive editor of the Beirut-based Daily Star.
Turning Iraq into a democratic and prosperous country: ten priorities
by Eberhard Rhein
Iraq is potentially one of the wealthiest countries on the globe. It holds the second most important oil reserves, after Saudi Arabia. It boasts of a talented people and a well-trained labor force, including some 100,000 small and medium-sized enterprises. It has more arable land per capita than any other Arab country, except Tunisia.
But the country has been terribly run down as a consequence of 30 years of rule by Saddam Hussein, including three destructive wars, in the wake of which the per capita income has fallen to less than $1,000! The challenge is how to mobilize the country's enormous potential and to do so in the shortest possible time span. Iraq will succeed more easily in this task if the priorities are immediately set.
From a Brussels perspective, the priorities should be as follows:
First, get the people back to work.
Six months after the end of the war, unemployment continues to be rampant, with more than half of the active population out of work. The provisional government should launch a large-scale program for cleaning up and repairing to be implemented by municipalities and small enterprises in order to give people some basic employment that will allow them to buy their food and other necessities. The United Nations World Food Programme should finance such a “food for work program” instead of giving away food rations free of charge.
Second, accelerate the repair of basic utilities (electricity, water, telephone).
The lack of fully functioning utilities during the past months has been a major cause of discontent among the Iraqi population. Damage assessments have been undertaken for the key sectors of the economy. It is urgent to complete tender procedures in order to get services functioning again. Funding should not be a problem for such repair work, but sabotage is.
Third, restore the oil production and export capacity.
It is urgent to reach again the pre-invasion production level of 2.5 million b/d (from 1.8 million b/d presently) in order to create additional budget revenue. This should be possible before the end of 2004 at the latest. Funding should not be a big problem. The increase of the oil export capacity to some six million b/d, envisaged for 2010 by the ministry of oil, will only be feasible with the help of massive investment from outside and most probably a constructive involvement from international energy companies.
Fourth, enhance domestic security.
Security for the civilian population and expatriates (UN personnel, non-governmental organizations, private business people, technicians, etc.) is a vital prerequisite for restoring the economy. Without security there will be delays in normalization, repairs, new investment, foreign assistance, travel, etc. It should therefore top all other priorities. It is up to the occupation powers to tackle this apparently difficult task; they would be well advised to rely increasingly on Iraqi military and police forces than on their own soldiers, who are neither familiar with the environment nor liked by the Iraqi people.
Fifth, transfer civil governance to the Iraqi authorities.
This process started with the installation of a provisional Iraqi government as of September 2. It should proceed in stages, starting with non-sensitive areas like housing, environment, water, electricity supply, education, social and economic affairs, etc.
Sixth, prepare a constitution.
Iraq needs to rewrite its constitution. Preparatory work has started. A “constitutional assembly” should urgently elaborate a draft that might be put to a referendum before July 2004. Internationally renowned constitutional lawyers should assist in the exercise. The constitution should provide for a large measure of regional autonomy. A federal structure á la Spain, Italy or Germany might be appropriate.
Seventh, call national and municipal elections before July 2004. Iraq needs a government that is legitimized by general elections. These should immediately follow a positive referendum on the constitution. An international team of observers working under UN auspices should monitor the preparation and holding of the elections. Ideally, municipal elections should be held simultaneously. Morocco might assist in the organization of such elections.
Eighth, phase out occupation by early 2005.
Foreign occupation should end as soon as possible; phasing out should begin in 2004. The withdrawal of foreign troops should take place in stages, depending on the speed at which Iraqis are able to organize their democratic governance and assure internal security, political stability, law and order. It is up to a democratically elected government to negotiate whatever agreements with the USA or other countries that are required for the stationing of troops or the maintenance of military bases beyond the end of occupation.
Ninth, negotiate a comprehensive settlement with creditor countries.
Iraq is heavily indebted to the international community. Its foreign debt is on the order of $100 billion. It will only be able to obtain an inflow of fresh international capital if it has settled the terms of reimbursement of its outstanding debt. The new directly elected Iraqi government should therefore seek an urgent debt settlement.
Tenth, modernize the institutions and laws.
Iraq has the opportunity to turn itself into the most modern country in the Arab world. It should seize that opportunity and learn some lessons from the transition countries in Central Europe. It should embark on a ten-year reform program of the type that Hungary or Poland is about to complete. The most valuable assistance that the enlarged European Union can offer Iraq is the transfer of its experience in Central Europe. It is up to the new political leadership in Iraq to grasp that chance!
In conclusion, the European Union cannot afford to let Iraq slip back into dictatorship or chaos. Iraq will need international support for another ten years or even more, not in terms of public grants, but rather in long term loans and private investment. It will get such support provided it implements “good governance”--democracy, human rights, rule of law and accountability--more successfully than most of its neighbors.
Iraq is likely to become a direct EU neighbor around 2015 when Turkey may join the EU. This is one more reason to care about its political and economic development. The EU and its member states would do well to coordinate their assistance within a comprehensive “European approach” and to concentrate on those fields where Europeans have superior expertise, e.g. governance and education.-Published 23/10/2003©bitterlemons.org
Eberhard Rhein is a senior policy advisor at the European Policy Centre, Brussels. During 1984-96 he was in charge of the Middle East at the European Commission.