Three Way Summit in Berlin Ends “in disaster”
France’s Jacques Chirac refused to compromise on two key issues at the Berlin summit between Britain, Germany and France. The meeting was a “public relations disaster,” according to Wolfgang Proissl, the foreign editor of the Financial Times Deutschland, reported the BBC.
French President Jacques Chirac said, “There’s no point me saying our differences are slight. France believes there should be a change in direction. The United Nations must play a much more significant role.” He was also quoted by the BBC as saying, “France is of the view that there must now be a change of course, with a transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi authorities … as soon as possible, that is to say, in a matter of months. On the basic issues I don’t think our views differ, but on the modalites and the timetable we’re not yet in full agreement…”
So the sticking points are more United Nations input into Iraq reconstruction, and more Iraqi sovereignty sooner rather than later.
The US resolution will now have to be debated at the Security Council without the advantage of having essentially been approved by the 3 Western European powers beforehand.
I think the French are right in their two main stances. The US lacks legitimacy in Iraq, and order will only be restored when legitimacy is established. The UN can help mightily with that. Likewise, early elections can be and should be held.
Take out any authoritarian language about monarchy, replace remaining references to the king with “Prime Minister” or “Parliament” and make a few other minor adjustments, require that all further changes need a 2/3s majority of both houses of parliament, and have the Interim Governing Council approve the changes. Announce that the first parliamentary elections will be held under this constitution, but a new one will be drafted after an elected government is in place. Use the electoral rules of the last elections in the 1950s if they are broad enough. Do a quick ad hoc voter registration in local neighborhoods using drivers licenses and identity cards. Use the 1997 census results to establish proportional representation for the various provinces. And, voila–we could have elections before the end of the year fairly easily.
In the 1925 Constitution the Upper House of Parliament is appointed by the king and has 20 members. Instead, it should be elected and have 19 members, one from each province. The Kurds and Sunni Arabs will be slightly over-represented this way.
The lower house of parliament will look like this: 15% of the seats will go to Kurds, fairly evenly split between Talabani and Barzani’s parties. They are already on the IGC, so this is not a change. Another 15% or so of seats will go to Sunni Arabs. A lot of these may be angry nationalists and Baath sympathizers and Islamists. But they are only 15%, so they cannot obstruct anything by themselves in a parliamentary situation. 60% of seats will go to the Shiites. 75% of Basra delegates will be secularists. Most delegates from al-Hilla and Amara will be tribal. Sistani and al-Hakim’s people will win Najaf. East Baghdad will return radical Muqtada al-Sadr supporters, and they will have about 10% of the seats. Again, they can’t do much if this is the case. Even if they allied with the Sunnis, they could not obstruct a 2/3s majority.
The US is being far too cautious about holding elections, because of the bad experience in Bosnia. Iraq is not Bosnia. Here, the problem is the illegitimacy of what is seen as a neo-colonial government. US fears that radicals could come to power are overblown given Iraq’s ethnic diversity. The only reason not to forge ahead is that US companies may not get as many contracts this way. Who cares?