UN: No Early Elections in Iraq
Kofi Annan released his report on Monday suggesting that direct elections can’t take place in Iraq until December of 2004 or early 2005. He made no suggestions about how to establish a government in Iraq to which the US could hand over sovereignty as planned on June 30. He is said to be opposed to the American practice of imposing solutions on the Iraqis, and will send Lakhdar Brahimi back to Iraq to ascertain from its leading political figures how they believe a transitional government could best be chosen.
This way of proceeding seems to me unlikely to be fruitful. Iraq is in its current difficulties in part because the Interim Governing Council has proven incapable of making tough decisions. It could not even elect a president, instead choosing to have a nine-man presidency that rotates once a month, ensuring lack of continuity. IGC member Muwaffaq al-Rubaie told al-Hayat yesterday that it seems to him unlikely that the IGC will succeed in approving a new Fundamental Law (interim constitution) by the deadline of February 28. Some outstanding issues include federalism (how much autonomy, exactly, will the Kurds have?), the place of Islam in Iraqi law, and the role of women in Iraqi society. Al-Rubaie said he thought these problems were so intractable that it was unlikely they would be resolved within a week. Paul Bremer, the American civil administrator of Iraq, has expressed his confidence that the deadline will be met.
Since you can hardly have a sovereign government without at least such a rump constitution, if the IGC proves unable to pass such a Fundamental Law by June 30, it would put in doubt the transition. Al-Rubaie says the Kurds are terrified of a renewed central government with an army, and their terror makes them unable to compromise (the Kurds want an undertaking that the national army won’t set foot on their province).
If Kofi Annan is waiting for the IGC to take a decisive stance on how to constitute the transitional government, he will be waiting for a very long time. Brahimi will come back from another trip to Iraq with notes that show deep division and chronic indecisiveness. Whatever Annan decides, it will be an imposition on some major political force in the country, so he may as well just be decisive. He would be the only one acting that way in this whole sorry mess.