Brown: CPA Legislation to Shape Iraq’s Future
Professor Nathan Brown of George Washington University, a major figure
in the US study of Middle Eastern law and politics, comments on the recent
CPA rules signed by Paul Bremer:
“The CPA has recently issued a series of legal enactments (‘Orders”) that
give a little more sense of the shape of things after June 30. They do
nothing to resolve the issues left unresolved in the Transitional
Administrative Law (i.e., what authoritative structures are in place when
sovereignty is transferred on June 30). But they do something to clarify
the legal and institutional framework and the role of the United States.
First, the CPA has issued some legislation covering very basic economic
matters, most notably the Central Bank Law and the Companies Law. In both
cases, the preamble to the legislation mentions the Governing Council in
general terms, but does not make clear whether or not the legislation was
initiated or approved by the Governing Council. If the Council had in
fact endorsed the measures I would expect that would have been mentioned
in the preamble, so I assume that the CPA has issued these orders without
Second, the CPA has issued laws establishing new bodies to regulate public
and private media. The former is to be run by an “Iraqi Media Network.”
The latter is to be regulated by a “Communications and Media Commission.”
Again, there is no evidence of a Governing Council role in either Order.
The Iraqi Media Network is to be an independent public service
broadcaster. The Communications and Media Commission seems to be based on
the idea that airwaves are public property. The nature of the
Commission’s jurisdiction over print media seems a little bit more murky.
The Order states that “the Commission shall be solely responsible for
licensing and regulating Telecommunications, Broadcasting, Information
Services and other Media in Iraq,” and the Order specifically provides
that “Media” includes “printed material.” Thus, the Commission clearly has
some jurisdiction over print media. However, the Order also states that
“the written press shall not require a license to operate within Iraq.”
However, the most notable feature of the Orders might be the clear role
they lay out for continued American influence. The two media-related
bodies are to be appointed by Bremer; after June 30, it will become very
difficult to remove the members before the expiration of their terms. I
have already noted how the transfer of sovereignty to an Iraqi body will
be limited by the Transitional Administrative Law’s provisions for the
Special Tribunal and the Iraqi military (which will be placed under
American command). This strategy of walling off certain structures is now
extended to the new bodies. The Iraqi Media Network is to have a non-Iraqi
member; the Communications and Media Commission is required to coordinate
with (among others) the American Embassy after June 30.
On the one hand, this might be seen to have a salutary long-term effect.
By establishing some independent bodies, the CPA has instituted some
checks on the authority of the post-June 30 executive.
On the other hand, that is not all the CPA has done. It has made such
bodies autonomous but also created very significant pockets for its
lingering influence to be felt. In the case of the Media Commission, the
body is required by law to continue to coordinate with the US Embassy.
Such steps certainly risks undermining their credibility within Iraq.
Nathan J. Brown