Move to Early Turnover of Civil Authority in Iraq?
One outcome of Paul Bremer’s frantic consultations in Washington on the rapidly deteriorating Iraq situation appears to have been a decision to move to some sort of sovereign Iraqi government quickly, and to worry about the writing of a constitution later.
Although this decision is long overdue, how it is done will be extremely important. Power cannot simply be handed over to the existing Interim Governing Authority. Its inability to get anything done helped to produce the crisis in the first place.
A politician appointed by the US would have no legitimacy.
The US must go back to the Garner plan, of calling a national congress of about 250 delegates from all over the country, chosen by their townships or clans. They must elect an interim president, who could appoint a cabinet. Holding such a national congress is risky, since the outcome is unpredictable. But it is the only way to get a legitimate government.
Observers keep pointing to the fatwa of Grand Ayatollah Sistani in which he demanded that delegates to any constitutional convention be elected, as having derailed any compromise on the IGC about how to select the drafters of a constitution. But it doesn’t seem widely known that Sistani issued another fatwa in which he said that any interim government could only be legitimate if it were elected by the Iraqi people, and were approved by the Najaf Grand Ayatollahs.
So, just appointing Ahmad Chalabi president, or imposing a new Hashimite monarchy won’t do the trick. Neither would have any legitimacy, locally or internationally. The US is going to have to bite the bullet and let a sovereign leader emerge from post-war Iraq on the basis of some sort of vote.
That shouldn’t be so hard. In fact, that’s what I thought the Bush administration had been saying it was aiming for in removing Saddam. Any other way of proceeding will make the political and military situation worse, not better.
Nota bene: An Iraqi president elected by the people in some transparent and above-board process might at last be able to get countries like Egypt to commit troops to help provide security. An American appointee never could.