Brahimi Plan unveiled
The full text of the Brahimi plan is at the UN Observer.
Here are the main points:
‘ 2. Let me emphasise from the outset that in this political process in Iraq, the elections scheduled to take place in January 2005 are the most important milestone. There is no substitute for the legitimacy that comes from free and fair elections. Therefore, Iraq will have a genuinely representative Government only after January 2005.
3. What the aim should be, at present, is to put in place a caretaker Government that will be in charge from 1st July 2004 until the elections in January 2005. We are confident that it will be possible to form such a Government in a timely manner, i.e. during the month of May 2004. We see it as a Government led by a Prime Minister and comprising Iraqi men and women known for their honesty, integrity and competence. There will also be a President to act as Head of State and two Vice-Presidents.
4. According to both the 15 November 2003 Agreement and the Transitional Administrative Law, the Governing Council, along with the CPA, will cease to exist on 30 June 2004. Some of its members are already assuming other responsibilities. Other members will no doubt be called upon to participate in various State institutions.
5. During our consultations, a very large number of our interlocutors suggested that a large National Conference should be convened. We see merit in this suggestion. It would serve the all-important aim of promoting national dialogue, consensus building and national reconciliation in Iraq. A preparatory Committee should be established soon to start the preparatory work and the Conference could take place soon after the restoration of sovereignty, in July 2004.
6. The National Conference would elect a Consultative Assembly to serve alongside the Government during the period leading to the elections of the National Assembly which, it is agreed, will take place in January 2005.
7. To return to the subject of elections, a U.N. electoral team has been in Baghdad for some time now. They are working diligently to help with the preparatory work for the January 2005 elections. They have visited some cities in the North and in the South. Like us, their movements are somewhat restricted at present by the prevailing security situation. But they remain confident that they can help out. But it is important and urgent that, on the Iraqi side, the necessary steps are taken, so that elections can take place at the appointed time in January 2005. Naturally, the security situation has to improve significantly for these elections to take place in an acceptable environment. ‘
This plan is a compromise. There were two main factions. One wanted to keep the Interim Governing Council but expand it to 100 from 25. This way of proceeding would benefit the current appointees, who would keep the advantages of incumbency as they transitioned to elections in January ’05. Another group wanted to go narrow, disband the IGC altogether, and appoint a president and prime minister, who would appoint an interim cabinet and preside over the transition to elections. This way of proceeding would only benefit a handful of politicians, the ones who got the top appointments, but it would benefit them even more than the first plan. After all, the transitional president would have a good shot at being the elected president, and perhaps likewise with the prime minister.
The Arabic press was reporting a plan to make Adnan Pachachi president, one of the Kurdish leaders vice president, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim also a vice president, and then have the three of them appoint a prime minister, a post for which Ahmad Chalabi and Iyad Allawi were jockeying.
Brahimi’s plan in a way combines the two. He does suggest a handful of top appointments, and wants the United Nations to have a strong hand in making them. But then he also suggests the election of a Consultative Assembly that would be more broadly based and would advise the government during the transition.
The danger in Brahimi’s plan for a corrupt Pentagon-supported expat like Chalabi is that Brahimi is saying that the UN doesn’t want him in a high appointive post because of all the questions that swirl around him regarding embezzlement and playing fast and loose with other people’s money. This UN opposition to Chalabi is what provoked his counter-attack on Brahimi and his plan: ‘ Chalabi’s spokesman, Entifadh Qanbar, said the nomination or selection of an interim government by the United Nations would not be acceptable to many Iraqis. “Our position is that this process has to be led by Iraqis and not by the U.N.,” Qanbar said. “The U.N. should have the role of consultation — no more than that.” ‘
Brahimi seems to be saying that the appointed high officials–a president, two vice-presidents, and a prime minister– should have genuine grass roots in Iraq and be respected as upright. I think Barzani and Talabani among the Kurds fit this bill, and so do Abdul Aziz al-Hakim and Ibrahim Jaafari among the Shiites. I don’t know, however, to whom you would turn among the Sunni Arabs for a politician with substantial grass roots.
In any case, Brahimi’s plan would interfere with the Pentagon shoe-horning Chalabi into power as its “democratically minded strong man” (as if such a phrase made any sense). I don’t think Chalabi can win a popular election in Iraq unless he buys enormous numbers of votes. But it should be remembered that Barzani, Talabani, and al-Hakim all defend Chalabi and seem to owe him somehow, and if they are at the top of government they may find a way to bring him back in from the cold.
The frustrating thing for a historian is that when you craft narratives of 19th century power struggles, you have the memos of the principals in the archives, and you have some sense of who supported whom and why. Reading current Iraq events through the dark glass of the Arabic press and hints coming out of the CPA is a much chancier endeavor.
A reader asked me to comment also on Point 8 of Brahimi’s speech:
‘ 8. Last but not least, during our consultations, in February as well as at present, we heard of many grievances which need to be addressed. Detainees are held often without charge or trial. They should be either charged or released, and their families and lawyers must have access to them. The issue of former military personnel also needs attention. Furthermore, it is difficult to understand that thousands upon thousands of teachers, university professors, medical doctors and hospital staff, engineers and other professionals who are sorely needed, have been dismissed within the de-Baathification process, and far too many of those cases have yet to be reviewed. ‘
This point seems to me to be a plea from the Sunni middle and professional classes for some sort of amnesty for their complicity in the Baath Party. Ahmad Chalabi and the people around him have been particularly militant about excluding and punishing all Baath Party members. Bremer’s administration appears to have given in on Chalabi’s demands in this regard. While in part this emphasis comes out of Shiite grievances, it seems likely that Chalabi also does want to clear the decks so that he can rule unopposed if he can get into power, without a lot of pesky informed technocrats second-guessing him and even thwarting some of his policies. Since the CPA is a creature of the Neocon-dominated Department of Defense, it may well be that punitive measures against former Baath Party members is designed to punish them for their hostile attitudes to Israel or to ensure that Iraq is able to conclude a Camp David-style peace treaty with Ariel Sharon down the road.
Brahimi’s plea makes sense to me. If you were a professor under the Baath and wanted to go to a conference in Dubai or London, you had to join the party first. Party membership alone tells us nothing about a person’s real attitudes, and assuming the individual was not complicit in spying on other Iraqis or committing crimes, it seems to me foolish to take a vindictive attitude toward low-ranking party members.
As for the pleas for information about and due process for those taken prisoner by the US, this also used to be a mainly Sunni Arab request, but now the Shiites of the South are saying the same things.