I just attended an interesting seminar at the UQ Law School on the interim Iraqi constitution, a topic that’s been discussed at length by Alan at Southerly Buster, and more briefly by Ken Parish . I learned some interesting things. For example, the Kurds are supposed to be descended from the Biblical Medes .
However, there was no discussion of the topic that really interested me.
This is the interregnum between the ‘handover’ of power to an Iraqi interim government, due on June 30, and elections due by January 2005. There is then supposed to be a further interim stage before the adoption of a final constitution, but my problems start well before that.
To begin with, I don’t even know for sure who gets to pick the interim government in the first place. My understanding, supported by things like this article in Time had been that Bremer controlled this, but in discussion with the seminar speaker, Suri Ratnapala, he suggested (or at least I understood him to suggest) that the current Governing Council could make this decision. And since the legal status of the occupation depends on UN Security Council resolutions, it’s at least arguable that the UNSC has the right to nominate the new government. To add to my confusion, I thought I saw a report saying the US was going back to the UNSC to seek a new resolution, but I now can’t find it. Even the excellent Juan Cole doesn’t fully clarify the situation for me.
The next problem relates to the claim that UNSC Resolution 1511 permits US forces to maintain military control of Iraq. It seems clear that this interpretation will prevail from June 30, regardless of its legality. But it’s hard to believe that it can survive the advent of an elected Iraqi government, presumably dominated by the supporters of Ayatollah Sistani. And even with a US-nominated government, there’s every possibility of trouble. It’s hard to believe, for example, that US forces can go on arbitrarily arresting people and detaining them with no right of appeal to Iraqi courts, at least not without discrediting the supposedly sovereign interim government.
At the bottom of all this is my belief that the Bush Administration will never allow large numbers of US troops to be under the authority of anyone else. If this belief is right, I can’t see how a handover can be anything other than a mess whenever it takes place.
fn1. it’s easy enough to Google this once you know to look, but I’d never thought about it.