The United States says Iraq will be sovereign, no longer under military occupation, on June 30. But most power will reside within the world’s largest U.S. Embassy, backed by 110,000 U.S. troops.
The fledgling Iraqi government will be capable of tackling little more than drawing up a budget and preparing for elections, top U.S. and Iraqi officials say.
“We’re still here. We’ll be paying a lot of attention and we’ll have a lot of influence,” a top U.S. official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. “We’re going to have the world’s largest diplomatic mission with a significant amount of political weight.”
In just over three months, the mantle of sovereignty in Iraq will be passed to an interim government. Its composition and the manner of its choosing will be decided after a United Nations team arrives this week.
But with Iraqi elections scheduled for December or January, the interim government will last a fleeting seven months at most: a butterfly’s life, in legislative terms.
Since the U.S.-led occupation regime will have a hand in choosing Iraq’s next government, the body will lack a mandate for anything but administrative tasks. Many envision a team of nonpartisan Iraqi technocrats who concentrate on keeping the country functioning.
“We don’t expect them to enact any laws unless there is absolute need for them,” Iraqi Governing Council member Adnan Pachachi said Sunday. “We’re not going to enter into any big contractual obligations — either diplomatically or economically — because those things should be done by an elected government.”
The short-lived government’s main work includes passing the 2005 national budget and preparing for elections, the U.S. official told reporters in a dinner meeting.
The U.S. ambassador will hoard a large measure of influence on Iraq, and the fledgling government will wean itself only slowly from American money, troops and advisers, whom Pachachi said will be tutoring Iraq’s rulers on governance issues across the board.
The American face in Iraq will undergo only a symbolic change, with the ambassador installed in a new chancery building but U.S. affairs still handled in Saddam Hussein’s former Republican Palace.
The ambassador will also have a say in the spending of $8 billion of the massive $18.4 billion U.S. aid package approved by Congress in November, a huge tool with which to influence Iraq’s affairs.
Operations day to day
Americans “will be heavily involved, so there will be continuous contacts with them,” Pachachi said in an interview in a rented Baghdad mansion that serves as his headquarters.
Much of the day-to-day governance will be handled by a president or prime minister and the country’s 25 ministers, some of whom Pachachi predicted will be holdovers selected by U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer.
Pachachi listed three options being considered for the country’s interim government, a charged issue after the complex U.S. plan for a system of caucuses was mooted earlier this year.
Options for government
A committee selected by the U.S.-picked Governing Council and occupation authorities could select one or a variation of the following options:
- The existing 25-member Governing Council gains legislative power, but the monthly rotation of the presidency is jettisoned in favor of a president and deputies chosen from among the members.
- The Governing Council is expanded to around 100 members and takes either a parliamentary role or an advisory role, electing a prime minister and president from within its ranks.
- A general national conference is convened under U.N. auspices, and conference members choose a president and ministers and then disband. A second variation has the conference retaining legislative or advisory power.
The U.N. team that arrives at the end of the week will attend to technical aspects of selecting the interim government, Pachachi said. A second team that arrives in early April will include top U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, and will handle final negotiations, Pachachi said.
As Iraq marches toward independence, many U.S. moves will shape governance and society here long after the occupation’s end.
A week ago, U.S. officials announced new restrictions on border crossing that won’t be fully implemented for a year — long after sovereignty is in the hands of Iraqis.
Bremer is also in the midst of appointing inspectors general for Iraq’s ministries that, under current rules, can’t be replaced by an incoming Iraqi government.
The U.S.-led authority is also establishing a corruption-fighting Committee on Public Integrity whose commissioner is being appointed to a five-year terms, and an Iraqi broadcasting authority — akin to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.