Amir Taheri: Using international precedents to find a system that suits Iraq
Special to Gulf News | 24-09-2003
When first announced a couple of months ago, Iraq's Governing Council was shunned by several Arab states as "non-representative". France, Germany and a few other nostalgics of Saddam Hussain, complained about the council's "non-democratic nature".
The United Nations, where fudging matters is a refined art, invited the Iraq Governing Council to address the Security Council, but refused to let it occupy Iraq's seat.
Emboldened by these positions, all those opposed to change in Iraq rushed to attack the council as a "club of quislings". A number of self-styled religious leaders in Egypt and Lebanon even issued "fatwas" forbidding contact with the council which was supposed to be "unclean".
Even some of those who had supported the liberation of Iraq, complained about the council's failure to pick a single chairman and its failure to curtail debate and take quick decisions. (Actually these are positive points. The council has adopted a system of rotating presidency, in contrast to the Iraqi tradition of rule by a strongman. The council's insistence that all issues should be debated for as long as necessary is also a welcome break with a tradition of one man, or a handful of men, taking quick decisions based on illusions.)
Wheel of fortune
Now, however, the wheel of fortune has turned for the council. In Baghdad a string of foreign dignitaries wait in line to meet the members of the council or the ministers appointed by them. In some 60 countries, notably including Russia, Iran and Turkey, Iraqi embassies, consulates and legations have already been handed over to people named by the council.
And last week, ignoring some huffing and puffing by one or two members, the Arab League formally welcomed Iraq's new interim Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari. Next week Iraq will also regain its seats in the Organisation of Islamic Conference, OIC, and the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Opec.
On the "fatwa" front, the Sheikh of Al Azhar, Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi, has expressed support for the council. Tantawi, Egypt's senior theologian, has described as "fools" the mullahs and muftis who call for boycotting the Iraqi Governing Council. And that's not all. The Governing Council has suddenly emerged as the central piece in a strategy that France and Germany are proposing for Iraq under the auspices of the United Nations.
"We want an immediate transfer of power from the Americans to the Governing Council," a spokesman for the German foreign ministry said yesterday.
The French media, reflecting President Jacques Chirac's thinking, are also campaigning for an end to rule by the American interim administrator L. Paul Bremer III, and its replacement by the Governing Council.
What is the reason for these dramatic changes in attitudes towards the Governing Council?
The most obvious reason is that all those who opposed the liberation of Iraq are now convinced that, despite current problems, there is no possibility either of a return of the Baathist regime or of a disintegration of the country.
Iraq may have a couple of hard years ahead. But it has all that is needed to become a success story in the medium and longer term. No power interested in the Middle East could afford to stay out of Iraq and sulk.
To enter Iraq right now, however, it is necessary to acknowledge the leading role of the United States. And this is precisely what many opponents of the war wish to avoid. They believe they can circumvent the problem by drawing a wedge between the US and the Governing Council.
Three models for the transition period in Iraq are under study. The first is the East Timor model under which the UN will declare a mandate on Iraq and run the country until the emergence of a freely elected government in Baghdad.
That model, supported by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, initially enjoyed some support from several members of the Iraqi Governing Council, notably Adnan Pachachi, himself a former foreign minister of Iraq.
Now, however, there is virtually no support for that model within the council. Russia and China have indicated some support for it but appear to be open to other options.
The second model is that of Cambodia where the UN worked alongside an existing government in Phnom Penh. This model is supported by France and Germany. Roughly, the Franco-German scenario would run as follows: The UN will recognise the Governing Council as the sole representative of Iraqi sovereignty. The Bremer administration will then be transformed into a US aid project in Iraq.
The UN will then assume control of Iraq in a period of transition. The UN representative in Iraq will then fix a timetable for writing a new constitution and holding elections to create a new state and government. (France's candidate for the post is Francois Leotard, the former French Defence Minister).
The third model is that of Afghanistan where the US remains in a leadership position alongside the government of Hamid Karzai in Kabul. The idea is to increase the authority of the Governing Council and let the newly created Council of Ministers assume genuine executive powers. Bremer would then act as an upper chamber of a parliament, retaining an effective veto on key questions until an elected government is in place.
The question that the Bush administration must ask is whether it is worth it to expose Iraq to international diplomatic rivalry in exchange for what is bound to be minimal material and military support from the UN.
The only justification for involving the UN may have to do with American domestic politics. Bush may want to be in a position to tell his electorate that the UN is now on board in Iraq.
And this is precisely why France, Germany and a few others, who do not wish to see Bush re-elected, are determined to push the price so high as to make it impossible for Washington to accept without losing control of the situation in Iraq. The message that Paris and Berlin wish to convey is this: Bush and his "neo-cons" created a mess, now we enter to save Iraq from destruction!
The writer, Iranian author and journalist, is based in Europe. He can be contacted at his e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.gulf-news.com/Articles/Opinion.asp?ArticleID=98424
September 23, 2003
Iran Assures Canada on Photographer Trial
TORONTO (AP) -
Canada's foreign minister said Tuesday his Iranian counterpart assured him that an open trial will be held for the suspect in the murder of photojournalist Zahra Kazemi.
Bill Graham met with Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazzi at the United Nations, where both were attending the opening of the General Assembly.
Kazemi, 54, a Canadian of Iranian origin, died while in custody in Tehran. An Iranian Judge issued an indictment Monday that charged an unnamed Intelligence Ministry interrogator with "semi-premeditated murder."
Graham said Kharazzi told him that Canadian officials and Kazemi's family could take part in the trial.
"I am assured there will be a trial, an open trial, and we will be able to participate," he said, adding that no date for the trial has been set.
Kazemi was detained in June after taking photos outside a Tehran prison during student-led protests. After 77 hours of interrogation, she was rushed to a hospital's intensive care unit, where she died 14 days later.
Her case has become part of the power struggle in Iran between hard-liners and reformists.
Hard-line Tehran prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, initially said Kazemi died of a stroke. But a presidential-appointed committee discredited this version and concluded she died of head injuries sustained while in custody.
Intelligence Ministry officials have denied their officials were responsible, claiming a judicial official assaulted Kazemi.
Canada threatened sanctions and withdrew its ambassador after the photojournalist's body was buried in Iran against the wishes of Canadian authorities and her son, who lives in Montreal.
In a separate case, Graham said Tuesday that Saudi Arabia has rejected Canada's request for an investigation of allegations that a Canadian man was tortured while in Saudi custody for more than two years.
William Sampson says he was beaten, deprived of sleep and suspended upside down to force him to make a false confession for a car bombing in Riyadh that killed one person. Sampson was sentenced to death in the case, then set free last month along with five Britons and a Belgian also implicated.
A diplomatic note from the Saudi government, received Monday by Canada, rejected the request for an investigation but said Sampson could lodge a complaint, Graham said.
The note said Sampson was pardoned, despite his guilt, to maintain good relations with Canada. Sampson denies any role in the bombing. http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/w-na/2003/sep/23/092306179.html