Wednesday, June 22, 2005

December 31, 2005: Whither Iraq?

And now, for something completely different -- a little less snark, a little more scholarly research. Oh, don't act so shocked. Sarcasm doesn't become you. Anyway, a question that should be growing increasingly relevant but, as far as I can tell, isn't: What happens on December 31, 2005 when Iraq becomes officially "sovereign"?

Currently, Iraq is "governed" (and I use that word with all of the eye-rolling cynicism that's appropriate) by something called the "Law of Administration for the State of Iraq for the Transitional Period", or just the "Transitional Law" for brevity, of which you can peruse a copy here. As you can read, the purpose of the Transitional Law is to govern Iraq "until Iraqis approve a permanent constitution and a permanent Iraqi government takes office." And when exactly would that be? Good question, it turns out.

First note the very opening sentence of the document:

On June 30, 2004, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) intends to transfer power in Iraq to a fully sovereign Iraqi interim government.

"Fully sovereign"? What exactly does that mean? Using the standard definition of the word, one would think that it means that the new Iraqi government could tell the occupying troops to pack up their shit and get out of town, no? Interestingly, although Iraqi politicians are getting increasingly vocal about wanting the U.S. military off of their soil, the Americans aren't showing any signs of starting to pack, are they? How odd.

You can, of course, continue reading the gory details of the proposed timeline, but let's jump ahead to the best part, shall we?

The National Assembly will perform legislative and oversight functions. Composed of 275 members, it will develop its own internal procedures and sit in public sessions. It will examine bills proposed by the Council of Ministers, propose its own bills, ratify international treaties, and exercise oversight over the work of the executive authority.

OK, that's pretty boring, but what comes next isn't:

A key function of the National Assembly is to write a draft permanent constitution by August 15, 2005. The Iraqi people will then vote to approve the constitution in a general referendum to be held by October 15, 2005. If the permanent constitution is approved in the referendum, elections for a permanent government would take place no later than December 15, 2005, and the permanent government would take office no later than December 31, 2005. However, if a majority of Iraqi voters do not approve the draft constitution or if two-thirds of the voters in three or more governorates reject it, then the National Assembly will be dissolved. Elections for a new National Assembly would
take place by December 15, 2005. The new government would continue to operate under the transitional law and be responsible for writing another draft permanent constitution.

Now that last development sounds kind of conclusive, doesn't it? So, does that mean Iraq is back to being a "sovereign" nation with full control over their land? If not, why not? And if not then, when? Again, despite these magnificently-detailed political milestones, there's no indication that the U.S. is planning on leaving any time soon, and Secretary of State Condi Rice just described a "generational commitment" of the U.S. to Iraq. So what's going on here? When will the Iraqis have control of their country back? Or will they?

It strikes me that buried in all of this is a pointed question that someone should be asking White House Press Lizard Scott McClellan during some upcoming gaggle, and I imagine it going something like this:

Q: Scott, regarding Iraqi sovereignty, technically speaking, does the Iraqi government currently have the authority to demand that the U.S. withdraw from Iraq? And if not, why not? According to the government's own document describing the Transitional Law:

The transitional law states that a fully sovereign interim government will assume power in Iraq on June 30, 2004, and that the interim government will be formed through consultations with Iraqis and possibly in consultation with the United Nations.

If the government that took power last year is, in fact, fully sovereign, do they not have the authority to demand the withdrawal of U.S. troops? And if not, what does it mean to say they're fully sovereign? And at what point would they have the authority?

I don't think this is an unreasonable question, and Li'l Scottie can't even blow it off as "hypothetical," since no one is asking if the Iraqis will be doing this, or whether they're thinking about doing this -- it's only asking whether they have the authority, and there's nothing hypothetical about that, is there?



Greg Fingas said...

Great question. But this is Scott McClellan we're talking about - how long will it take him to answer "you'll have to ask the Iraqis for yourself"?

CC said...

No, no, no ... I was seeing a response more along the lines of, "Well, since that's clearly a hypothetical, the president has already addressed this and I'm not interested in plowing old ground, and since I disagree with your characterization, you'll have to ask the iraqis."