Friday, November 09, 2007

Iraqi Government Wants Voice in When U.S. Troops Leave

Iraqi Government to UN: 'Don't Extend Mandate for
Bush's Occupation'

By Joshua Holland and Raed Jarrar,
AlterNet. Posted November 9, 2007

Bush needs the U.N.'s cover to justify the
occupation, but the only way he can renew the
expiring U.N. mandate is to cut Iraq's frail
democracy out of the process.

The United Nations Security Council, with support from
the British and American delegations, is poised to cut
the Iraqi parliament out of one of the most significant
decisions the young government will make: when foreign
troops will depart. It's an ugly and unconstitutional
move, designed solely to avoid asking an Iraqi
legislature for a blank check for an endless military
occupation that it's in no mood to give, and it will
make a mockery of Iraq's nascent democracy (which needs
all the legitimacy it can get).

While the Bush administration frequently invokes sunny
visions of spreading democracy and "freedom" around the
world, the fact remains that democracy is incompatible
with its goals in Iraq. The biggest headache supporters
of the occupation of Iraq have to deal with is the
occupation itself. As far back as the middle of 2004,
more than nine out of 10 Iraqis said the U.S.-ledforces
were "occupiers," and only 2 percent called them
"liberators." Things have only gone downhill since then,
and any government that represents the will of the Iraqi
people would have no choice but to demand a timetable
for the withdrawal of foreign troops. This fact poses an
enormous problem, as the great triumph of the Bush
administration and its supporters has been in their
ability to convince Americans that Iraqi interests and
Washington's interests are in harmony, even when they're
diametrically opposed.

Crucial to this fiction is a U.N. mandate that confers
legal cover on the so-called "multinational" forces in
Iraq. The mandate is now coming up for renewal, and a
majority of Iraqi legislators oppose its renewal unless
conditions are placed on it, conditions that may include
a timetable for the departure of American troops.

The process of renewing the mandate is highlighting the
political rift that's divided the country and fueled
most of the violence that's plagued the new state.
That's the rift between nationalists -- those Iraqis
who, like most of their countrymen, oppose the presence
of foreign troops on the ground, the wholesale
privatization of Iraq's natural resources and the
division of their country into ethnic and sectarian
fiefdoms, and Iraqi separatists who at least tolerate
the occupation -- if not support it -- and favor a loose
sectarian/ethnic-based federation of semiautonomous
states held together by a minimal central government in

In the United States, the commercial media has largely
ignored this story, focusing almost exclusively on
sectarian violence and doing a poor job giving their
readers and viewers a sense of what's driving Iraq's
political crisis. An understanding of the tensions
between nationalists and separatists is necessary to
appreciate the import of parliament being cut out of the
legislative process and the degree to which doing so
hurts the prospect of real political reconciliation
among Iraq's many political factions. (We've discussed
this dynamic in greater detail in an earlier article.)

The key ingredient to understand is this: The Iraqi
executive branch -- the cabinet and the presidency --
are completely controlled by separatists (including
Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds and secular politicians). But the
parliament is controlled by nationalists -- nationalists
from every major ethnic and sectarian group in the
country -- who enjoy a small but crucially important
majority in the only elected body in the Iraqi

In 2006, Maliki's office requested the renewal of the
U.N. mandate without consulting the legislature, a
process that many lawmakers maintained was a violation
of Iraqi law. The problem was that Maliki didn't have
the authority to make the request under the Iraqi
constitution. Article 58, Section 4 says that the
Council of Representatives (the parliament) has to
ratify "international treaties and agreements"
negotiated by the Council of Ministers (the cabinet).
Specifically, it reads: "A law shall regulate the
ratification of international treaties and agreements by
a two-thirds majority of the members of the Council of

Prime Minister Maliki had claimed that the constitution
didn't refer to the U.N. mandate. A senior Iraqi
lawmaker, speaking on condition of anonymity, said of
the assertion: "If we are asked to approve a trade
agreement concerning olive oil, should we not have the
right to pass on an agreement concerning the stationing
of foreign military forces in our national soil?"

In June, we reported that the parliament had passed a
binding resolution that would force Maliki to go to the
parliament and give Iraqi lawmakers an opportunity to
block the extension of the mandate. It was signed by the
majority of the 275-seat legislature, then sent to the
president. According to the Iraqi constitution, the
president had 15 days to veto it by sending it back to
the parliament; otherwise it automatically became a
ratified law. The 15 days passed without a veto and the
resolution became the law of the land in mid-June 2007.

Something happened, however, between the passage of that
law and the latest report by U.N. Secretary-General Ban
Ki Moon. According to Moon's latest report to the
Security Council (PDF), dated Oct. 15, the law that had
been passed by the duly elected legislature of Iraq
became nothing more than a "nonbinding resolution":

The Council of Representatives passed a nonbinding
resolution on 5 June obligating the cabinet to
request parliament's approval on future extensions
of the mandate governing the multinational force in
Iraq and to include a timetable for the departure of
the force from Iraq.

One might have believed that the disconnect was a simple
mistake, if not for the fact that members of the Iraqi
parliament, still fuming over being cut out of the
process the year before, sent a letter to the U.N.'s
special envoy for Iraq back in April clarifying the
situation in very clear terms. According to an English
translation provide by the Global Policy Forum, it says:
"The Iraqi Cabinet has unilaterally requested a renewal
of the U.N. mandate keeping the occupation troops (MNF)
in Iraq" despite the fact that "such a request issued by
the Iraqi cabinet without the Iraqi parliament's
approval is unconstitutional." It continues: "The Iraqi
parliament, as the elected representatives of the Iraqi
people, has the exclusive right to approve and ratify
international treaties and agreements, including those
signed with the United Nations Security Council."

According to sources within the Iraqi delegation to the
United Nations, the letter, signed by 144 MPs --more
than half of Iraq's legislators -- was received in good
order by the special envoy, Ashraf Qazi, but never
distributed to the Security Council members, as is
required under the U.N. resolution that governs the
mandate. The parliament, and indeed the majority of the
Iraqi population, had been cleanly excised from the
legislative process.

The important thing to understand is that the run-around
goes beyond the issue of the mandate itself. Iraq is not
in the midst of an incomprehensible religious war over
some obscure theological differences between Sunni and
Shiite Muslims but is deeply and profoundly divided over
fundamental questions about the future of the country.
In cutting the nationalist majority in the parliament
out of the process of governing, the Maliki
administration, Bush administration and, apparently, the
U.N. secretary-general are making political
reconciliation much more difficult. History has offered
the lesson time and time again: Deny people the right to
participate in deciding their own destiny in a peaceful
political process, and they'll try to do so with guns
and bombs. The United Nations, like the administration
and its supporters, and like Sen. Joe Biden and those
who favor his plan for partitioning the country, is
taking sides in a political battle that should be
exclusively for Iraqis to decide.

If there were some similarities between the current
Iraqi-Iraqi conflict and the U.S. civil war it is in
having one side that wants to keep the country united,
and another side planning to secede. All of the foreign
forces that are intervening in Iraq's affairs -- whether
led by the United States, Iran or Al-Qaeda -- are on the
side of a minority of Iraqis who want to secede against
the majority's will.

This U.N. mandate issue is not occurring in a vacuum.
When it comes to the nascent Iraqi government,
supporters of the occupation have long had their cake
and eaten it too. On the one hand, they deny that the
U.S.-led military force is an occupying army at all,
maintaining that all those foreign troops are there at
the "request" of the Iraqi government. That's an
important legal nicety -- occupying forces have a host
of responsibilities under international law and
acknowledging the reality of the occupation would result
in more legal responsibilities for the administration to
ignore. At the same time, when the only people who all
those purple-fingered Iraqi voters actually elected to
office try to attach some conditions to the U.N.
mandate, demand a timetable for withdrawal or come out
against privatizing Iraq's natural resources, then
somehow the legislature magically disappears and the
hopes and aspirations of its constituents are discarded
as if they never existed.

It's time to force the issue: The Iraqi parliament, the
only body elected by the Iraqi people, wants some say
over the continuing presence of foreign troops on its
soil, and a majority of its lawmakers, like a majority
of both Americans and Iraqis, wants a timetable for
ending the occupation.


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to people on the left that will help them to
interpret the world and to change it.

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