The following is an archived copy of a message sent to the CASI Analysis List run by Cambridge Solidarity with Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of Cambridge Solidarity with Iraq (CASI).

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [CASI Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[casi-analysis] On the 'transfer of sovereignty'

[ This message has been sent to you via the CASI-analysis mailing list ]

Dear all

This mailing list obviously lacks a clear focus to policy, equivalent to the
original opposition to sanctions. This means that we don't really function
as a group and what appears or doesn't appear on the list is rather
arbitrary. There is really no reason for anyone outside ourselves to take
much interest in what 'we' have to say.

I suppose we all have different ideas as to what the focus of our attention
should be and I have great sympathy with the view that we should keep the
emphasis on sanctions, ie on the historical record of sanctions, the more so
since the Americans are proposing as a new proconsul (or 'ambassador'. But
note that they also like to call Paul Bremer an 'ambassador') John
Negroponte who as US ambassador to the UN in the sanctions era is personally
responsible for the state of misery in which the entire population in Iraq,
outside the ruling elite, was forced to live for many years.

However, in terms of immediate policy I would invite people to consider the

1) that 'sovereignty' should be defined as full control over the military
and economic policy of the country (surely an uncontroversial definition!)
and that consequently nothing that does not transfer such control to an
Iraqi government can be described as a transfer of sovereignty.

2) that only a democratically elected assembly can be regarded as
representative of the Iraqi people

3) that until real sovereignty is handed over to a democratically elected
government, Iraq should be regarded legally as an occupied country and its
functional authority subject to all the usual legal restrictions of an
occupying force.

I develope this case in the following letter addressed to Martin Kettle of
The Guardian

Best wishes


Dear Martin Kettle

I have only just read your interesting article 'There is no alternative to
Tony Blair's policy on Iraq' (Guardian, 14th April).

In it you argue that we are now involved, like it or not, in a conflict
between 'freedom' and 'fundamentalism' and we have to support the side of
freedom. The policy of handover of sovereignty on June 30th is the only
possible option.

Unfortunately, neither 'freedom' nor any real handover of sovereignty on
June 30th are on offer and, as Salem Lone pointed out in his article just
beside your own, the best policy for confronting the fundamentalists - the
establishment of a democratically elected Iraqi assembly (whether it
possessed sovereign powers or not) has been refused by the United States

The Americans are in the process of building fourteen permanent military
bases in Iraq. They have closed their bases in Saudi Arabia on the clear
assumption that Iraq would be freely available to them. It is difficult to
imagine that these bases will come under the sovereign control of any Iraqi
government in the foreseeable future. The existing interim constitution
places the Iraqi army and police force under US control. Control over the
armed forces existing within the country is normally considered the most
fundamental defining characteristic of sovereignty, but that is not what is
gong to be handed over on June 30th.

The seriousness of this becomes all the more obvious when we remember that a
section of American opinion very close to the present administration sees
the invasion of Iraq as only the second phase of a policy which will have to
continue with the invasions of Iran and Syria.

The interim constitution also prevents the 'sovereign' Iraqi government
after June 30th from changing any legislation imposed by the current
administration, including that which has opened the whole Iraqi economy to
unrestricted foreign purchase. At present this has been something of a dead
letter because under international law the occupying force has no right to
sell the assets of an occupied nation. Under the circumstances the legal
title of any purchaser would be very vulnerable. This is why the US
government is anxious to end not the occupation but the legal status of
occupation. The desire for closer involvement of the United Nations is a
desire that the UN Security Council pass a resolution declaring that the
occupation has ended, thus permitting the sale of Iraqi assets prior to the
establishment of a properly elected Iraqi government.

Which may not be possible even by the projected date of January 2005. A
democratic government can only come into existence once a constitution has
been agreed. But the interim constitution (which gives any three provinces a
right of veto) has given a right of veto over the final constitution - and
hence over the appearance of a democratically elected government - to the
Kurds. In this way, the thorniest problem facing any government in Iraq -
the Kurdish demand for an autonomous state which would include Kirkuk and
Mosul - has been raised as a barrier to the establishment of democratic

It is this more than anything else which has roused the anger of the Shi'ite
leadership and therefore inhibited them from opposing the forces of Moqtada
al-Sadr. Both Ayatollah al-Sistani and the leadership of the Supreme Council
for the Revolution in Iraq (which is represented on the Iraqi Governing
Council) are natural enemies of Moqtada, but they have both declared that
his demands are just.

It should never be forgotten that the US government have already tried to
pretend that the existing Iraqi Governing Council was a sovereign
government. Hence the name and the fact that it comes armed with
'ministries' and 'ministers' (including ministries of foreign affairs and,
recently, defence!). This was done in an unsuccessful attempt to persuade
the Security Council to end the 'occupation' status, without actually ending
the occupation.  It would have been infinitely better had the occupying
force behaved openly as an occupying force, using a differently named IGC as
an advisory board that would have given voice to Iraqi concerns and
discontents. It would have been better for the individuals concerned, who
could have appeared as representatives of the Iraqi people rather than as
agents of the occupation.

June 30th is a second attempt at exactly the same policy and we can only
hope that, once again, it will not succeed, that the British and Americans
will not get the resolution they want out of the Security Council. They
should instead be obliged to exercise direct sovereignty as an occupying
power, under the restrictions imposed on occupying forces by International
law, until handing over to a democratically elected and fully sovereign
Iraqi government, as advocated by al-Sistani.

'Fundamentalism' flourishes in war conditions. It appeals to the most
determined, militant sections of the society, those motivated by convictions
strong enough to enable them to kill and to die for a cause (it is doubtful
if European fascism could have been defeated without the support of European
Communism). The much touted 'silent majority' can only assert itself under
conditions of a relatively stable democracy. By refusing democracy in Iraq
with a view to maintaining its own military and economic control, the
occupying power has, deliberately or not, strengthened the power of

Yours sincerely

Peter Brooke
Brecon, Wales

Sent via the CASI-analysis mailing list
To unsubscribe, visit
All postings are archived on CASI's website at

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]