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Re: [casi-analysis] The UN Trojan Horse

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

Ken, you're right about the US influence over Brahimi's proposal.
According to the New York Times [1]:

"Ms.[Condoleezza] Rice's chief deputy for Iraq, Robert Blackwill, has been
working side by side with Mr. Brahimi in Iraq to come up with the plan
proposed on Wednesday, several officials noted"

Apart from being a deputy national security advisor, Robert Blackwill is a
long-time Bush-follower. He's one of the old guard who also served under
Bush senior (including working with Condoleezza Rice on his national
security council)[2]. He was also mentioned as a possible rival to
Negroponte for the position of US ambassador to Iraq.  [2]. In short, he
is a pretty clear voice for Bush in Brahimi's work.

Worth also remembering that Brahimi himself was appointed at the
insistence of the US. A Times article from January begins: [4]
"WASHINGTON will press the United Nations today to send a veteran
troubleshooter to Iraq to defuse the growing opposition of Iraq's Shia
majority to the coalition's plan for the country.
Diplomats say that the Bush Administration wants Lakhdar Brahimi, who has
just stepped down as the United Nations envoy in Afghanistan, to travel to
Iraq to try to broker a deal between the coalition and the powerful Grand
Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani."

There's not necessarily anything sinister about this. According to the
Times article, he has worked closely with the US in Afghanistan and as an
informal envoy to Iran, and it could just be that the Bush administration
thinks he's an efficient diplomat. Brahimi seems to be trying fairly hard
to publicly distance himself from the US: point 8 of his plan is a
criticism of US tactics, and he's criticised US support of Israel [5].
Whether that means he's actually independent, or just a sensible diplomat,
is anyone's guess.

The point of all the above is not that the US is in complete control - it
seems clear that circumstances have given the UN a greater say than anyone
expected a couple of months ago. But equally it isn't, as Sama seems to
imply, the one-sided rampaging of an official with a grudge against the
Shia. That means we should be able to discuss it without having to worry
which of the US and the UN is the greater evil, or which group of Iraqi
politicians we're most favourably disposed towards. Now, as to the facts
of the proposal itself...

The Brahimi plan itself is below, since I don't think anyone has sent it
to the list yet. I've also pasted in an extract from testimony to ...
given by Toby Dodge (a historian of, among other things, Iraq under the
British mandate.  He's also written on modern Iraq[5]). And here are a
few, far less well-informed, comments of my own

Sama's piece talks about Brahimi wanting to remove the IGC. 3 points it's
worth being clear about here:

1) while he wants to dissolve the IGC, this is only to replace it with a
larger equivalent - i.e. many of the governing council members will simply
be transferred to the new council. In Brahimi's words,
"Some of its members are already assuming other responsibilities. Other
members will no doubt be called upon to participate in various State

2) the governing council *couldn't* just carry on for another 6 months.
Four of its most prominent members will presumably become president,
vice-president, or prime minister. Plus there's the question of whether
council members are resigning anyway. If you're replacing half a dozen
council members, then you're going to have to rearrange plenty of the
others if you want to keep to the Salhuddin or any other percentages.
Under those circumstances, choosing a hundred-member council could be
better than maintaining the existing one

3) While I agree that the council has been the most representative body in
modern Iraqi politics, it has been a failure from the perspective of
getting things done. With only 25 members, a substantial portion of the
coucnil has always been out of Iraq on diplomatic or other business, and
meetings have reportedly been very badly attended. With more members, the
diplomatic responsibilities of members would have far less impact on the
effective functioning of the council

Finally, a couple of asides about Sama's article:

a) I don't think it's fair to complain that Brahimi's comment on
de-baathification shows a "loathing of Iraq's departure from minority
dominance". He didn't criticise the idea of de-baathification, just the
lack of review, and the way in which it has affected low-level civil
servants, who in many cases presumably had no ideological commitment to
the Baath. Even if you think the debaathification process has gone
perfectly, you can't equate his opposed views with an opposition to

b) you refer to the 'Sunni Plan', which is a term I haven't come across -
is there anywhere you can point me for more information?

Obviously, all the above comes with the usual disclaimer that since I'm
not Iraqi you should take everything I say with a fairly large pinch of


1. NYT, 16/4/04,
[this article thinks that Brahimi had the upper hand in drawing up the
2. Times, 29/11/1989
3. AP, 13/4/04,
4. Times, 19/1/04, 'US demands role in Iraq for Afghanistan envoy'
5. Al-hayat, via Juan Cole,]
6. e.g. Adelphi paper 354.1, 'Iraq at the Crossroads: State and Society in
the Shadow of Regime Change'. Unfortunately I have no idea whether this is
any good, since it's missing from the Cambridge libraries; it's pretty out
of date now anyway.
7. The Brahimi plan []

 1. We believe that the present security situation makes it more important
and more urgent for the political process to continue and we expect all
stakeholders to re-double their efforts to ensure this process is
successfully completed.

2. Let me emphasise from the outset that in this political process in
Iraq, the elections scheduled to take place in January 2005 are the most
important milestone. There is no substitute for the legitimacy that comes
from free and fair elections. Therefore, Iraq will have a genuinely
representative Government only after January 2005.

3. What the aim should be, at present, is to put in place a caretaker
Government that will be in charge from 1st July 2004 until the elections
in January 2005. We are confident that it will be possible to form such a
Government in a timely manner, i.e. during the month of May 2004. We see
it as a Government led by a Prime Minister and comprising Iraqi men and
women known for their honesty, integrity and competence. There will also
be a President to act as Head of State and two Vice-Presidents.

4. According to both the 15 November 2003 Agreement and the Transitional
Administrative Law, the Governing Council, along with the CPA, will cease
to exist on 30 June 2004. Some of its members are already assuming other
responsibilities. Other members will no doubt be called upon to
participate in various State institutions.

5. During our consultations, a very large number of our interlocutors
suggested that a large National Conference should be convened. We see
merit in this suggestion. It would serve the all-important aim of
promoting national dialogue, consensus building and national
reconciliation in Iraq. A preparatory Committee should be established soon
to start the preparatory work and the Conference could take place soon
after the restoration of sovereignty, in July 2004.

6. The National Conference would elect a Consultative Assembly to serve
alongside the Government during the period leading to the elections of the
National Assembly which, it is agreed, will take place in January 2005.

7. To return to the subject of elections, a U.N. electoral team has been
in Baghdad for some time now. They are working diligently to help with the
preparatory work for the January 2005 elections. They have visited some
cities in the North and in the South. Like us, their movements are
somewhat restricted at present by the prevailing security situation. But
they remain confident that they can help out. But it is important and
urgent that, on the Iraqi side, the necessary steps are taken, so that
elections can take place at the appointed time in January 2005. Naturally,
the security situation has to improve significantly for these elections to
take place in an acceptable environment.

8. Last but not least, during our consultations, in February as well as at
present, we heard of many grievances which need to be addressed. Detainees
are held often without charge or trial. They should be either charged or
released, and their families and lawyers must have access to them. The
issue of former military personnel also needs attention. Furthermore, it
is difficult to understand that thousands upon thousands of teachers,
university professors, medical doctors and hospital staff, engineers and
other professionals who are sorely needed, have been dismissed within the
de-Baathification process, and far too many of those cases have yet to be

All these are ideas which will be submitted to the Secretary-General and
further discussed both during the wide consultations scheduled to be
organized by the Committee set up for this purpose by the Governing
Council and by our own team. I believe that the political framework that I
outlined for the setting up of the interim government, the organization of
a national dialogue conference, combined with a number of confidence
building measures addressing real concerns of the Iraqis, should, I hope,
help this country to move forward towards recovery, peace and stability.

8. Extract from Toby Dodge's testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee (given, I think, on 20/4/04).

The lack of communication between American civil servants and military
personnel, their hand-picked allies on the Iraqi Governing Council and the
wider population of Iraq, is one of the key problems undermining the
occupation and the CPA's attempts to build a state. From this inability to
interact with Iraqi society springs the core problems facing the U.S. and
those who will inherit the Iraqi state after the 30th of June. Many
Iraqis, aware of the increasing unpopularity of the U.S. presence in their
country, and believing it to be temporary, are still sitting on their
hands, a skewing involvement in government institutions, political and
administrative, until the situation becomes clearer and the risks of
political involvement become fewer.

Overcoming this problem is clearly the chief concern of Lakhdar Brahimi,
the U.N. envoy in Iraq. Early indications suggest that Brahimi may well be
trying to reproduce an Afghan model. This would involve a caretaker
government made up of a prime minister, president and two vice presidents.
Before elections, scheduled sometime for late 2004 or early 2005, this
ruling triumvirate would gain legitimacy from a national conference to be
convened a short time after June 30th.

It is unclear how this plan would overcome the problems that have
undermined the various approaches of the CPA. Firstly, where is Mr.
Brahimi going to pick the president and the prime minister from? It seems
very likely that he will be forced to choose from the core of the Iraqi
Governing Council that has to date formed the revolving presidency of the
council. If he does succumb to this temptation, then all the problems that
have dogged the Iraqi Governing Council -- it's lack of legitimacy, its
inability to forge meaningful links with the population, and the
criticisms of it being appointed and not elected -- are likely to

Secondly, because Mr. Brahimi, like his predecessor Sergio Vieira de
Mello, is working under the auspices of the CPA, he runs a distinct danger
of being perceived of as merely an appendage to the occupation.

Finally, with the current poor security situation, the proposed national
congress may find it very difficult attracting a large and representative
sample of the Iraqi population. If this were the case, it would be very
difficult for it to fulfill its dual roles as a forum for national
consultation and a source of legitimacy for the new caretaker government.

The failure of a national conference to gather momentum and bring together
a broad cross section of the population would leave the caretaker
government proposed by Mr. Brahimi dangerously exposed and open to similar
criticisms and suspicions as those that have been leveled at the Iraqi
Governing Council since its formation. The only way to avoid such pitfalls
would be to totally internationalize the creation of the governing
institutions and democratic structures. This would not mean a partial or
token role for the United Nations organizing national conferences or
overseeing elections; instead it would involve bringing the whole
occupation and state-building under U.N. management. This would reduce the
suspicion felt toward the CPA by sections of the Iraqi population. The
organization overseeing the move and the creation of a new state would
then not be the United States but the international community. Accusations
of double standards or nefarious intent would be much harder to sustain.
Arguments about the occupiers' willingness to relinquish power -- both
economic and political -- would be negated. It will be the Security
Council in New York, not the U.S. government in Washington, that would
have the ultimate responsibility for Iraq's transition.

This would result in many more Iraqis doing the whole exercise with a
great deal more legitimacy. The U.N. could then utilize expertise and
troops from across the international community. Those involved in the
reconstruction, both Iraqis and international civil servants, would not
run the danger of being labeled as collaborators.

On Thu, 22 Apr 2004, k hanly wrote:

> [ This message has been sent to you via the CASI-analysis mailing list ]
> My understanding is that any proposal that the UN comes up with will already
> have been vetted by the US. The US is still going to be the real power in
> Iraq anyway. Iraq will not have control over security. The US will with UN
> blessing. Also, the transitional government will be bound by laws passed by
> IGC. The UN is simply being used by the US as a tool to provide a facade of
> international legitimacy for the transitional government. The US motto is:
> not necessarily the UN but the UN if necessary. The UN was necessary to
> impose sanctions but was not necessary for the invasion....but it may now be
> necessary...oh yes and legitimize the transitional govt.
> Cheers, Ken Hanly

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