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[casi] Arrangements for transitional government

Dear Yasser and list

Further on the question of how the new programme for the transitional
government was decided, read the following apparently very circumstantial
account, which I don't think has been posted before, from the Washington
Post. Note where it says toward the end: 'Bremer wanted the council members
to accept the plan and announce it to the news media as if they had created
it themselves.' The article makes it clear that political progress in Iraq
has been held up by Washington's refusal to agree to anything other than a
(very) 'partial' democracy.

They have now, however, conceded Ayatollah Sistani's demand that the
committee drafting the new constitution should be directly elected. But they
have postponed it well into the future (the elections for the convention to
decide the constitution have a deadline of March 2005. The deadline for
elections to the government (which are presumably to be held under the new
constitution) is Dec 2005.

In the meantime we get the transitional assembly, to be chosen, as Rajiv
Chandrasekaran points out in a subsequent article
( - Top
Cleric Faults U.S. Blueprint For Iraq) by a very tightly controlled process
(by 'caucuses' made up of nominees of the IGC and of the existing local

At present the sticking pont with the new arrangements appears to be
Sistani's insistence that the fundamental principles don't include a
declaration that nothing can be done contrary to the teachings of Islam.
Presumably it could be argued that a law favouring equal status among all
the different religions, and implying the right to disregard Muslim
principles on clothing (which apply to men as well as to women) or alcohol
could be construed as contrary to the principles of Islam.

There was what appeared to me to be an interesting collection of articles on
what should be done in The Guardian (26th November). Far and away the best
contribution came, as might have been expected, from Dan Plesch, arguing in
favour of immediate elections. He says that the obstacles have been greatly
exaggerated. He claims there have already been a lot of informally held
local elections; that people are familiar with the form of elections because
a lot of fake elections were held during the time of the League of Nations
mandate and Saddam Hussein; most Iraqis carry ID cards and plural voting can
be inhibited by marking thumbs with indelible ink; and he suggests the Shia
know very well that if they used their majority to impose a Shia state they
would provoke a civil war.

I would add that the fear that the Baath and Islamic Fundamentalists
tendencies would do best because they have the best political organisation
might also reflect a western notion of political organisation. A whole lot
of other, largely local, factors would come into play other than the rivalry
of political parties organised at national level.

The demand for rapid elections is also made by Mustafa Alrawi, the only
Iraqi contributor to the collection.

I don't know if such a body could immediately assume the full
responsibilties of government, prior to a constitution, but it would be good
if it could assume control over the Iraqi police and army, who would then
cease to be responsible to the occupying power; and if it could have a veto
over the decisions of the occupying power (eg in matters of economic



*  How Cleric Trumped U.S. Plan for Iraq
by Rajiv Chandrasekaran
Washington Post, November 26, 2003; Page A01

BAGHDAD, Nov. 25 -- The unraveling of the Bush administration's script for
political transition in Iraq began with a fatwa.

The religious edict, handed down in June by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani,
Iraq's most influential Shiite Muslim cleric, called for general elections
to select the drafters of a new constitution. He dismissed U.S. plans to
appoint the authors as "fundamentally unacceptable."

His pronouncement, underestimated at first by the Bush administration,
doomed an elaborate transition plan crafted by U.S. administrator L. Paul
Bremer that would have kept Iraq under occupation until a constitution was
written, according to American and Iraqi officials involved in the process.
While Bremer feared that electing a constitutional assembly would take too
long and be too disruptive, there was a strong desire on his own handpicked
Governing Council to obey Sistani's order.

With no way to get around the fatwa, and with escalating American casualties
creating pressure on President Bush for an earlier end to the occupation,
Bremer recently dumped his original plan in favor of an arrangement that
would bestow sovereignty on a provisional government before a constitution
is drafted.

Bremer's unwillingness to heed the fatwa until just a few weeks ago may have
delayed the country's political transition and exacerbated popular anger at
the occupation, Iraqi political leaders said.

"We waited four months, thanks to Bremer," said one council member, speaking
on condition of anonymity. "We could have organized this [transition] by now
had we started when Sistani issued his fatwa. But the Americans were in

People familiar with the discussions among U.S. officials about the fatwa
said American political officers were too isolated to grasp the power of the
edict right away, assuming that secular former exiles backed by the U.S.
government would push Bremer's plan. Even when Sistani's clout became clear,
they said Bremer remained reluctant to rework his transition plan right
away. "He didn't want a Shiite cleric dictating the terms of Iraq's
political future," one U.S. official with knowledge of the process said.

U.S. officials said it took months even for Iraqis to grasp the influence of
Sistani's fatwa. Bremer's deputies also hoped the edict could be countered
by statements from other Shiite clerics supporting approaches other than
general elections, but few of those materialized.

"What we thought was necessary was for there to be a broad consultation to
find out what the Iraqi public wanted," said one official involved in the
political transition. "In hindsight," another official added, "we should
have done it differently."

Who Would Draft Constitution?

Sistani is a frail man with a black turban, a snowy beard and unquestioned
clout among Iraq's Shiite majority. Born in Iran but schooled in Iraq, he
lives in the holy city of Najaf, about 90 miles south of Baghdad. Although
he works out of a modest office on a decrepit alley, he has enormous
authority to interpret Islamic law in everyday life.

During the years former president Saddam Hussein was in power -- when the
government deemed activist Shiite clerics subversive and ordered many of
them killed -- Sistani remained largely secluded from politics. Even after
Hussein's government was toppled in April, Sistani shied away from political
pronouncements and public appearances.

At the end of June, when Arab satellite television networks erroneously
reported that Iraq's constitution would be written by American and British
experts, Sistani broke his silence. In a two-page fatwa issued on June 28,
he declared that he would only support a constitution written by Iraqis
chosen through a general election, not by a council selected by the

The fatwa declared: "There is no guarantee that the council would create a
constitution conforming with the greater interests of the Iraqi people and
expressing the national identity, whose basis is Islam, and its noble social

In Baghdad, Sistani's pronouncement did not raise immediate alarm among U.S.
officials. Bremer's aides assumed the fatwa would be revised or rescinded
once they told Sistani how difficult it would be to hold elections right
away. There were no voter rolls, constituent boundaries or electoral laws.
"There is simply no way to conduct national elections today," Bremer said at
the time.

Bremer also feared that elections would create too much uncertainty. The
Bush administration wanted an orderly process it could control, including a
constitution that would be a model for its efforts to democratize the Arab
world, enshrine individual rights, and establish a secular government,
religious freedom and equality of the sexes. Bremer believed that holding a
vote before political parties had time to establish themselves would result
in Baathists and Islamic extremists, the two best-organized forces in the
country, dominating the outcome.

Speaking to reporters a few days after the fatwa was issued, Bremer
expressed confidence that he would be able to implement "a process that
produces a constitution that meets the general concerns that I understand
Ayatollah Sistani mentioned."

Bremer was vague about how the authors would be selected. At the time, his
aides privately said Iraqi political leaders and Americans would select the
writers. But he pledged that the document was "not going to be written by
the United States. It's not going to be written by the British. It's not
going to be written by the U.N. It's going to be written by Iraqi people."

Overtures to the Ayatollah

Hoping to change Sistani's mind, political officers with the occupation
authority sought a meeting. But every overture was met with a polite rebuff.
"He didn't want it to look like he was cooperating with the Americans," said
Mowaffak Rubaie, a member of the Governing Council who is close to Sistani.

By early July, Bremer had shifted focus to formation of the council, a
25-member body composed of American allies and political neophytes. In
last-minute negotiations before the council was named, the prospective
members demanded more authority for a variety of issues, including the
drafting of a constitution. As a compromise, Bremer offered to let them form
a commission that would identify the best way to select the drafters.

Soon after the council was formed, Bremer asked leaders of the country's
largest Shiite party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in
Iraq, to meet with Sistani to see if a compromise could be reached on the
constitution, said Adel Abdel-Mehdi, director of the party's political
bureau. He said the party's leader at the time, Ayatollah Mohammed Bakir
Hakim, who was killed in an August car bombing in Najaf, talked to Sistani
about backing away from the fatwa.

"We told Bremer there was no hope for compromise," Abdel-Mehdi said.
"Ayatollah Sistani was firm in his position."

Bremer's Power Challenged

Upon hearing back from Abdel-Mehdi and other intermediaries, Bremer and his
aides figured there was still a way to reach a compromise. They talked about
recruiting other ayatollahs, such as Hakim, to issue statements warning
about the dangers of immediate elections, U.S. officials familiar with the
process said. And they sought to hammer out a middle-ground solution with
Governing Council members, the officials said.

"There was still a lot of confidence we would find a way around the fatwa,"
one U.S. official said.

By August, after lengthy discussions, American political officers and
several council members settled on the idea of a "partial election." Instead
of allowing anyone to stand as a candidate and having to compile voter rolls
for general elections, the occupation authority would organize caucuses in
each governorate, or province, that would be limited to political,
religious, tribal, academic and trade union leaders as well as other
influential local figures approved by the Americans. The caucus would select
the drafters of the constitution.

Although holding caucuses would take longer than directly appointing the
authors, Bremer accepted the idea, as did several influential members of the
Governing Council. "It was the ideal compromise," said council member Samir
Shakir Mahmoud Sumaidy. "The process would be more democratic, but it would
avoid the problems of a general election."

Despite their confidence, they had no idea what Sistani thought of the plan.
The ayatollah remained silent.

In mid-August, the Governing Council selected a 25-member constitutional
commission that began discussing ways to choose the drafters. Composed of
lawyers, judges and academics, the commission held meetings with influential
figures around the country, including Sistani.

What they heard in their meetings was strong support for general elections,
several commission members recalled. In their conversation with Sistani, the
commission did not even broach the idea of partial elections, said law
professor Hikmat Hakim, one of the commission members.

"We told him his fatwa would be respected," Hakim said. "We didn't ask him
about the partial elections."

On Sept. 8, the commission voted 24 to 0 to endorse general elections. "It
was very difficult, if not impossible, to disregard the fatwa of Ayatollah
Sistani," said Yass Khudier, another commission member.

Concerned that a unanimous endorsement of general elections would interfere
with Bremer's timetable to wind up the occupation by the end of 2004, U.S.
officials grew impatient and urged the council to press the commission for a
compromise. "We told them to come up with other ideas," one council member
said. "We told them to consider partial elections."

When the commission submitted its final report to the council on Sept. 30,
it failed to resolve the impasse. The panel suggested the same three
approaches that everyone had been talking about -- direct appointment,
partial elections and general elections -- without choosing one of them.

As the report was being completed, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell sought
to push the council to endorse partial elections, saying Iraqis should be
given a six-month deadline to complete their constitution. Members bristled.
"It was an unreasonable demand," said Dara Noureddine, the council's liaison
with the commission. "We needed time to achieve consensus."

But consensus was elusive. The council had split into two factions. Sunni
Arabs, Sunni Kurds and some moderate Shiites, such as Ahmed Chalabi, favored
the partial elections. Other traditionalist Shiite groups, among them the
Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution and the Dawa party, cited
Sistani's fatwa as a mandate and insisted on general elections.

"We felt elections were the only legitimate way to proceed," the Supreme
Council's Abdel-Mehdi said. His party and several other Shiite council
members told Bremer that they would not be able reach a consensus on partial

Bremer refused to give up. He chafed at the idea that a cleric would be able
to dictate Iraq's democratic transition. "Is the political structure of Iraq
going to be in the hands of one man?" Bremer said to a group of visitors in

He urged the council's five traditionalist Shiites to try to persuade
Sistani to support partial elections, said Rubaie, one of the five. Rubaie
said he met with Sistani in October and explained the problems with general
elections and the benefits of partial elections. Sistani was unmoved, Rubaie
said. "He would not have it."

Shortly thereafter, Sistani delivered his first public pronouncements on
partial elections. In written comments provided to The Washington Post, he
said there could be "no substitute" for a general election.

Fatwas from other clerics in support of partial elections never
materialized. Nobody wanted to take on Sistani.

Occupation Chief Yields

Shiite political leaders insisted an election could be organized in less
than six months using food-ration rolls as a voter registry. But Bremer and
his aides dismissed that, insisting an election could not be pulled off in
less than two years.

But as U.S. military casualties escalated, Bremer and other Bush
administration officials realized their plan would have to be rewritten.
"Once it became clear we couldn't get around the election, we knew we had to
do something else," one American involved in the process said.

On Nov. 9, Bremer called national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, who was
at FedEx Field for a Washington Redskins game. With no viable way to draft a
quick constitution, both agreed a major change was needed, according to
officials familiar with the talks.

The next day, Bremer hurried back to Washington. After two days of White
House discussions, he returned to Baghdad with a new plan in hand.

On Nov. 14, he met with the council's nine rotating presidents to outline
the administration's new approach: Iraq would be given sovereignty before it
drafted a constitution. It was a dramatic concession.

The next day, he detailed the plan to the full Governing Council at the home
of Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish leader serving as this month's council

In place of a permanent constitution, Bremer said, the council would be able
to draft a basic law that would serve as an interim constitution to enshrine
basic rights such as freedom of speech and worship, the separation of powers
and civilian control over the military. Once the law was completed, he said,
each province would hold caucuses to choose representatives for a 250-member
transitional assembly whose members would serve as a provisional
legislature. The assembly would also elect members for an executive branch
from within its ranks, he said.

Bremer said he wanted the process to be completed by June 30, after which he
would bestow sovereignty on the interim government. That government then
would be responsible for drafting a constitution.

Although there was general support for Bremer's plan, members pressed him on
details. Some protested his requirement that 15-person organizing committees
would screen participants in the caucuses. Others questioned whether a
250-member assembly would be able to agree on a government. Others objected
to the dissolution of the council after the new government is formed, saying
the council should remain as an advisory body.

"The Governing Council has been recognized by the United Nations, the Arab
League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference," Abdel-Mehdi said.
"Why disband it? And what happens if the new government runs into trouble?
We need the GC as a safety valve."

Several Shiite leaders expressed concern that the organizing committees
might exclude candidates because they were Islamic activists. "The veto
power should only apply to people who are Baathists or criminals," one
Shiite member said.

Bremer did not want to delve into details, according to several members who
spoke on condition of anonymity.

Instead, they said, Bremer wanted the council members to accept the plan and
announce it to the news media as if they had created it themselves.

"He brushed aside the details. He just wanted an agreement," one member
said. "It was 'my way or the highway.' "

In response, occupation authority officials insist the council had plenty of
time to discuss the plan, which the officials said reflected the council's
desire that the handover of sovereignty be accelerated.

Before his Nov. 10 flight to Washington, Bremer called Abdel-Mehdi in for a

"If we go for this option, do you think Sistani will accept?" Abdel-Mehdi
recalled Bremer asking him.

"I'm sure," Abdel-Mehdi responded.

While Bremer was flying back from Washington, Abdel-Mehdi said he met with
Sistani, who endorsed the broad contours of Bremer's new plan to hand over
sovereignty to a provisional government, which would convene elections for a
constitutional council.

But Abdel-Mehdi said Sistani never passed judgment on the details,
particularly those that have concerned other Shiite leaders involving how
members would be selected. In response to written questions about Bremer's
new approach, Sistani's office said the ayatollah would not comment.

"He certainly has not blessed the plan," Abdel-Mehdi said.

> From: "Yasser Alaskary" <>
> Date: Tue, 25 Nov 2003 14:33:13 -0000
> To: "Peter Brooke" <>, "ppg" <>, "Hassan"
> <>, "CASI" <>
> Subject: Re: [casi] Pentagon investigating bribes in Iraq
>> And how come the ICG has agreed so swiftly (and unanimously?) to its own
>> dissolution (as in the new arrangement agreed with astonishing speed after
>> Bremer's visit to Washington).
> the reason is that it was the IGC that came up with the plan and they sent
> bremer to washington to get agreement, the US administration then decided to
> spin the story as if the plan had originated from washington.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Peter Brooke" <>
> To: "ppg" <>; "Hassan" <>; "CASI"
> <>
> Sent: Tuesday, November 25, 2003 9:04 AM
> Subject: Re: [casi] Pentagon investigating bribes in Iraq
>> Another thing that strikes me about this. UNSC Res 1511 declares that the
>> Iraqi Governing Council embodies the sovereignty of Iraq. Although 1511
> and
>> 1483 have given quite extraordinary powers to the Coalition Provisional
>> Authority (largely the power to dispose of money stolen ('frozen') from
> the
>> Iraqi government), the CPA is still legally no more than an occupying
> power.
>> This surely means that the CPA derives any authority it might have in
>> international law from the ICG and not vice versa. So how can 'the
> Pentagon'
>> (of all bodies) judge the IGC?
>> And how come the ICG has agreed so swiftly (and unanimously?) to its own
>> dissolution (as in the new arrangement agreed with astonishing speed after
>> Bremer's visit to Washington). These new arrangements also absolve the ICG
>> of the obligation to make arrangements for a new constitution - an
>> obligation imposed upon it by UNSC 1511. So what do our international
>> lawyers have to say about that?
>> Peter
>>> From: "ppg" <>
>>> Date: Mon, 24 Nov 2003 13:47:17 -0500
>>> To: "Hassan" <>, "CASI"
> <>
>>> Subject: Re: [casi] Pentagon investigating bribes in Iraq
>>> This sounds VERY fishy.. Is US trying to squeeze  local bidders  out of
>>> lucrative contracts by accusations of "corruption"?
>>> ----- Original Message -----
>>> From: "Hassan" <>
>>> To: "CASI" <>
>>> Sent: Monday, November 24, 2003 12:13 PM
>>> Subject: [casi] Pentagon investigating bribes in Iraq
>>>> Pentagon investigating bribes in Iraq
>>>> UPI - Saturday, November 22, 2003
>>>> Date: Saturday, November 22, 2003 11:33:33 AM EST
>>>> WASHINGTON, Nov. 22 (UPI) -- The Pentagon is
>>>> investigating bribery allegations against two members
>>>> of Iraq's Coalition Provisional Authority and Iraq's
>>>> communications minister.
>>>> The Financial Times Saturday quoted sources saying the
>>>> investigation involves lucrative licenses to build and
>>>> operate mobile phone networks in Iraq that were
>>>> granted last month to a consortium of Orascom Iraq,
>>>> Asia Cell and Atheer.
>>>> The sources said the Pentagon's inspector general
>>>> began an investigation into the Orascom contract,
>>>> partly because of allegations from a rival bidder that
>>>> failed to win one of the licenses, the Times said.
>>>> Communications Minister Haider al-Abadi said he could
>>>> not have influenced the licenses because he was
>>>> appointed to his post after a CPA selection committee
>>>> made their recommendation.
>>>> Ala al-Khawaja, a partner in the Orascom-led
>>>> consortium, has also denied taking bribes, the Times
>>>> said. Orascom has also denied any wrongdoing.
>>>> --
>>>> Copyright 2003 by United Press International.
>>>> All rights reserved.
>>>> __________________________________
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>> _______________________________________________
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