Iraq Sovereignty Could Be Limited

NYT: White House Says Iraq Sovereignty Could Be Limited [RSS]

The Bush administration’s plans for a new caretaker government in Iraq would place severe limits on its sovereignty, including only partial command over its armed forces and no authority to enact new laws, administration officials said Thursday.

These restrictions to the plan negotiated with Lakhdar Brahimi, the special United Nations envoy, were presented in detail for the first time by top administration officials at Congressional hearings this week, culminating in long and intense questioning on Thursday at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s hearing on the goal of returning Iraq to self-rule on June 30.

Only 10 weeks from the scheduled transfer of sovereignty, the administration is still not sure exactly who will govern in Baghdad, or precisely how they will be selected. A week ago, President Bush agreed to a recommendation by Mr. Brahimi to dismantle the existing Iraqi Governing Council, which was handpicked by the United States, and to replace it with a caretaker government whose makeup is to be decided next month.

That government would stay in power until elections could be held, beginning next year.

The administration’s plans seem likely to face objections on several fronts. Several European and United Nations diplomats have said in interviews that they do not think the United Nations will approve a Security Council resolution sought by Washington that handcuffs the new Iraq government in its authority over its own armed forces, let alone foreign forces on its soil.

To put it mildly. Indeed, any “sovereignty” that doesn’t include the power to make laws or control the application of force within one’s own territory is, by definition, not sovereignty.

That said, this isn’t necessarily a bad policy if it can be finessed. It’s increasingly clear that conditions are not yet in place for the transition and June 30 is approaching at breakneck speed. A situation with nominal Iraqi control but with the Coalition still running the show behind the scenes may well be what’s needed. I’m not sure how to make that happen, though.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dave says:

    I figured that was the default plan anyway, reading between the lines: Iraq on training wheels, nominally driving the bike but with us there to coach them and do all the security stuff until they were more self-confident.

  2. Paul says:

    That said, this isn’t necessarily a bad policy if it can be finessed

    ahem- Isn’t the word nuanced? 😉

  3. James Joyner says: