Iraqi Government 1.0

NYT: U.S. Open to a Proposal That Supplants Council in Iraq [RSS]

The Bush administration accepted on Thursday the outlines of a United Nations proposal to dissolve the Iraqi Governing Council installed last year by the United States and replace it with a caretaker government when Iraqi sovereignty is restored on July 1.

Administration officials said that the proposal by Lakhdar Brahimi, the special United Nations envoy in Iraq, to create a new government of prominent Iraqis had many details to be worked out, but that for now it was acceptable to President Bush.

“I don’t see anything at this point in what he’s proposing that would be of concern to us,” said Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, in an interview, adding that Mr. Brahimi’s mission “thus far has been very successful.”

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell also supported the plan, while Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, without explicitly approving it said it was likely to become a reality.

The Brahimi plan would replace the American-appointed Iraqi Governing Council with a transition government whose leaders would be appointed by the United Nations, after consultations with the United States, the governing council and other Iraqis. It could include members of the current governing council, but it is unclear how it would balance religious and regional rivalries within Iraq. By endorsing the Brahimi plan, the administration seemed to accept diminished American influence over the Iraqi political process as self-rule approaches and after power has passed back to Baghdad. The move was the latest abandonment of an element of the plan the Americans arrived at on Nov. 15, specifying the June 30 transfer.

But administration officials asserted that, even with the United Nations overseeing the selection of a caretaker government and then holding an election and helping the Iraqis write a constitution, American influence on the process would be considerable — not least because the United States is to remain in charge of military and security matters, and will be the country’s main source of economic aid.

This seems like a prudent first step. Plans have to evolve based on the realities of a changing situation. Keeping an American-appointed council while nominally handing over sovereignty seems unlikely to work now, given that any unpopular decisions would be blamed on the Americans and be harder to sell. The imprimatur of the U.N. on the transitional government might be useful in gaining short-term legitimacy and, in reality, not much would change on the ground with the U.S. in charge of the security apparatus.

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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 and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. nash says:

    Those same nations that used every bit of their influence in the U.N. to coddle Saddam for their own political and economic ends will use this decision to further their interests rather than those of the American people and Iraq. They don’t give a damn about “legitamicy.”

    I wholly support our efforts in Iraq but I’m starting to believe that Iraq will become our next Vietnam. Once again, the enemy won’t beat us on military terms but will defeat us because our politicians are too weak in the knees to do what needs to be done in order to win.