the Disillusioned kid
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Wednesday, May 26, 2004

It will probably not come as much of a surprise to anyone who reads this that the handover of sovereignty due to take place on June 30 is a sham. For a start, as Adam Roberts notes the US can hardly handover something they never had:
Under well-established laws relating to occupations, Iraqi sovereignty was always vested in Iraq - and not in the US and its coalition, which, as the occupying power, merely exercised a temporary administrative role. Indeed, Iraq's continuing sovereignty was explicitly confirmed in UN security council resolutions 1483, of May 22 last year, and 1511, of October 16. What is now planned would be better, albeit less dramatically, described as a transfer of administrative authority. (Guardian, 25/4/04)
The extent of that transfer is also dubious and unlikely to amount to much. I intend to write a full article on this at some point, but our Glorious Leaders can't seem to decide what they actually want to do, which is making it something of a challenge. In the interim, the draft resolution submitted to the Security Council on Iraq on Monday probably suggests the way things are likely to go.

The document is written in typical diplomatic speak, but it is possible to sift through that to get some idea of what is going on. One important thing to understand is the distinction drawn between the Interim Government which will be formed on June 30, the Transitional National Assembly which is to take power after elections to be held between 31 December 2004 and 31 January 2005 and the national government which will take power at some undetermined point in the future under a constitution drafted under its predecessor (got all that?!).

The passage dealing with the "the multinational force" (in truth the US/UK with a few hangers-on) is also of particular interest.:
6. Reaffirms the authorization for the multinational force under unified command established under resolution 1511 (2003), having regard to the letter referred to in preambular paragraph 10 above, decides that the multinational force shall have authority to take all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq including by preventing and deterring terrorism, so that inter alia the United Nations can fulfill its role in assisting the Iraqi people as outlined in paragraph five above and the Iraqi people can implement freely and without intimidation the timetable and program for the political process and benefit from reconstruction and rehabilitation activities, and decides further that the mandate for the multinational force shall be reviewed 12 months from the date of this resolution or at the request of the Transitional Government of Iraq.
The effect of this passage is that the mandate for the ongoing occupation is indefinite. It can only be ended by the Security Council, but that would require a new resolution. The brilliance of this is that the US as one of the permanent members of the council can simply veto it. As Rahul Mahajan notes, this situation is not without precedent:
[T]he United States will get to exercise the fabled 'negative veto,' just as it did with the sanctions on Iraq. There again, the Security Council passed a resolution allowing for sanctions with no fixed time period, thus allowing the United States to extend them indefinitely just by vetoing (and in practice, just by threatening to veto) any attempt to lift the sanctions. (Empirenotes.org, 25/5/04)
I'm sure comment on the effect that the sanctions regime had on the people of Iraq is unneccesary.

So the resolution, in its current form at least, allows a continuing US-led occupation with America ultimately deciding if the force is to be withdrawn. It remains to be seen whether the Security Council will have enough backbone to stand up to the US and UK, but based on past experience I wouldn't count on it. In that case ensuring genuine self-determination for the Iraqi people is up to us.

Recommended Reading:
Zeynep Toufe, 'Fox to Guard Henhouse; Decision Subject to Peridic Review by the Fox', Underthesamesun.org, 25/5/04
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