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The Iraqi Situation: A Hopeful Breakthrough, but... PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 13 March 2005 13:01
With the other millions of Iraqis who followed the recent elections and the final declaration of its results, I was greatly encouraged last week by a few promising signs of an end to the deadlock in the political process.  After more than three weeks from the declaration of the official results of the election of the National Assembly, the assembly has has not yet convened and have not yet started the work on the two most important items on its agenda.  This delay created a very serious political and an administrative vacuum, which has encouraged the more extreme opponents of the process to become bolder and greater threat to the nation building process with extremely serious consequences.

The National Assembly which has been elected under the diktats of the so called, the Transitional Law for Administering Iraq, which was formulated by Paul Bremer when he was in charge of the civilian aspects of the American occupation of the country has empowered the National Assembly with two vital functions:
  1. The election by a two thirds majority of a presidential council composed of a President and two Vice Presidents who in turn-the three of them should agree on a candidate for the Prime Minister’s job, who should then assemble a cabinet and present it to the assembly for confirmation which needs a 50% majority.  The National Assembly should start tackling the myriad of problems facing the country and its people starting with very serious issue of the deteriorating security situation.
  2. Overseeing the writing of a draft of a permanent constitution.  A job which is to be performed by a committee to be appointed by the assembly from amongst its members and others from outside its ranks and possibly experts from outside the country who specialize in constitutional law and government.  The writing of the constitution has to be finished by the middle of August in order to take it to the assembly, which in its turn should present it to the Iraqi people for approval in a referendum no later than October 2005.  If the draft of the constitution would be approved, another election should take place in December for another legislative body for a period which has been decided upon by the approved constitution.
Nothing has happened yet, the victors of the January 30th election have been engaged in fascinating musical chairs exercise and were involved in endless meetings and consultations jockeying for positions and maneuvering to get as big a piece of the cake as possible.  A situation painfully reminiscent of what used to happen in medieval times which has resulted in the very serious and dangerous deadlock.  Suddenly, a miracle seems to have happened, there was a date for the convening of the National Assembly, the 16th of March 2005, which was a very strange coincidence, because it fell on the 18th anniversary of the chemical attacks on the Kurdish town of Halabja in 1986.  One of the most atrocious crimes of Saddam’s regime, which I hope to come back to it next week with better details.  The miracle also provided the chance to end the endless bickering between the victorious factions over the selection of a President and the Prime Minister and the agreement to delay the decisions over the more contentious issues like the fate of Kirkuk.  The final arrangements has been struck between the Shiite list which has come out with almost half the seats of the assembly, and the Kurds who managed 75 seats.  The other group the one which was led by the current Prime Minister Dr. Alawi has been left out because Dr. Alawi insisted on keeping the Prime Minister's job which was a bit impractical and naïve for a very simple reason, the numbers were against him.  Dr. Alawi party had 40 seats, but was competing with Dr. Ibrahim Jaafari, the nominee of the Shiite list who had almost half the assembly seats.

The nomination of the candidate for the President’s job was much less controversial and was a very clever choice, because in addition to Jalal Talabani’s credentials, it was a very shrewd move which broke an age old psychological barrier between the Arabs and the Kurds.  It was always a rule that the head of state should be an Arab.  Now with the almost certain selection of a Kurd to the top job an old obsolete tradition has been scraped.  I would like to emphasize at this juncture that all of this is not yet official, except the date for the convening of the National Assembly, it will be certain in few days, unless something unpredictable should happen at the 11th hour.  Dr. Alawi whose mandate has expired three weeks ago has told the Washington Post few days ago that if the next government will not guarantee his safety he is going to back to Britain were he was staying for the last twenty years.  I would not write Dr. Alawi off completely, he might still play an important role in the future affairs of this country, he was reasonably successful during the few months he was in charge in the face of tremendous difficulties and extremely serious problems.

There are no miracles in politics, the breakthrough and the apparent improvement in the impasse which has ruled the situation for almost a month now has to a great extent been achieved as a result of the sincere and very wise efforts of the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani.  For the last two years, the old man has been very helpful in solving some of the most serious and dangerous problems this country has faced.  The road ahead is still very bumpy, but the Sistani's wisdom, moderation, modesty and the high respect he enjoys for his very high clerical position will provide extremely helpful safeguards in the future.  For all these reasons, I would like with great humility to add my voice to those people who are advocating his nomination for this year’s Nobel prize for peace.  If there is anyone who deserves this honor I don’t think anyone deserves it more than the Sistani.

Dr. Najeeb Hanoudi
Baghdad: March, 12, 2005
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