Both before and after the handover, it was feared that handing over sovereignty to Iraq might not be as simplistic
as what the Bush and Blair governments would like to present to the whole world. With the various geopolitical
interests at stake as discussed elsewhere on this site, the nature of the sovereignty would likely allow the U.S.
to have continued influence.
Iraqi Sovereignty handed over early and quickly
When sovereignty was handed over, it came very quickly -- some two days before it was meant to. The U.S.-led
Coalition forces and the new Iraqi Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi (who was the one that suggested the early handover)
implied this was
to prevent resistance and terrorist groups from foiling a handover
and catching them off guard, while critics suggested this may be
because the U.S. still did not have full control of the security situation
and if it was difficult enough to provide security in general, then providing security during an official handover
ceremony would be impossible. (The quick and early handover was also done in secret and finished before it was
announced to the world, and even some of the new Iraqi ministers!)
demand of tougher security and increased stability may prove to be a double-edged sword,
Inter Press Service (IPS) noted, because on the one hand this was an opportunity for a government to
prove itself, though on the other hand, those who want to sabotage any democracy may increase terrorist attacks.
IPS article also noted that an advisor to the new minister of the interior was relieved
that Coalition head Paul Bremer was leaving so quickly and that power had transitioned, because they were always
afraid if Paul Bremer would have overruled their decisions. “While Bremer was around he still exercised ultimate
authority,” the advisor said. “We never knew when one of our instructions would be countered by him.” Iraqi Sovereignty indeed turns out to be very limited
Win Without War, an antiwar coalition in the U.S. summarizes why the hand over of power to Iraq is controversial
and how the U.S. retains a lot of indirect control:
Every US soldier, Coalition employee and private contractor will be immune from Iraqi law - Halliburton
and its employees will remain above Iraqi law; Iraqis will continue to live under US edicts - covering everything from tax law to crime to foreign policy
- designed to perpetuate US power for years to come; The US will continue to control the Republican Palace - Iraq's White House - despite the demand of Iraq's
new “sovereign” president for the Americans to hand it over; US taxpayers will continue to pay more than all of the coalition nations combined for Iraqi security and
reconstruction by a margin of 120 to 1; The majority of Iraqis want US troops to leave Iraq, believing that the troops are an obstacle to security,
not a source of it. Raising False Expectations will Fuel Insurgency And International Terrorism, Making America Less Safe, Win Without War, June 29, 2004
In addition, the antiwar coalition feared that U.S. actions were making Americans less safe by
Fueling the insurgency in Iraq and terrorism world-wide; Weakening America by diminishing its credibility even further while continuing to isolate the U.S. from
The above was a press release for a full page ad they had taken out in the
New York Times. The
copy of the ad on their own web site
provides sources for their claims and points.
Washington Post noted how U.S. Administrator for Iraq until the handover, Paul Bremmer, had
curbed the powe of Iraqis in various ways, and is quoted at length:
U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer has issued a raft of edicts revising Iraq's legal code and has appointed at
least two dozen Iraqis to government jobs with multi-year terms in an attempt to promote his concepts of
governance long after the planned handover of political authority on Wednesday.
Some of the orders signed by Bremer, which will remain in effect unless overturned by Iraq's interim government,
restrict the power of the interim government and impose U.S.-crafted rules for the country's democratic transition.
Among the most controversial orders is the enactment of an elections law that gives a seven-member commission the
power to disqualify political parties and any of the candidates they support.
The effect of other regulations could last much longer. Bremer has ordered that the national security adviser
and the national intelligence chief chosen by the interim prime minister he selected, Ayad Allawi, be given
five-year terms, imposing Allawi's choices on the elected government that is to take over next year.
Bremer also has appointed Iraqis handpicked by his aides to influential positions in the interim government.
He has installed inspectors-general for five-year terms in every ministry. He has formed and filled commissions
to regulate communications, public broadcasting and securities markets. He named a public-integrity commissioner
who will have the power to refer corrupt government officials for prosecution.
Some Iraqi officials condemn Bremer's edicts and appointments as an effort to exert U.S. control over the
country after the transfer of political authority....
Bremer has defended his issuance of many of the orders as necessary to implement democratic reforms and update
Iraq's out-of-date legal code. He said he regarded the installation of inspectors-general in ministries, the
creation of independent commissions and the changes to Iraqi law as important steps to fight corruption and
cronyism, which in turn would help the formation of democratic institutions.
Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Walter Pincus, U.S. Edicts Curb Power Of Iraq's Leadership, Washington Post, June 27, 2004, Page A01
While a number of other rules Bremer has drafted also sound positive, many, when considered in the backdrop of
insecurity and violence may be met with stern resistence. The above
Post article also ended with
comments from Juan Cole, a University of Michigan professor who is a specialist on Iraq. Cole, the Post
said, noted that the appointed electoral commission's power to eliminate political parties or candidates for not
obeying laws would allow it “to disqualify people someone didn't like.”
Cole “likened the power of the commission to that of religious mullahs in Iran, who routinely use their
authority to remove candidates before an election. ‘In a way, Mr. Bremer is using a more subtle form than the
one used by hard-liners in Iran to control their elections,’ Cole said.”
Associated Press made a number of observations. For example
Although the interim government will have full sovereignty, it will operate under major restrictions - some of
them imposed at the urging of the influential Shiite clergy which sought to limit the powers of an unelected
For example, the interim government will only hold power seven months until, as directed by a United Nations
Security Council resolution, there must be elections “in no case later than” Jan. 31. The Americans will
still hold responsibility for security. And the interim government will not be able to amend the Transitional
Administrative Law, or the interim constitution. That document outlines many civil liberties guarantees that would
make problematic a declaration of emergency.
Tarek El Tablawy, In surprise move, U.S. transfers sovereignty to Iraqi government ahead of schedule, Associated Press, June 28, 2004
There are at least two additional interesting things to note from the above:
The Post article implied that some of Bremer's orders will remain in effect “unless overturned
by Iraq's interim government”, while AP noted that the interim government would not be
able to amend the transitional law or interim consitution. If AP is right, then it would
strengthen critics' argument of U.S. control, and even if the Post is right that the
interim government can overrule all the laws, then it still shows U.S. intentions. Perhaps an interesting observation for those who see all forms of Islam as a threat to the world in some
way is the note AP made that it was the influential Shiite clergy that sought to limit the
powers of an unelected administration picked by the current U.S. administration. (As an opinion piece in
the Baltimore Sun notes (July 4, 2004), democracy may come from a different source than expected.
“Someday there may be real democracy in Iraq. If that day comes, it may be because a legitimate Iraqi
leadership was inspired by the nobility and eloquence of America's founding fathers, the common sense and
decency and honesty of their motivations. Not much of that exists among their political descendants in
Washington today.”) Associated Press also noted an example of a controversial law that Bremer had signed which gave
U.S. and other Western civilian contractors immunity from Iraqi law while performing their jobs in Iraq. The idea
outraged many Iraqis the AP noted, as the law allows foreigners to act with impunity even after the
occupation. Sovereignty Under Continued Occupation?
The issue of remaining U.S. forces under U.S. command presents a dilemma. On the one hand some argue that they
are needed to help with security. On the other hand, others argue that it is because of their presence that there
is worse security and instability.
A commentary by M. B. Naqvi in
IPS argues that
transfer of sovereignty is fiction, while occupation remains fact. “What kind of sovereignty will [Iraq] have if there are foreign armies in the country and under foreign
command - an arrangement it cannot change?” Naqi Asks.
Long time political commentator, Tariq Ali also weighs in saying that this is not sovereignty:
The plan to “transfer sovereignty” to Iraqis on June 30 is [ironic], as all Iraqis remember, this is a
farcical repeat of what the British did after World War I when they received a League of Nations mandate to run
Iraq. When the lease expired they kept their military bases and dominated Iraqi politics. The British embassy in
Baghdad made the key decisions.
After June 30 it will be the US embassy that will play this role and John Negroponte, a tried and tested
colonial official, who watched benignly as the death squads created mayhem in Central America, will be the de
facto ruler of Iraq. The former CIA agent, Ayad Allawi, who worked as a low-level police spy for the Saddam regime
and was responsible for handing over the names of numerous dissidents, will be the new “Prime Minister”.
... US ideologues such as Samuel Huntington now speak of the “democratic paradox”. The paradox is the fact
that people might elect governments unfriendly to the US.
And few doubt that the two key demands of any genuinely elected government in Iraq would be (a) the withdrawal
of all foreign troops and (b) Iraqi control of Iraqi oil. It is this that unites a large bulk of the country.
Tariq Ali, This Is Not Sovereignty, ZNet Commentaries, July 3, 2004
Painting a far bleaker picture and looking at Iraq in an international context, Francis Boyle, professor of
international law says that many of
the more powerful countries in the U.N. Security Council are only interested in carving up Iraq for their own interests.
“The peoples of the world are now witnessing the rapid decline of the United Nations itself along the lines of
what happened to the League of Nations in the 1930s. Can World War III be far behind?” he asked. U.S. Retains Real Control; U.N. Role Unclear
At the beginning of June, 2004, United Nations (UN) resolution 1546 was unanimously passed endorsing the June
30 transfer of sovereignty in Iraq and giving authorization for a U.S.-led multinational force. The unanimity came
because there was enough ambiguity and compromise in the resolution. Amongst many other things, the resolution:
Would allow the multinational force to serve “at the request of the incoming interim government of Iraq”
and the force can be asked to leave at anytime. Allow the force to take “all necessary measures to contribute to maintenance of security and stability”
in Iraq allowing a 12-month deadline for the force to be reviewed. Leave the interim government in power until national elections are held preferrably on December 31, 2004
though no later than January 31, 2005.
CSM noted (in anticipation of the resolution), this would be good for both the U.S. in its
international relations, and for Iraq, that will be given some world legitimacy even though it is a hand-picked
Christian Science Monitor also added There was a lack of any real definition of a UN role; Along with continuing limits on the abilities of a new Iraqi government,
the US will remain largely in charge of Iraq; The “multinational” force would comprise of 158,000 foreign troops, under U.S. command, 138,000 of
which are American. CSM also spoke to Lee Feinstein, a security expert at the Council on Foreign Relations and former
official at the State Department, who indicated the preference of the U.S. to have some control and influence in
Iraq: “The Bush administration could have made getting more international participation - troops and money - a
larger focus of its diplomacy, and it would have used the resolution to do that,” says Mr. Feinstein, “But
that would have required real bargaining, whereas they preferred the large American embassy that's being set up
working pretty much alone with the Iraqi government.”
Due to the continued U.S. presence and command in this way, some criticize the U.N. resolution of, in effect,
legitimizing the occupation.
Perhaps Iraq's real legitimacy will come from the U.S. truly leaving Iraq, eventually. As so many have pointed
out, not all the resistance is terrorist and Islamic militancy in nature. Some resistenence appears to be because
of the want to get rid of foreign occupation from their land. No doubt, some non-Islamic militant/extremist groups
also want to fill in power vaccums themselves, and may not be democratic either, but not all resistance can be
characterized that way, either.
On Friday July 2, 2004,
Channel 4 news (I think -- it could have been the BBC) in U.K. broadcast
a piece on Iraq looking at the torture legacy of Saddam Hussein. They intervied someone who claimed to have been
tortured by Saddam for many years in prison. Yet, almost surprisingly, when questioned about his views on the
current occupation forces, he said that while he was happy the U.S. got rid of Saddam, at his earliest opportunity
he would like to join forces with others who are violently trying to eject the U.S. from their land. One of the
things that had convinced him of this cause was the torture U.S. troops were committing on Iraqi captives. Ironically,
having suffered torture for many years under Saddam Hussein, this person was now equating the U.S. occupation
forces with Saddam.
Professor of History, William Marina offers an interesting parallel in history:
The lessons of the American Revolution applicable to today epitomize the adage, “those who do not learn from
history are condemned to repeat it.” Such a sea-change has occurred in Iraq, as continued American occupation
and misuse of power has resulted in increasing numbers of common Iraqis seeing America's involvement - and America's
hand-picked replacement government - as illegitimate.
The second parallel to draw between the American Revolution and Iraq today is the power of the militia. For
despite the popular picture of George Washington and his forces, it was ultimately the popular militia that truly
defeated the organized British army. The British left New England early in the War, and controlled really only New
York City for the duration. They evacuated Philadelphia due to American pressure. British soldiers did not go out
at night in less than battalion strength.
Americans in Iraq are similarly hunkered down and facing a hostile and armed populace. Even for well-equipped
armies, confrontation inevitably means killing many among the civilian population who sustain these unconventional
forces. And the vicious cycle is that such violence only reinforces the “loss of legitimacy” that feeds
continued insurgence. The first rule of counterinsurgency is to separate the guerrilla or irregular forces from
the general population. This implies the occupiers have control, in some sense, of the entire country. And such
is far from the case in Iraq.
In America, the conflict with the British played out from 1768 to1783, and it took until 1789 to craft a
Constitution that could be agreed upon. The sooner the Iraqis can start their own Constitutional Convention,
forging a system that is truly “of and for” their people, one with “legitimacy” and capable of gaining
the consent of the governed, the sooner insurgency, death, and destruction will end in Iraq.
William Marina, The American Revolution and Iraq, The Independent Institute, July 2, 2004
Many mainstream media outlets have presented a sort of idealistic view of what the handover represents, though
a few have noted various ironies, some, such as
Channel 4 in the UK even suggesting that the transfer
of sovereignty may still be viewed as occupation. David Edwards, co-editor of media watchdog MediaLens, surveys a
lot of mainstream media responses and notes:
In short, nothing has changed. The same broadcast media that fooled itself into fooling the public into taking
the Bush-Blair case for war seriously - Iraq possessed lethal WMD [Weapons of Mass Destruction], had links to
al-Qaeda, and therefore posed a “serious and current” threat to the West - is now trying to fool us into
taking the Bush-Blair case for Iraqi “sovereignty” seriously. The media are not neutral observers of
deception, they are central players.
David Edwards, Let Freedom Reign - The Big Lie, ZNet Commentaries, July 4, 2004 U.S.-led Coalition Cannot Account for Billions of Iraq's Dollars
At the end of June 2004, just when the new interim government was to be announced, the British charity and
development organization, Christian Aid noted that:
The US-controlled coalition in Baghdad is handing over power to an Iraqi government without having properly
accounted for what it has done with some $20 billion of Iraq's own money...
Christian Aid believes this situation is in flagrant breach of the UN Security Council resolution that gave
control of Iraq's oil revenues and other Iraqi funds to the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA)....
Resolution 1483 of May 2003 said that Iraq's oil revenues should be paid into the Development Fund for Iraq
(DFI), that this money should be spent in the interests of the Iraqi people, and be independently audited. But it
took until April 2004 to appoint an auditor - leaving only a matter of weeks to go through the books.
Fuelling suspicion: the coalition and Iraq's oil billions, Christian Aid, June 28, 2004
However, as Christian Aid also notes, they themselves highlighted in October 2003 that some $4 billion were
unaccounted for then. That this is Iraq's money and being handled by the U.S., and still not being accounted for,
is perhaps as scandalous as Sadam Hussein's lavish spending on weapons and palaces.
Iraq starts off with a lot of its own money missing as a result, which is a big problem in a country with a
lot of instability and violence, unemployment and urgently needing to show credibility and effort to get things
IPS also reporting on Christian Aid's report also adds that lack of transparency is leading to
Groups critical of the lack of transparency in the CPA's spending have been particularly angry that the
authority is using Iraqi money to pay for questionable contracts -- some awarded without a public tendering
process -- with U.S. companies.
Washington has restricted the most lucrative reconstruction contracts in Iraq to gigantic U.S. companies that
appear set to rack up profitable contracts, fuelling accusations that the Bush administration is seeking to
benefit a select few U.S. companies rather than find the best, and possibly the cheapest, options to help the
Iraqi people rebuild.
Emad Mekay, Charity Finds Billions Missing In Iraqi Oil Revenues, Inter Press Service, June 28, 2004