Academic journal article Social Education

The Iraqi Governing Council

Academic journal article Social Education

The Iraqi Governing Council

Article excerpt

In July 2003, the United States, acting as the leader of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) that administers Iraq, established a Governing Council in Iraq. The Council consists of twenty-five Iraqi political and public figures. In the words of its mandate, the Iraqi Governing Council has "the right to set policies and take decisions in cooperation with the coalition in any area of national policy, including financial and economic reform, education, electoral law, and health:' Ultimate authority over policy in Iraq remains with the United States as the CPA leader. In September, the Governing Council appointed a 25-member cabinet to exercise day-to-day control of key ministries in cooperation with the CPA.

The Composition of the Governing Council

The Governing Council represents a wide range of political viewpoints. While this is positive in many respects, one result has been that its members have found it difficult to agree on many major issues. When it was formed, the Governing Council was unable to agree on a single leader, or even a triumvirate of leaders, so its leadership eventually was rotated month-by-month between nine of its members. Likewise, the different members of the Governing Council have been unable to form effective coalitions among themselves that bridge their ethnic and religious sectarian differences.

As a result of an agreement in November with the U.S. administrator, Paul Bremer, the Governing Council is scheduled to hand over power to a new interim Iraqi government by the end of June 2004. The agreement assigns the Governing Council an important role in establishing the procedures that will result in the formation of the new government and the political system under which that government will operate until a Constitution is established and general elections are held.

The members of the Governing Council were selected to be broadly representative of Iraq's nationalities and religious denominations. Thirteen of the twenty-five members are Arab Shia Muslims, five are Arab Sunni Muslims, five are Kurds (all Sunni Muslims), one is Turkoman (also Sunni Muslim) and one is an Assyrian Christian.

The members represent a wide range of political leanings--Islamic fundamentalist, secularist, left and right. The United States did not require members of the Council to have a pro-U.S, political world outlook (which would be very hard to find among the Arab population of Iraq), but it did demand that members announce their support for the establishment of democracy in Iraq and be willing to work within guidelines laid down by the United States and its coalition allies. The Iraqi Governing Council represents the unique instance in which the United States has appointed both the leader of the Communist Party and the leader of a pro-Iranian Shia Muslim fundamentalist movement to a country's governing body.

At its outset, the Iraqi Governing Council had three women appointees, Raja Habib al-Khuzai, Sondul Chapouk, and Aqila Hashimi, a Shia member of the Iraq diplomatic corps. Dr. Hashimi was assassinated in September.

Two significant Iraqi political forces excluded from the Governing Council were Saddam Hussein's former ruling Baath Party and a new Iraqi political movement that arose in the wake of the U.S. invasion, the radical Shia Muslim "Sadrist" movement.

With regard to the Baath Party, the United States deliberately decided not to attempt to incorporate Baathists in its plans for a new Iraq. Advocates of the inclusion of former Baathists pointed to the fact that former Communists in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe have participated in the post-Communist democratic systems of their countries, and suggested that former Baathists could do the same. However, L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, decided to ban the Baath Party from Iraqi politics because of its unrelenting dictatorial past, and the fear that, if its members remained influential, they might one day try to infiltrate the new Iraqi army and launch a military coup-the tactic that originally brought the Baathists to power in the 1960s. …

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