Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Rhetoric vs. Reality in Iraq ; June 30 Handover Not Exactly 'Full Sovereignty'

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Rhetoric vs. Reality in Iraq ; June 30 Handover Not Exactly 'Full Sovereignty'

Article excerpt

One of America's biggest problems in Iraq is its enormous credibility gap with Iraqis. Unfortunately, President Bush widened that disconnect this week by promising "full sovereignty" to an interim government on June 30. On that date, he declared, "the occupation will end."

Put yourself in the sandals of an Iraqi. Will it look as if the occupation is over and the nation has full control of its affairs when the US plans to keep more than 130,000 troops there? When Washington's ambassador to Baghdad will command the largest US embassy in the world? When US advisers will populate government ministries, and an international body will check on Iraq's use of its oil revenues?

The difficulty here is not necessarily the continuation of a strong American presence. Until Iraqi security forces are ready, an outside army is needed to handle insurgents and prevent a possible civil war.

At the same time, democracies don't spring up overnight or always in linear sequence. As EU Commissioner for External Affairs Chris Patten recently stated: "Developing democracy is not like making instant coffee" - though in this case, it certainly looks as murky.

But the rhetorical insistence that Iraqis will enjoy "full sovereignty" when a mere look down the street would indicate otherwise is foolish, and, if it disappoints and fires up Iraqis further, perhaps even dangerous.

Closing the rhetorical gap

In truth, what's taking place at the end of next month is the transfer to Iraq of administrative control. With the ill-advised promise already made, however, it seems no alternative remains but to try to come as close to fulfilling it as possible.

The international community is scrambling to do just that as members of the UN Security Council react to a draft resolution put forth by Washington and London this week. The resolution, which seeks the UN's blessing on the June 30 transfer of power to an interim Iraqi government, has been criticized for not living up to the sovereignty promise, especially relating to Iraqi control of coalition forces.

The US should not cede control of its troops to the Iraqis, as France and other countries have demanded. …

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