Shaky 'sovereignty' for Iraq
He Hongze  Updated: 2004-06-02 08:51

On May 24 the United States and Britain submitted a new draft resolution on the Iraq issue to the United Nations Security Council.

The draft is an outline for the transfer of governing power by the authorities of the alliance and a prelude to the general election to be held in Iraq in the beginning of next year.

The US and Britain waged the war against Iraq and overthrew the regime of Saddam Hussein last year without the approval of the UN. Iraq has actually been in a state of occupation. So far, the military occupation has neither brought peace to the war-ravaged country nor established a new regime acceptable to the Iraqi people.

Under intense internal and external pressures, requesting the mandate and backing of the UN, the US has to decide whether or not to hand over sovereignty to Iraq. This is viewed as a policy shift since US unilateralism has suffered so many setbacks on the Iraq issue.

Nevertheless, this policy adjustment is far from complete. Nor is the US really willing to transfer full power to the Iraqis. This is fully demonstrated by the new draft itself.

Though the draft indicates support for the handover of sovereignty to Iraq's interim government before June 30 and that the new government will have the responsibility and power to administer an independent sovereign Iraq from the day the coalition authority is dissolved, Iraq's prospects for sovereignty have been seriously weakened and damaged as a result of some concrete arrangements slated to follow the handover.

The sovereignty of any state is mainly reflected by its independent control over the armed forces, civil administration and financial resources. However, the US-British draft fails to give the Iraqi interim government complete sovereignty in any of these areas.

After the Iraq war, the authorities of the alliance dismantled Iraq's military and police forces but did not set up new ones. To maintain Iraq's stability and security, the multinational troops stationed in Iraq will be required to stay for some time.

The draft limits Iraq's sovereignty regarding the extent of authority, duration of station of the multinational forces and their relations with the transitional government. According to the draft, the multinational forces can take all necessary measures to "safeguard" Iraq's security and stability, including striking and preventing terrorism, while failing to stipulate that these military actions should be approved by the Iraqi interim government.

This is no different from giving the multinational forces freedom of action without any restriction, which is often the cause of new conflict and instability.

On the issue of multinational forces' duration of station in Iraq, the draft does not specify a deadline for withdrawal of these forces. It indicates the Security Council will only review the multinational forces' mandate one year later, or earlier at the request of the Iraqi interim government.

Giving the multinational forces such a long period of station is actually a way to maintain US control over Iraq.

As noted by Wang Guangya, China's permanent representative to the Security Council, if Iraq's territory and armed forces are still under the control of foreign forces after the June 30 deadline, it is no different from continued occupation.

Though the draft also mentions the Security Council can discuss the issue of withdrawing the multinational forces at Iraq's request, the veto-wielding United States can defeat any UN resolution it wants. Therefore, on this issue, Iraq has no sovereignty at all.

The Iraqi interim government, which will own sovereignty and has a complete governmental organ consisting of president, prime minister and more than 20 ministers as well as its own armed forces, is completely different from the current Iraq Provisional Administration Committee designated by the US. Their relations with the multinational forces symbolize the extent to which Iraq owns the sovereignty.

However, the draft is ambiguous on these points, only mentioning that the multinational forces and the transitional government will inform the Security Council of the agreements reached between them in accordance with their respective responsibilities.

Obviously, without a clear stipulation in the Security Council's resolution by the international community, Iraq's sovereignty cannot be fully guaranteed.

One of the outstanding issues is the administration and trial of Iraqi prisoners of war and civilians - perhaps the most basic symbol of sovereignty.

However, the US is absolutely not willing to hand over this right to the Iraqis. It is not hard to find from the way the Americans abused and interrogated the Iraqi prisoners how important these prisoners are to the US from an intelligence perspective. The so-called sovereignty handover would be a fraud if the US did not transfer this right. The draft in fact carries a foreshadow of later actions in this issue.

In addition, on the issue of control of funds obtained from oil sales, the draft also fails to give Iraq full autonomy. These funds will be the major financial resources of the Iraqi interim government. It is also what the rebuilding of Iraq will depend on. How to use this money and whether it can be used properly or not is absolutely the internal affair of Iraq.

Stipulating that an international supervision institution should be established, the draft actually interferes in Iraq's internal affairs by supervising the financial spending of the Iraqi interim government, though it superficially means to ensure the proper use of this fund.

It's ironic that a draft regarding the handover of sovereignty to Iraq contains so many violations of sovereignty. This can only be explained by the fact the drafters of the resolution are not sincere in handing over the sovereignty to Iraq.

It is no surprise it has been criticized by many other countries in the Security Council.

Wang Guangya pointed out that, as a sovereign state, Iraq has the right to decide the deadline for the station of the multinational forces. The term of station of the multinational forces should be shortened to six months from the original one year. It is up to the Iraqi government to decide whether the term of station should be prolonged after the six-month term.

Though France stated the draft provides a good basis for further discussing and resolving the Iraq issue, it stressed the US should not be accredited with the right of unrestricted actions and that the Iraqi interim government should have final say on the action of the multinational forces.

Russia noted the draft is far from complete while Germany said the draft should give a detailed explanation of the rights of the Iraqi interim government.

Even in Iraq, indicating that the draft is far from what they expected, members of the Provisional Administration Committee responded coldly.

Now it is gradually approaching the deadline of handover of sovereignty, due on June 30. The members of the Security Council need to reach consensus on a new resolution so as to ensure a smooth transfer. However, the concerned nations are divided on what is a desirable resolution. The point is whether sovereignty can be handed over thoroughly.

A thorough handover of sovereignty is favourable to all sides, while attempting to maintain control over Iraq will only bog the US deeper in the quagmire.

It will not only hurt Iraq but also hurt itself if the US Government is not willing to transfer full power to the Iraqis.

The author is a People's Daily correspondent in New York.

(China Daily)

  Story Tools