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Iraq: Interim Basic Law « Previous | |Next »
March 13, 2004

Many continue to see the resistance to the US occupation in Iraq as simply consisting of Saddam Hussein's remnants. That is pretty much the US line as they continue to defend the military occupation of Iraq. This military interpretation of the situation is repeated by those lazy Australian journalists who do little research.

The on-the-ground situation is more complex than these simplicities. John Pilger said on Lateline that the resistance to the US occupation of Iraq consists of "12 groups, they're all very different, there are groups within the Shia, but what they're all united about, quite clearly, is getting rid of a foreign invader and occupier from Iraq."

Pilger made these remarks when he was arguing that Iraq could be seen to be similar to Algeria or in Vietnam, or France during the Second World War.

Let us to open things up by introducing something political, which has hardly been discussed in the Australian press. The bloggers have though---Quiggin, Alan at Southerly Buster and Ken Parish.

The Iraqi Governing Council (IRG) have managed to pull together an Interim Basic Law. This Iraqi Interim Constitution is a transitional constitution for a unified democratic Iraq. It is transitional constitution because it will only be in force until a democratically constituted Iraqi political body----a constitutional assembly not a constitutional convention--can design a more permanent constitutional document Iraq.

This step to an assembly is necessary because the IRG has little democratic credibility (or recognition in international law) since it is only an administrative arm of the US occupying power. The future of a democratic Iraq depends upon elections for a new and much more legitimate and credible, governing political body----a new assembly or Parliament. The elections for such a Parliament are expected to take place around the end of the year. Presumably, the Parliament would come up with a proposal for a new Constitution for a unified democratic Iraq.

The main pathway to a democratic, sovereign Iraq is put the infrastructure for the democratic project: the important election-preparation stuff such as voter roll, rules for the holding of the election and the scope of the election.

The interim constitution has been hailed as progressive. It guarantees individual freedoms and the rights of women. It provides for a federal state with two official languages, where Islam will be a source of legislation but not the basis for it.

And the resistance to the interim constitution? The opposition is from both radical and moderate Islamists and misplaced optimism amongst the Kurds. These political reactions indicate the sources of discord. First, what kind of guarantees of religious freedom will be incorporated into the constitution and what role will Islam be given in the system of government?

Equally pressing is the distribution of power between the centre and the regions: whether Iraq should be a unitary or a federal republic. If it is the latter, (the view of public opinion), then what would the boundaries of the different regions be? Would the Kurdish region defined ethnically or territorially? Will the region include Kirkuk?

So we have a tricky transition period between the current US foreign rule in Iraq, the proposed abdication of US rule, and the possibilities of the emergence of a legitimate, democratically-elected Iraqi government. This transition process involves a conflict between the US occupiers trying to control the process and outcome and those Iraqi's calling for general elections to constitute a democratic Parliament.

So resistance in Iraq is far more complex than Saddam Hussein's remnants resisting the US military occupation in Iraq. The military account ignores the liberal politics.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 3:34 PM | | Comments (0)