We go to Baghdad to speak with Middle East correspondent Mohamad Bazzi of Newsday who reports how the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council guaranteed most of its members seats in the interim government and will have the power to veto laws, approve Iraq’s 2005 budget and replace the Iraqi president in case of death or resignation. [includes transcript]
On the day of the so-called transfer of sovereignty in Iraq, Middle East correspondent Mohamad Bazzi of Newsday writes:
“On the very day that the 25-member council dissolved itself, June 1, it issued a little-noticed decree that guarantees most of its members seats on the Iraqi National Council, a de-facto legislature that will serve until elections are held early next year. The 100-member assembly will have the power to veto laws, approve Iraq’s 2005 budget and replace the Iraqi president and two vice presidents in case of death or resignation.
“Members of the Governing Council, which was appointed by the U.S.-led occupation last July and was rejected by many Iraqis as illegitimate, also guaranteed themselves seats on an array of committees that will choose the remaining members of the National Council. "By granting itself such wide powers, critics say, the Governing Council risks tainting the legitimacy of the new Iraqi government set to assume sovereignty on Wednesday."
- Mohamad Bazzi, Middle East Correspondent for Newsday.
AMY GOODMAN: First we go to Baghdad to speak with "Newsday’s" correspondent, Mohammad Bazzi. In yesterday ’s newspaper, Bazzi writes that the Iraqi governing council has given itself life after death. Welcome to Democracy Now!
MOHAMMAD BAZZI: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us Mohammad Bazzi. Can you talk about what you mean by that?
MOHAMMAD BAZZI: Well, on June 1st, which was the day that the Iraqi governing council dissolved itself, (and that was also the day the new government was named: Iyad Allawi as prime minister and president of the cabinet, ) The governing council also issued another edict that did not receive anywhere near as much attention as that edict laid out the plans for a national conference of about 1,000 Iraqis to take place in July. (It will be kind of a gathering 6 ) they will come out with a 100-member national council, which is to be kind of a de facto parliament during this seven-month period until elections are held. And the governing council guaranteed itself seats on both the larger conference and then the council, which — or the parliament — the 20 members of the governing council that didn’t get any other government positions are basically guaranteed to be in from this new legislature. They have also given themselves seats on all sorts of committees and commissions that will choose everyone else participating in this national council.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, you’ve written that when UN Special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi began shaping Iraq’s interim government in April, he didn’t plan for things to turn out this way. He wanted to dissolve the governing council. He sought to appoint a group of technocrats who would be a caretaker government until elections held next January. He didn’t want to appoint politicians who might run for office next year. What happened?
MOHAMMAD BAZZI: Well, Brahimi was pretty much sidelined completely, and the governing council and all of the entire 25 members of the council were appointed by the United States, as you remember, in July 2003, and they moved to the forefront with the U.S. support. They named Iyad Allawi as Prime Minister. He wasn’t Brahimi’s choice. They also named (iraq presidents name) the president. He wasn’t Brahimi’s choice, either. Most of the ministers, when the choices...
MOHAMMAD BAZZI: Brahimi didn’t want the six political parties, the exiled political parties, to have control of ministries, and they ended up with several of the most important ministries—you know, foreign affairs, finance, a few others—and all of that happened within a few weeks, towards the end of May into June 1, when Brahimi was just sidelined.
AMY GOODMAN: Mohammad Bazzi, you also write about the role of the disgraced Iraqi politician, Ahmad Chalabi, playing a key role in the selection of the members this committee that will shape Iraq’s new parliament. Can you expand on that?
MOHAMMAD BAZZI: Yes. Achmed Chalabi served on the committee of five people that chose other members–about 65 people that will make plans for this national conference at the end of the month, at the end of July in Baghdad, and Chalabi took on this role several weeks after his office and home were raided by Iraqi police several weeks after the revelations that he had given false intelligence from Tehran to the United States and he still is playing a key role in these unknown committees and he still has his hand in several other things.
AMY GOODMAN: Mohammad Bazzi, I want to thank you for joining us, Middle East correspondent for "Newsday" reporting to us from Baghdad.