!! History Commons Alert, Exciting News
Profile: Iraqi Governing Council
Iraqi Governing Council was a participant or observer in the following events:
At a press briefing in Baghdad, Paul Bremer says that Iraq should consider privatizing its state-owned sectors and allowing foreign investment into its oil industry soon, even if that means doing so before Iraq has an elected government. He says that the soon-to-be-appointed Iraq Governing Council will need to reassure private investors by taking a friendly stance toward foreign capital. “Privatization is obviously something we have been giving a lot of thought to,” he says. “When we sit down with the governing council… it is going to be on the table. The governing council will be able to make statements that could be seen as more binding and the trick will be to figure out how we do this. Everybody knows we cannot wait until there is an elected government here to start economic reform.” [Reuters, 7/8/2003]
The Iraqi Governing Council is created and its 15 members sworn in. The members were selected by Paul Bremer on July 11 after tense negotiations between the Coalition Provisional Authority and a number of Iraqi opposition groups. Thirteen of the members are Shiites, five are Kurds, five are Sunni Muslims, one is an Assyrian Christian, and another, one of three women on the council, is a Turkoman. Most of the members are Iraqi exile leaders or Kurdish chieftains who worked with the US and Britain prior to the invasion. More than half of the members have connections to, or were members of, the Iraqi National Congress. The new governing council will have the authority to appoint some officials and diplomats, review laws, and approve budgets. But Paul Bremer may veto any of the council’s proposals. [New York Times, 7/13/2003; Cox News Service, 7/14/2003]
US authorities in Iraq issue a $20 million contract to provide the new Iraqi police force with new revolvers and Kalashnikov rifles. The Iraqi Governing Council is highly critical of the contract and questions why the Iraqi police couldn’t be provisioned with the tens of thousands of weapons that the US military has been confiscating every month from Saddam Hussein’s abandoned arsenals. [New York Times, 10/4/2003]
Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) administrator L. Paul Bremer is under pressure to explain how he intends to transfer power in Iraq from the CPA and the hand-picked Iraqi Governing Council (IGC—see July 13, 2003), especially in light of Bremer’s recent, unilateral cancellation of national elections (see June 28, 2003). Bremer chooses an unusual venue to respond: the op-ed pages of the Washington Post. In a column entitled “Iraq’s Path to Sovereignty,” Bremer writes that national elections are “simply… not possible” at this time. Instead, the IGC will develop a plan for drafting and ratifying a new constitution. [Washington Post, 9/8/2003; Roberts, 2008, pp. 129-130] This will be followed by elections and, finally, complete transfer of the CPA’s powers to the new Iraqi government. Bremer gives no hint of a timetable, and implies that the process will not end quickly. Influential Iraqis, and US allies such as France and Germany, are disturbed by the prospect of an essentially indefinite occupation. Senior Bush officials, particularly National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, will later claim to have been blindsided by Bremer’s plan. New York Times columnist David Brooks, a conservative with excellent sources within the White House, will later write that Bremer “hadn’t cleared the [Post] piece with his higher-ups in the Pentagon or the White House” (see December 2003 and After). However, Bremer’s column is consistent with a Bush statement on Iraqi governance the day before, and with the text of a resolution the administration will try to push through the UN Security Council in October. It is unclear what, if any, authorization Bremer has for his decision, but there are manifest disagreements in the top ranks of White House officials as to the wisdom of Bremer’s planning (see November 15, 2003). [Roberts, 2008, pp. 129-130]
In a speech to the nation commemorating the second anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, President Bush promises that no more troops are needed in Iraq. The 130,000 currently deployed are enough to handle the mission, he says. Besides, “now some 60,000 Iraqi citizens under arms, defending the security of their own country, are now active, with more coming.” The Iraqi Governing Council, which he calls “25 leaders representing Iraq’s diverse people,” is almost ready to take over governance of their country (see September 8, 2003), Bush says. Viewership for the speech is half the number of people who watched Bush’s January State of the Union address (see 9:01 pm January 28, 2003), and polls indicate that support for the Iraqi occupation is sagging among Americans. [Rich, 2006, pp. 102-103]
Members of Congressman Henry A. Waxman’s staff interview two members of the Iraqi Governing Council. They state that Iraqi firms could be hired for reconstruction projects at one-tenth the amount being charged by US firms. Their claim is corroborated by the Coalition Provisional Authority’s (CPA) own justification (see September 17, 2003) for the $20 billion reconstruction supplemental. The CPA states that when work is done by Iraqi companies the “cost of construction is 1/10th of US standard per sq. ft. in general construction.” [US Congress, 9/30/2003, pp. 3-4 ]
The twenty-five members of the Iraqi Governing Council and the twenty-five interim ministers unanimously decide to reject cooperation with the CPA in the privatization of state-owned companies and publicly owned infrastructure. [Harper's, 9/24/2004]
The US-appointed Iraq Governing Council orders the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) to leave Iraq by the end of year citing its “black history” in Iraq as a “terrorist organization,” a reference to the militant organization’s long history of working with Saddam Hussein (see 1991 and December 2003). But Pentagon officials do not want the MEK to leave Iraq, as they are considering plans to use the group against Iran. [Christian Science Monitor, 12/31/2003]
The single source for the controversial claim that Iraq could launch a strike with its weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes (see September 28, 2002 and March 12, 2007) is identified as “Lieutenant Colonel al-Dabbagh,” an Iraqi who has allegedly spied on Saddam Hussein’s government for British and US intelligence for over seven years. Al-Dabbagh, who does not allow his first name to be used or his photograph taken, is interviewed in Baghdad by journalist and author Con Coughlin. Al-Dabbagh, identified as an adviser to the Iraqi Governing Council, is later revealed to be an Iraqi defector who was brought to US and British attention by Ahmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress. Coughlin is apparently unaware of this. He portrays al-Dabbagh as a heroic risk-taker, “not a man who is easily frightened,” he writes. “[D]eath threats from Saddam’s loyalists” do not deter him from “revealing details of the former Iraqi dictator’s deployment of weapons of mass destruction”; his determination “remain[s] undiminished.”
WMD Remain Hidden - These selfsame loyalists are the reason why US forces cannot find the weapons of mass destruction, al-Dabbagh tells Coughlin. “Saddam’s people are doing this all the time,” he says. “That is why it is so difficult to find the weapons of mass destruction. I am sure the weapons are hidden in Iraq just like I see you now. I am concerned that the chemical and biological weapons are there.” Al-Dabbagh says he is proud to risk his life in divulging Hussein’s secrets: “If Saddam’s people kill me for saying this, I do not mind. I have done my duty to my country and we have got rid of Saddam. And if the British government wants me to come to London to tell the truth about Saddam’s secret weapons program, I am ready to help in any way I can.”
Claim '200 Percent Accurate' - The 45-minute claim is “200 percent accurate!” al-Dabbagh exclaims. “And forget 45 minutes. We could have fired them within half an hour.” Is he the original source of the intelligence? Coughlin asks. Al-Dabbagh replies, “I am the one responsible for providing this information.” A member of the Iraqi Governing Council, General A. J. M. Muhie, al-Dabbagh’s supposed brother-in-law, confirms that al-Dabbagh is the sole source of the claim: “We only had one source for this information and that was Dabbagh,” says the general. Fellow council member Iyad Allawi says he was the one who funnelled al-Dabbagh’s reports to Western intelligence agencies. Muhie is the one who set up the meeting between Coughlin and al-Dabbagh.
Plans to Use WMD against US Invading Forces - Al-Dabbagh tells a detailed story of how the weapons were to be deployed against the American invaders, saying that he and other officers were ordered to use specially designated four-wheel drive Isuzus and only to deploy them if Iraqi forces were in danger of being overrun. Al-Dabbagh and others were then to drive the Isuzus towards American troop emplacements and fire the weapons, presumably chemical and biological weapons tipping hand-held rockets. But the weapons were never deployed, al-Dabbagh claims, because the majority of Iraqi soldiers refused to fight against the Americans. “The West should thank God that the Iraqi army decided not to fight,” he says. “If the army had fought for Saddam, and used these weapons, there would have been terrible consequences.” Whatever became of those fearsome weapons, al-Dabbagh does not know. He believes they were hidden away by Hussein’s Fedayeen loyalists. The weapons will be found, al-Dabbagh predicts, when Hussein is caught or killed: “Only when Saddam is captured will these people talk openly about these weapons. Then they will reveal where they are.” [Sunday Telegraph, 12/7/2003]
Claims Proven False - Weeks after Coughlin’s interview, al-Dabbagh’s claims will be proven entirely false, and both al-Dabbagh and Allawi will deny any responsibility for their claims (see January 27, 2004).
One US lawmaker, Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA), believes that the story surrounding the capture of Saddam Hussein (see December 14, 2003 and December 17, 2003) is false. Instead, McDermott alleges, the capture was stage-managed for President Bush’s political benefit. “There’s too much by happenstance for it [Hussein’s capture] to be just a coincidental thing,” he tells a Seattle radio interviewer. When asked if he believed the timing was planned to help Bush, McDermott replies: “Yeah. Oh, yeah.” McDermott notes that the US had “been in contact with people all along who knew basically where he was.” He adds that the timing of a recent move by the Iraqi Governing Council to hastily enact legislation for a war crimes court to try former regime members is suspicious. Bush supporters will accuse McDermott of spreading “paranoid conspiracy theories” and “crazy talk.” [Asia Times, 4/17/2004] Subsequent evidence will bear out some of McDermott’s skepticism (see January 2004).
The US-appointed Iraqi Interim Governing Council signs the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL), providing a timetable for the establishment of a representative government in Iraq. The TAL will serve as the country’s constitution during the transitional period, set to begin on June 30, 2004. On that date, the CPA will be dissolved and power will be transferred to a transitional government (This will actually happen on June 28; see June 28, 2004), which will rule Iraq until an elected government has been established. According to the TAL, the National Assembly will be elected in January 31, 2005 and charged with the task of writing a constitution that will be subjected to popular referendum no later than October 15, 2005. Finally, an elected government must be established no later than December 31, 2005. The TAL also includes provisions that place certain restrictions on the transitional government, such as one stating that all “laws, regulations, orders, and directives issued by the Coalition Provisional Authority” will remain in force during this period. [Iraq Transitional Administrative Law, 3/8/2004; CNN, 6/28/2004]
The United Nations Security Council unanimously passes Resolution 1546, formally transferring control of Iraq’s political and economic affairs to an interim government. While the resolution states that Iraq’s government has “full sovereignty,” the Iraqis will not have authority over the activities of the 160,000-strong US-led multinational force. Rather the resolution only states that the coalition forces have the right to “take all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq,” albeit in a “security partnership” with the government. If the Iraqi government objects to a military operation in the country, its only option is to veto the participation of Iraqi personnel. This means, for example, that US and British forces retain the right to detain Iraqis, search homes, and respond to perceived threats employing whatever force they deem necessary, without approval from Iraq’s government. The French and Germans had proposed a provision that would have given the Iraqi government veto power over any military operations it objects to, but the US would not agree to it. The resolution does allow the Iraqi government to order the withdrawal of all international troops, however as observers have noted, given the current security situation, that is an unlikely scenario. [United Nations, 6/8/2004; New York Times, 6/9/2004] In spite of Kurdish demands, the resolution makes no references to Iraq’s interim constitution (see March 8, 2004), which Ayatollah Sistani has said is “counter to the will of the Iraqi people” (see June 8, 2004). The Kurds wanted the UN to affirm the validity of the interim constitution because it includes a clause that would give the Kurdish minority more leverage in crafting the country’s permanent constitution. Another provision in the constitution asserts that the interim government is bound by the laws passed under the authority of the Coalition Provisional Authority. However many Iraqis oppose the laws that were passed by the CPA because those laws made drastic changes to Iraq’s economic policy, opening it up to unrestricted foreign investment. The absence of any reference to the interim constitution in the resolution undermines the validity of the constitution and Bremer’s laws, according to some experts and officials. [New York Times, 6/9/2004] Main points of the resolution include:
A national conference of political, religious, and tribal representatives shall convene in July to choose consultative counsels that will advise the interim government.
Elections will be held for a transitional national assembly no later than January 31, 2005. The assembly will form a transitional government, which will draft a permanent constitution. Iraqis will then have elections for a full-term government no later than December 31, 2005.
The multinational force in Iraq will help the Iraqi government recruit, train, and equip Iraqi security forces.
The Iraqi government has sole authority for the disbursement of oil and gas revenues.
The interim government must refrain “from taking any actions affecting Iraq’s destiny.”
The UN mandate for the multinational force will expire after elections are held under a new constitution; however the council “will terminate this mandate earlier if requested by the government of Iraq.”
The resolution is the product of two weeks of negotiation, undergoing five revisions. The original draft was submitted on May 24. [Associated Press, 6/8/2003] On at least one occasion during this process, the Iraqi Governing Council had complained that its views were not being adequately represented in the Security Council. In one statement, the governing council said they wanted to discuss full Iraqi control of “the activities of the Iraqi armed forces and security forces.” The council also objected to any moves to grant foreign soldiers immunity from prosecution under Iraqi law. [Associated Press, 5/25/2003] Though the resolution’s final context contains no such provision, Paul Bremer will sign an extension (see June 27, 2004) to Order 17, which granted US personnel and contractors immunity from prosecution by the Iraq government.
Receive weekly email updates summarizing what contributors have added to the History Commons database
Developing and maintaining this site is very labor intensive. If you find it useful, please give us a hand and donate what you can.
If you would like to help us with this effort, please contact us. We need help with programming (Java, JDO, mysql, and xml), design, networking, and publicity. If you want to contribute information to this site, click the register link at the top of the page, and start contributing.