Tuesday, September 06, 2005


From Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches:

U.S. Influence 'Too Much'

Inter Press Service
Dahr Jamail

*London, Sep 5 (IPS) -* U.S. influence in the process of drafting a
constitution for Iraq is excessive and "highly inappropriate", a United
Nations official says.

"It is a matter of public record that in the final weeks of the process
the newly arrived U.S. ambassador (Zalmay Khalizad) took an extremely
hands-on role," Justin Alexander, legal affairs officer for the office
of constitutional support with the United Nations Assistance Mission to
Iraq (UNAMI) told IPS. "Even going so far as to circulate at least one
U.S draft."

Alexander, who oversaw the recent proceedings in Baghdad added: "This
involvement was highly inappropriate for a country with 140,000 soldiers
in country."

Zaid al-Ali, a legal expert who also oversaw the drafting process in
Baghdad, made a similar case at a meeting at the International
Association of Contemporary Iraqi Studies in London.

"There are three ways in which the occupation intervened in the context
of Iraq's constitution-writing process," he said. "Firstly, the
occupation authorities selected and affected the makeup of the
commission that was charged with drafting Iraq's transitional law, and
its permanent constitution. Second, the occupation determined the limits
and parameters within which the constitution was to be drafted. Third,
the occupation authorities intervened directly in order to safeguard its
interests in the context of the constitutional negotiations."

Al-Ali said it was significant that one article in the draft
constitution on foreign military bases was dropped from the final
version. "One article contained in a previous draft provided that
setting up foreign military bases in Iraq was to be forbidden, and that
the only way in which this could be deviated from would have been by a
two-thirds majority vote in Parliament."

Al-Ali said "this article was dropped from the final draft of the

An alliance including the Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars and the
large movement of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said it rejected the draft
and a "political process which had been led by occupiers and their

The group said in a media statement: "We consider this draft as a next
step of this process which does not represent the peoples' will." The
alliance also expressed "major suspicions about the honesty of the next
referendum, which will take place under occupation and with neither
international nor Arabic and Islamic supervision."

Dr. Marinos Diamantides, senior lecturer in law at the University of
London, said the entire drafting process could be illegal under
international law.

"One could argue the entire process is against the law," Diamantides
told IPS. "According to the 1907 Convention (the convention for the
pacific settlement of disputes), the occupying power has a duty to
maintain the legal system of the country it occupies. This is the first
time ever that an occupying power has dismantled the internal law system
of the country it occupies."

He also pointed out that ironically the Sunnis now have power to derail
the upcoming referendum vote by a two-thirds vote in three provinces.
That power was originally intended to give Kurds power to veto the

When Iraq's Kurdish and Shia dominated parliament recently approved the
draft, Sunnis immediately began campaigning for a 'no' vote in the
upcoming October referendum. If the draft were to pass the referendum,
it would be followed two months later by election for a government.

At least four provinces are predominantly Sunni, and Sunni clerics have
urged their followers to reject the draft if it does not meet Sunni demands.

Adding further complexity to the already muddled situation, former UN
humanitarian coordinator in Iraq during the sanctions Denis Halliday
believes that even the United Nations has no place in occupied Iraq.

"The UN doesn't have a position in Iraq today," Halliday told IPS. "Once
the invasion took place, the UN became collaborators with the enemy (the
United States)."

Halliday, who had resigned from his UN post in protest against
"genocidal sanctions" added: "This lesson should have been learned in
August, 2003 when our office in Baghdad was blown up, as we were
collaborators. The UN has simply become a tool of the U.S., and Iraqis
can no longer distinguish between the U.S. and the UN."

Justin Alexander said Iraq might need a new constitution. "If Iraq
creates a progressive and effective constitution and laws to implement
the constitution, then this could benefit Iraqis. But in the absence of
mutual reconciliation and an end to the occupation this is all futile."

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