July 17th 2004

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Indonesian elections ... and Australia

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Latham affair lifts election temperature

AGRICULTURE: Rural unrest spreads

QUARANTINE BREACH: Exotic disease outbreak threatens Qld citrus industry

INDUSTRY: Singapore recovers on back of manufacturing

FAMILY: Child care - in whose interests?

ARTS & MEDIA: 'The next program contains...'

FILM: AFA calls for ban on 'arthouse smut'

MIDDLE EAST: Can Iraq's interim government end the insurgency?

NUCLEAR WEAPONS: Terrorism marks the end of deterrence

UNITED STATES: Curtains on Camelot

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Skimming administrative fat / What about Uganda? / 17 years of war

Premier Beattie's ethanol 'mania' (letter)

Sugar Package (letter)

Mondragon (letter)

Journalists and Iraq (letter)

BOOKS: George Santayana, by Noël O'Sullivan

BOOKS: Tilting the Playing Field, by Jessica Gavora

OPINION: Time to act on North Korean tyranny

Books promotion page

Can Iraq's interim government end the insurgency?

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, July 17, 2004
The American transfer of power to the Iraqi Interim Government (successor to the Governing Council) marks just the first phase in the re-establishment of an independent Iraq. The fact that the hand-over was advanced two days, to prevent the event being accompanied by a wave of terrorist bombings is an indicator of the degree to which the Americans have been unable to stem the terrorist tide in Iraq.

Will the Interim Government do any better?

The answer to this question depends on whether the Interim Government is able to avoid the mistakes which the American administration made in its occupation of Iraq.

Post-war plan

Of these, three have been particularly serious. The first was the Administration's failure to plan for the government of Iraq after Saddam was defeated. The appalling anarchy which gripped Baghdad, Fallujah and other cities after the fall of Saddam Hussein caused incalculable destruction, probably more than in the war itself. The administrative infrastructure was destroyed in a period of days, and has still not been completely restored, over a year later.

The second failure was the foolhardy decision of US Administrator, Paul Bremer, in May last year to abolish the Iraqi ministries of defence and information, the army and other institutions, and sack every one in the Iraqi Government connected with Saddam's Baath Party.

This move which made tens of thousands of Iraqi families destitute, merely created a reservoir of hostility which fed into the anti-American insurgency.

As Gulf News, the leading English-language newspaper published in the United Arab Emirates, said at the time, "Bremer appears to be confused about the Baathists who ruled Iraq and exercised all types of oppression and torture against their people and others who had to become members of the Baath party to get a job, free health and education services."

It added: "Bremer is committing a serious mistake in depriving those Baathists jobs and political rights, although he speaks of democracy in Iraq."

Prophetically, it said: "Bremer is providing a strong motive to the remnants of the real Baathists to resist the Americans and win over Iraqis to their side. Bremer should have worked to neutralise the potentially dangerous active Baathists by allowing the Iraqi people to decide their fate."

The effect of the growing insurgency has not only been to tie up the 140,000 American troops, but to divert urgently needed money from national development into providing security for both Coalition forces and for infrastructure such as oil wells, pipelines and power stations.

The third major mistake by the Americans was its failure to involve Iraqis in the country's administration immediately after coming to power.

Ultimately, the absence of any oversight of American military operations was the cause of the scandalous behaviour of a handful of American military personnel at the Abu Ghraib prison, outside Baghdad, which has so seriously damaged the reputation of the American forces.

These mistakes weakened America's political position, and paradoxically, forced Washington to give enhanced powers to the new Iraqi Interim Government.


The new Government has secured UN support, largely because its leaders have a reputation for being independent of the Americans.

The two key officials are the President, Ghazi al-Yawar, and Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi.

Al-Yawar, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, is a prominent Sunni Muslim, and leader of the Shammar, one of the largest and most powerful tribes in Iraq.

In his flowing robes and of distinguished appearance, he has a long track record of supporting reform in Iraq, and has been critical of the American administration of Iraq.

Speaking in a television interview, he blamed the United States for the collapse of security in Iraq. "We blame the United States 100 percent for the security in Iraq," he said. "They occupied the country, disbanded the security agencies and for 10 months left Iraq's borders open for anyone to come in without a visa or even a passport."

Born in the northern city of Mosul 45 years ago, in a leading family, al-Yawar completed high school in Mosul and eventually moved to Saudi Arabia with his family in the mid-1980s to study engineering.

After further studies at Georgetown University in the US, he became a senior executive at a telecommunications company in Saudi Arabia. After the toppling of Saddam Hussein in April 2003, al-Yawar returned to Iraq at the request of his uncle, Mohsen al-Yawar, the leader of the Shammar tribe.

Al-Yawar's tribal connections lend him credibility among Iraqis, especially those from his hometown, Mosul.

The other key figure, Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, is a medical practitioner and Shi'ite Muslim.

Allawi, aged 58, spent decades in exile in London, and was the subject of an assassination attempt by Saddam.

Born into a prominent Baghdad Shi'ite family, Allawi joined the Baath Party in 1961, fervently embracing the party's pan-Arab philosophy that promoted Arab unity and Arab nationalism.


But by 1971 he had become disenchanted, fled to Lebanon and later to Britain, where he became a surgeon and leader of the Iraqi opposition in exile.

Like the President, Allawi was fiercely critical of the American decision to disband the army and purge Baathists from public employment.

Both supporters and critics say his years as an exile and his months in the tumultuous world of post-war Iraq have prepared him for his crucial role of leading Iraq forward from its occupation to its first free elections, due late in 2005.

As head of the Governing Council's security committee, Allawi was heavily involved in efforts to develop new Iraqi internal security and police forces.

Many hope that his knowledge will help him to succeed where the Americans failed: to restore order, and lay the foundations for peace.

Whether it succeeds will depend, in part, on whether the Government's $30 billion income can be employed in national development, or whether much of it will have to be spent on security.

Other key Government ministers are also well qualified, although they face serious criticism for being exiles during the worst of Saddam's regime.

Interior Minister Falah al-Nakib, a Sunni Muslim from Samarra, north of Baghdad, was trained as a civil engineer, completing some of his education in the United States.

He was a member of the Iraqi National Congress movement in exile, spending time in Syria, before joining the Iraqi National Movement, a Sunni offshoot of the Iraqi National Congress headed by his father.

After Saddam's overthrow, Nakib returned to Iraq and was appointed governor of Salahaddin province, encompassing the towns of Samarra and Tikrit, after the US-led administration removed the first governor they had appointed.

The Oil Minister, Thamir Ghadhban, earned a degree in geology from University College London and a masters in petroleum reservoir engineering from London's Imperial College, then returned to Iraq and worked as an Oil Ministry reservoir engineer, holding senior positions in the Ministry. He was named its chief executive officer after last year's invasion.

Earlier in his career, he was detained and demoted for supporting democratic reforms. He is regarded as the leading oil expert in the country with the world's largest reserves after Saudi Arabia.

The Defence Minister, Hazem Shaalan, a Shi'ite Muslim from the southern town of Diwaniya, is a leader of the Ghazal tribe. He gained degrees in economics and management from Baghdad University in the early 1970s, then managed several branches of the Iraqi Real Estate Bank across southern Iraq.

He was forced to leave Iraq in 1985 because of his opposition to the regime, going into exile in Britain, where he oversaw a real estate company. After the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in April 2003, Shaalan returned to Iraq and was appointed governor of Diwaniya, in the Shi'ite-dominated south.

The Justice Minister, Malik Dohan al-Hassan, aged 84, was elected president of Iraq's Lawyers Union in 2003. He had lodged early protests about the conditions under which the US-led occupation administration was holding prisoners and about the prisoners' lack of legal defence. He was a political prisoner under Saddam Hussein.

While the task the new administration faces is formidable, they should be better qualified than the US Administrator in restoring Iraqi confidence in the future of their country.

  • Peter Westmore

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