IRAQ: The June 28 Transfer of Power

February 16, 2005

Backgrounder
Current political and economic issues succinctly explained.

More on:

Iraq

This publication is now archived.

Who controls Iraq’s government?

The Interim Iraq Government (IIG). Under the terms of an annex to Iraq’s temporary constitution--the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL)--interim President Ghazi al-Yawar and interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi share power, but in practice the prime minister is expected to have the upper hand. The new government assumed sovereignty from the United States on June 28, two days ahead of schedule. It will run the country until elections are held in January 2005.

Why did the transfer of power occur ahead of schedule?

Reportedly to thwart potential terror attacks, which had been increasing in frequency and violence as June 30 approached. More than 200 Iraqis have been killed and several hundred more wounded in car bombings and other attacks since June 1. In a low-key ceremony June 28, L. Paul Bremer III, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), returned sovereignty to top Iraqi officials.

Who controls security?

That is one of the trickiest issues for the IIG. Some 138,000 U.S. soldiers and many of the about 23,000 other coalition soldiers from 33 countries will remain in Iraq. The Iraqi troops, who number some 200,000, lack the equipment and training to defeat the insurgents. The government has asked for the help of the multinational force, which will be under the command of a U.S. general, in putting down the insurgency and has pledged that its troops will cooperate in that effort. U.N. Resolution 1546, which authorized the end of the occupation and the transfer of sovereignty, gives the interim government the right to ask international troops to leave the country. Iraqi officials have said they won’t exercise that option. At the handover ceremony, Allawi mentioned steps to deal with insurgents and warned that the new government "will be on the lookout for them, and ... will chase them and bring them to justice to get their fair punishment."

What steps did Allawi discuss?

  • Declaring a state of emergency in particularly violent regions. This could include imposing curfews, expanding search and seizure laws, banning public protests, and setting up checkpoints to control public movement, according to news reports.
  • Offering amnesty to insurgents not directly responsible for killing coalition forces or Iraqis. The amnesty would apply to individuals who provided weapons, sheltered fighters, incited others to take up their arms, or otherwise supported the insurgency, The Washington Post reported June 20. The idea is to separate Iraqis who backed the insurgency for economic reasons--thousands lost their jobs after Bremer disbanded the Iraqi Army last year--from hard-core terrorists, criminals, and outlaws carrying out increasingly sophisticated and deadly attacks against coalition forces and members of the Iraqi government.
  • Reorganizing the Iraqi security forces. At a news conference June 20, Allawi outlined a wide-ranging reorganization that included creating an anti-terrorism unit and making counter-insurgency the army’s chief mission. Allawi said the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps would be divided into six regional units, placed under army control, and renamed the Iraqi National Guard. The prime minister also said he had created an advisory committee on national security and a Center for Joint Operations, which would oversee all national security matters. U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz outlined the plan to Congress on June 24.

Who’s in charge of prisons and prisoners?

Experts say that U.S. troops, who have been running Iraq’s prisons, will continue to do so in the near future. "It’s obvious that the Iraqis don’t have the capacity to run the prison system at this point," says Mark Garlasco, senior military analyst for Human Rights Watch. Now that Iraq has regained its sovereignty, international law requires the United States to release all prisoners of war and detained persons to Iraqi control, he says. "The Iraqis can then detain anyone they want, but [the prisoners] must be charged with an actual criminal offense," he says.

Who has custody of Saddam Hussein?

Senior Iraqi leaders have said that Saddam Hussein will be transferred to Iraqi custody within the week. President Bush has expressed concern about the security arrangements for the former Iraqi dictator, fearing he could escape or be killed before his planned trial by an Iraqi court. Secretary of State Colin Powell said June 27 that while Iraq will receive legal custody of Saddam Hussein, U.S. forces would retain physical custody "for the foreseeable future." The former Iraqi leader was captured by U.S. forces in December 2003 and has been held in an undisclosed location since.

What is the make up of the interim government?

Appointed June 1, it is a mix of politicians--some of whom served on the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC)--exiles and non-exiles, technocrats, and regional administrators. Six are women. They were selected in a contentious process that pitted CPA head Bremer and U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi against IGC members. Experts say competition among Iraq’s various ethnic and religious constituencies led to frenzied negotiating and last-minute deals. Missing from the ranks of the IIG are some well-known political figures, notably Ahmed Chalabi, a prominent exile and leader of the Iraqi National Congress, and Adnan Pachachi, a Sunni and former Iraqi foreign minister. Pachachi was offered the presidency but turned it down, according to news reports. Chalabi has fallen out of favor with his U.S. supporters as evidence mounts that prewar intelligence he helped provide was inaccurate. He is also suspected of betraying U.S. intelligence secrets to Iran.

How will power be shared in the new government?

It will be divided among the presidency, the Council of Ministers led by the prime minister, and a 100-seat National Council, which will be selected by a national conference scheduled for July.

  • The presidency is a largely ceremonial post. However, the president and two deputy presidents must unanimously approve orders issued by the Council of Ministers before they can become law.
  • The prime minister and Council of Ministers (including five ministers of state and 26 other ministers) are responsible for day-to-day governance and may issue orders or decrees. The prime minister is expected to wield the most power in the government.
  • The National Council will represent citizens, advise the Council of Ministers, and approve the 2005 budget. It can veto orders or decrees of the Council of Ministers with a two-thirds majority.

Who’s running the ministries?

Since June 1, all of the country’s 26 ministries have been shifting to full Iraqi control.

What happened to the idea of a government of technocrats?

Brahimi’s original plan had envisioned an interim government made up of nonpolitical technocrats who would steer the country until elections next year. The presence of IGC members in many of the top interim government posts has put that plan to rest. "The idea went down the boards very quickly," says Howar Ziad, U.N. representative of the Kurdistan Regional Government. "How could technocrats run government agencies in an Iraqi environment of insecurity? It was a fanciful idea. You can’t separate politics from governance."

Will Iraqis consider the interim government legitimate?

Many experts are doubtful. They say Iraqi public sentiment has turned against politicians from the IGC and, because the ICG played a prominent role filling interim government posts, Iraqis will be skeptical. "The interim government could be seen as a bogus government by the Iraqis because it was not elected and has no real legitimacy," says Ahmed S. Hashim, an expert on the Iraqi insurgency and professor of strategic studies at the U.S. Naval War College. "But if it is able to restore law and order and engage in reconstruction, they may be willing to give it the benefit of the doubt." Kenneth Katzman, a Middle East expert at the Congressional Research Service, says Iraqis are likely to interpret the appointments as the result of the United Nations being outmaneuvered by the United States and the IGC. "This is for the most part a rollover of the governing council, an effort by them to stay in office," he says. "The new leaders have clearly shown what they want for themselves ... [but] they really don’t have a message for what they want for Iraq."

What happens next?

In July, the IIG will convene a national conference with some 1,000 to 1,500 members who are meant to be broadly representative of the country’s provinces, political parties, and interest groups, according to a plan devised by Brahimi. The conference will select the 100-member National Council to advise the new Cabinet ministers, in what experts say is an effort to increase the new government’s legitimacy. A key job of the IIG will be to prepare for national elections scheduled to occur by January 2005. Those elections will create a transitional government that will draft a permanent constitution to replace the Transitional Administrative Law.

What is the position of Ali al-Sistani ?

The powerful Shiite cleric gave his conditional approval to the new Cabinet, saying that although it lacked "electoral legitimacy," it was a step in the right direction. In a statement issued by his office June 3, Sistani said, "The hope is that this government will prove its worthiness and integrity and its firm readiness to perform the mammoth tasks it is burdened with," Reuters reported. Sistani named four key tasks for the new government: restoring security, providing basic services, winning approval of a U.N. resolution granting Iraq full sovereignty--"political, economic, military, and security"--and holding free and fair elections next year. He said the interim government would be judged on how well it could "erase the consequences of occupation." Experts say Sistani’s approval is essential if the IIG hopes to gain credibility among the country’s majority Shiites. His opposition scuttled a previous U.S. plan to create a transitional government through a complex series of caucuses.

How are Iraq’s ethnic groups represented in the new Cabinet?

International officials have stressed that ethnic group representation was carefully balanced, but some experts say no group is likely to be completely satisfied. The Kurds--who make up some 20 percent of Iraq’s population--received several key posts, including a deputy president, foreign minister, and deputy prime minister.

Sunni Arabs, the 20 percent of Iraqis who dominated the nation under Saddam Hussein, now hold the presidency and the defense ministry. The prime minister and the second deputy president are both Shiites, as are about 60 percent of all Iraqis. One group that appears to be underrepresented is religious Shiites. "Shiite Islamists could well feel like they have suffered," Katzman says, pointing out that they held five of the 25 seats on the IGC. They were awarded four of the 37 leading positions in the interim government.

Who holds the key posts in the IIG?

President: Sheik Ghazi Ajil al-Yawar

45, is a Sunni and an important sheik in the Shammar tribe, one of Iraq’s largest. He is the immediate past president of the IGC and won the support of the majority of its members for this post, after Pachachi reportedly turned it down. Born in Mosul, he studied engineering at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and spent 15 years in exile in Saudi Arabia.

Deputy president: Dr. Ibrahim Jaafari

57, served on the IGC. Born in Karbala, he is the chief spokesman for the Da’wa Party, a Shiite Islamist group that was founded in Iraq in the late 1950s and was later banned by Saddam Hussein’s regime. Jaafari fled Iraq in 1980 for Iran, then moved to London in 1989. He earned his medical degree from Mosul University.

Deputy president: Rowsch Shaways

57, is the current president of the Kurdistan National Assembly in northern Iraq. He earned a doctorate in engineering in Germany and returned to Iraq in 1975 to join the Kurdish rebellion against Saddam Hussein. A senior member of the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), one of the two main Kurdish political parties, he became the deputy prime minister of the joint Kurdistan regional government in 1992, after the withdrawal of Saddam Hussein’s forces from the Kurdish-held area protected by a U.N.-sanctioned no-fly zone.

Prime minister: Dr. Iyad Allawi

59, is the co-founder of the London-based Iraqi National Accord (INA), an opposition group supported by the CIA that staged an unsuccessful coup d’etat against Saddam Hussein in 1996. A secular Shiite, he was a Baathist who served in the Iraqi intelligence services until falling out with the regime and leaving Iraq in 1971 to study medicine in London. On returning to Iraq, he became a member of the IGC and chair of its security committee. Born in Baghdad, he is a neurologist and a businessman.

Deputy prime minister for national security: Barham Salih

44, was most recently the regional administrator of Sulaimaniya in Iraqi Kurdistan. Born in northern Iraq, he joined the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the other main Iraqi Kurdish political party, in 1976, and was arrested twice by the Iraqi secret police. After fleeing Iraq in 1979, he became the PUK’s spokesman in London and, later, in Washington, D.C. He holds a doctorate in statistics and computer modeling from the University of Liverpool.

National security adviser: Dr. Mowaffak al-Rubaie

is the former Da’wa spokesman in London and served on the IGC. He is also a neurologist and human rights activist.

More on:

Iraq

Up
Close

Top Stories on CFR

Saudi Arabia

The United States should draw a distinction between Saudi Arabia and the Crown Prince.

Venezuela

Bankrolling the region’s biggest humanitarian disaster won’t win Beijing many friends.

Italy

Italy’s populist government has relished defying the European Union, and its latest showdown with Brussels could threaten the continent’s fragile recovery—and the global economy.