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With the downfall of Saddam Hussein and his regime, the US occupation authorities provided some insight into how they intended to administer Iraq. For the first six to eighteen months, the country would be under the direct control of a US military pro-consul. Not until two years after the take-over would power be turned over to Iraqis. This plan was strongly protested by the organized Iraqi opposition and so was abandoned.
Nine days after the regime’s collapse, Washington placed the management of Iraq in the hands of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA), led by former US general Jay Garner. Only two weeks later, Garner was replaced by the US career diplomat Paul Bremer, who became head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), which answered directly to the Pentagon and replaced the ORHA.
Under pressure from its Iraqi partners and acting on the advice of the United Nations, Washington on 6 July 2003 installed the Interim Governing Council (IGC), consisting of twenty-five representatives of the diverse former opposition parties from all sectors of the population: 13 Shiite Arabs, 5 Sunni Arabs, 5 Kurds, 1 Assyrian, and 1 Turkmen; three of the twenty-five were women. Former exiles were heavily over-represented in the council. The chairmanship rotated monthly among nine members (5 Shiite Arabs, 2 Sunni Arabs, and 2 Kurds). CPA chief Bremer had veto power over any IGC decision. On 3 September 2003, the IGC formed a cabinet, consisting of twenty-five ministers (13 Shiite Arabs, 5 Sunni Arabs, 5 Kurds, 1 Assyrian, and 1 Turkmen).
Rising violence by groups that resisted the new order and/or the occupation itself – as well as the demand from Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali al-Husayni al-Sistani, who has a wide following among the Shiite Arab majority and could thus inspire mass protests, that a representative national administration on the basis of general elections to be assembled promptly – forced Washington again to revise its plans. On 15 November 2003, a timeline was announced for the formal transfer of power before 30 June 2004 (supported by UN Security Council Resolution 1546 of 8 June 2004).
Transition of power
On 8 March 2004, the Interim Governing Council signed the Transitional Administrative Law, an interim constitution under which political power would ultimately be handed over to elected representatives of the people of Iraq in three stages. In stage one, a (non-elected) Iraqi Interim Government (IIG) would take over power from the CPA (ultimately on 30 June 2004). The Interim Government would rule the country until an Iraqi Transitional Government was formed following general elections. In stage two, general elections for a 275-seat Transitional National Assembly would be held (ultimately on 13 January 2005), in order to form the Transitional Government. The Assembly would elect a President (and two Vice-Presidents), who would, in turn, select a Prime Minister. The Prime Minister, assisted by two deputy Prime Ministers, would head the Transitional Government, after having received the approval of the Assembly. The most important task of the Transitional National Assembly was to draft a new Constitution, which would be submitted for approval to the people of Iraq in a referendum (ultimately on 31 October 2005). In stage three, if the Constitution was approved, general elections for a 275-seat Council of Representatives would be held (ultimately on 31 December 2005). As in the case of the Interim Government, the Council would elect a new President (and two new Vice-Presidents), who would, in turn, select a Prime Minister. The Prime Minister, assisted by two deputy Prime Ministers, would head the government, after having received the approval of the Council.
The transfer of power from the CPA to the IIG (stage one) finally took place (for security reasons) two days before the deadline expired, that is, on 28 June 2004. The President of the IIG was a Sunni Arab (Ghazi Ajil al-Yawar), assisted by a Shiite Arab and a Kurdish Vice-President. The most important post in the Transitional Government, that of Prime Minister, went to a Shiite Arab (Iyad Allawi), assisted by a Kurdish and a Sunni Arab Deputy Prime Minister. The CPA was formally disbanded the same day, although its role was, in practice, taken over by the US embassy, the largest American embassy in the world, which could rely at that time on about 125,000 US soldiers and thousands of foreign contractors (i.e., mercenaries) on the US payroll.
During this process, representatives of the most important of the former opposition parties had become part of the new administration that was created under the aegis of the US-British occupation forces. For that reason, critics inside and outside Iraq portrayed them as puppets of Washington. For several of the participating parties (INC and INA), this may indeed have been the case; for others (the Dawa Party, SCIRI, KDP, and PUK), this was certainly not so. The parties themselves justified their participation by arguing that the political options in impoverished and occupied Iraq were very limited and the dangers of a further downward spiral great. By participating in the new order they hoped to promote the interests of their parties (and themselves) from the inside, to be able to exert a positive influence in resolving mutual conflicts of interest (or to continue to settle their differences politically) and to restore true sovereignty to Iraq in stages. Most of the parties were dependent on, but not docile instruments of, Washington, because they could call for mass mobilization and, should all else fail, violent resistance as means of applying pressure.