Monday, April 04, 2005

Iraq's TAL

I read this yesterday but didn't get a chance to post it. Jim Hoagland's WashPost column takes good and honest look at the current political gridlock (Amazing, political gridlock in Iraq! You'd think it was Capitol Hill and the judicial filibustering...) we're seeing in Iraq right now:

"The code -- the Transitional Administrative Law, or TAL -- was deliberately shaped in an anti-Baathist image. It fragments power among the country's ethnic and religious groups to guarantee that none of them can again dominate and abuse human rights as Saddam's regime did.

"The TAL contains great value, especially its protections for women and the country's victimized Kurdish minority. But it sets the bar for forming the transitional legislative and executive branches of a new government so high that few nations could clear it. The pursuit of the perfect has become the enemy of the good in post-occupation Iraq.

"Greece's Arcadians might have been able to resist the temptation to use the blocking mechanisms built into the TAL, which requires a two-thirds vote of the parliament for a three-member presidential council that must then unanimously name a prime minister. Got that?

"Neither do the Iraqis. The Kurds lay claim to the ceremonial presidency for Jalal Talabani but are unhappy with the Shiite majority's Islamist candidate for prime minister, Ibrahim Jafari. So they stall and hope he will go away. Jafari's main short-term supporter (but his long-term rival for power), Abdul Aziz Hakim, lets Jafari twist in the wind. Meanwhile the Sunni Arabs demand an unobtainable guaranteed American withdrawal date as their price for participation in a new government.

"The TAL delivered the elections and a period of calm. But without active U.S. leadership, its complex provisions could strangle the embryonic, still traumatized Iraqi democracy that American soldiers died to create. Those provisions must be made to work and quickly, or set aside in favor of simple majority rule."

The NYT has a good summary of the issue here. And today, the Times also reports this encouraging, however, in reporter Edward Wong's words, "symbolic," development:

"The Iraqi national assembly appointed a speaker and two deputy speakers on Sunday, taking the first step, though a largely symbolic one, toward installing a new government.

"In last-minute deal making on Saturday and Sunday morning, the leaders of the top political parties settled on Hajim M. al-Hassani, a prominent Sunni Arab and the minister of industry in the interim government, as speaker. They selected Hussain al-Shahristani, a nuclear physicist and leading Shiite Arab, and Arif Taifour, a Kurd, as the two deputies.

"Speaker of the assembly is a largely ceremonial post, and so the step the assembly took was more symbolic than substantive. But it showed that the various parties could at least resolve their differences on minor issues. The first significant move will only occur if the assembly agrees on a president and two vice presidents. Those officers would then have two weeks to select a prime minister, who would appoint a cabinet."


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