Politics & Policy

U.N.Doing Minority Rule

U.N. "legitimacy" is a wolf in sheep's clothing.

Calls for the United Nations to be given a substantial role in Iraq are mounting. With the planned withdrawal of Spanish troops and the ongoing violence in parts of the country, President Bush is under increasing pressure to involve the U.N. Bowing to such pressure, however, will undoubtedly have far-reaching consequences for Iraq’s democratization.

At the end of World War I, the British established Iraq as a country ruled by Sunni Arabs; this minority dominated both the military and the government. Thus were set the foundations for Saddam Hussein’s rise to power and decades of Iraqi suffering. So when Ambassador Bremer decided last year to disband the Iraqi army and keep high-ranking members of the Baath party from holding public office, he put an end to the legacy of minority rule in Iraq. This historic event was matched only by the formation of the Governing Council, which, for the first time in Iraq’s history, was a body that fairly represented the nation’s ethnic composition. Ever since, these monumental decisions have been the scourge of minority-rule advocates who have sought to undo them at every opportunity.

The latest assault came from the United Nations’ special envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, former undersecretary of the Arab League. His proposal for a new transitional Iraqi government, cloaked in the legitimacy of the U.N., is in an attempt to reverse the historic advances of the past year.

The June 30 deadline is fast approaching, and it is still unclear what sort of transitional government will guide Iraq to elections in January 2005. Currently, the strongest proposal on the table is for the expansion of the existing Iraqi Governing Council. Instead, Brahimi wants to scrap the body, and with it the fixed percentages that ensure fair representation for each ethnic group. In its place he wants a caretaker government, effectively appointed by the U.N., and a national conference to choose a consultative assembly.

Making such sweeping changes for an authority that will only last six months anyway would be greatly destabilizing to Iraq. It makes no sense–unless the aim is to break up the current political structure and re-establish the old one. It is a last-ditch effort to plunge Iraq back into minority rule.

In a recent press conference announcing his proposal for Iraq’s transition, Brahimi revealed his loathing of Iraq’s departure from minority dominance by blasting the de-Baathification process. Brahimi’s obvious lack of impartiality fueled Iraqi opposition to his latest visit last month; Ayatollah Sistani has made it clear that he will not receive Brahimi, and it is not hard to understand why.

The consequences of adopting Brahimi’s plan would be catastrophic. If the Shia majority feels cheated out of power, a popular revolt will undoubtedly erupt. Democratization will be stalled and Iraq’s brutal history will be played out once more.

The proponents of minority rule were ignored when the Iraqi Governing Council was being formed. They were ignored again last November when they proposed the so-called “Sunni plan.” The call for U.N. involvement is their latest attempt at re-establishing minority rule. If Iraq is to be a successful democracy, such proposals must be ignored yet again–and always.

Sama Hadad is the spokeswoman for the Iraqi Prospect Organization, a pro-democracy group based in Baghdad and London.

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