Factions Jostle for Top Posts in a New Iraq
Wext: Monday, 24.May. @ 00:00:00 CEST
By STEVEN R. WEISMAN
Source: New York Times
WASHINGTON, May 23 — President Bush prepared Sunday for a campaign to rally support at the United Nations about his policies in Iraq, while senior envoys struggled in Baghdad with competing demands by Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds for the top positions of the new caretaker government.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell spent Sunday in telephone conversations with envoys on the United Nations Security Council, which could get an American draft of its resolution on Iraq as early as Monday.
The resolution, critical to efforts to make the United Nations more involved in Iraq, is expected to call for international donations and troops. It is also supposed to define any limitations on Iraq's sovereignty after the transfer of power planned for June 30.
The overture to the United Nations comes as Mr. Bush is preparing a speech for Monday night at the United States Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., and amid sagging poll results for the president at home.
An administration official said Mr. Bush would outline a plan of action to dispel "this idea that we don't know what we're doing" on Iraq. Mr. Bush will explain to Americans and people around the world that the United States has a plan to overcome the security problems and the political impasse in Iraq, this official said.
The situation has been complicated by recent security developments, including the decision to install former Saddam Hussein-era military commanders in Falluja.
That deepened the distrust of Shiites and Kurds that the Sunnis would wield their old powers. After Falluja, many diplomats say, the Kurds and Shiites are even more determined to press for leadership positions.
The process of selecting government leaders is being overseen by Lakhdar Brahimi, a special United Nations envoy, who has been working closely with Robert D. Blackwill, a former United States ambassador to India who is now Mr. Bush's special envoy in Iraq. They have set a deadline for the end of May.
"What happened in Falluja compounds Brahimi's problems," a senior administration official said. "He can mollify the Shia by giving them status in the new government. But with the Shias in charge, the Sunnis and the Kurds don't want to feel like junior partners."
United Nations, Iraqi and American officials said Mr. Brahimi and Mr. Blackwill had been struggling over demands for a Kurd to be either the president or the prime minister. At the same time, they said, Shiites are fighting for control of the new Iraqi government, which is to stay in power until elections next year.
People who have been in contact with Iraqi officials said Mr. Blackwill was continuing to press for a prominent role for Adnan Pachachi, a former Iraqi foreign minister who has been a favorite of the United States. But his supporters are charging that Shiites and Kurds are trying to sideline him.
Administration and Iraqi officials said the eight positions over which Iraqi factions are jockeying are the jobs of prime minister, which is supposed to be the principal governing job; president and two vice presidents, which are defined as more ceremonial; and four ministries, including defense, foreign affairs, finance and oil.
"Brahimi is starting to close in on the choices," said the senior Bush administration official.
But "he doesn't just have three or four positions to play with," he said. "He's got a larger structure to identify. The trick will be not letting all these politics overwhelm the effectiveness of the government that is chosen."
A spokesman for Mr. Brahimi said in a phone interview from Baghdad that the United Nations envoy was shuttling among Iraq's various factions and constituencies, including many of the 400 political parties that have identified themselves since Mr. Hussein was overthrown. "There's still a lot of maneuvering going on," said the spokesman, Ahmad Fawzi. "There's still shuttling back and forth between all the parties and players. We're not there yet."
People familiar with Mr. Brahimi's style say that in Afghanistan, where he helped set up the government two years ago, he spent the first weeks listening to people and not proposing any names as his favorites. But then when the deadline approached, they said, he would start suggesting names.
An element of drama is part of the process, according to people who have watched Mr. Brahimi. They say that demands by one or another group — like the demands of the Kurds for a top position — might be placated by other kinds of offers.
A Kurdish official said Sunday that "we'll never be obstructionist" as Mr. Brahimi reaches his conclusion. "We want to cooperate to make sure the process is successful," he added.
At the same time, many diplomats at the Security Council say they crave more information about the Bush administration's plans. Officials there said that the Security Council had presented the administration with a long list of questions, including some on the powers of the new Iraqi government over security, oil revenues and finances, but that they had failed to get answers.
Mr. Fawzi and Mr. Brahimi have avoided identifying any Iraqis who might lead the government. Earlier this month, some American officials said Mr. Brahimi had circulated the name of Dr. Mahdi al-Hafidh, now the planning minister in Iraq, as a possible prime minister. But Mr. Fawzi said Mr. Brahimi vehemently denied that claim.
Other Iraqis say that another possible prime minister candidate is Adel Abdel Mehdi, a leading Shiite Islamist with the support of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Mr. Mehdi was at a dinner Friday attended by Mr. Brahimi and other top Shiite leaders, along with Ahmad Chalabi.
Mr. Chalabi's attendance at the dinner was surprising to some Iraqis, because Mr. Chalabi has accused Mr. Brahimi of trying to impose a government on Iraq that was not representative.