U.S. Edicts Curb Power Of Iraq's Leadership
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Walter Pincus
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, June 27, 2004; Page A01
BAGHDAD, June 26 -- U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer has issued a raft of edicts revising Iraq's legal code and has appointed at least two dozen Iraqis to government jobs with multi-year terms in an attempt to promote his concepts of governance long after the planned handover of political authority on Wednesday.
Some of the orders signed by Bremer, which will remain in effect unless overturned by Iraq's interim government, restrict the power of the interim government and impose U.S.-crafted rules for the country's democratic transition. Among the most controversial orders is the enactment of an elections law that gives a seven-member commission the power to disqualify political parties and any of the candidates they support.
The effect of other regulations could last much longer. Bremer has ordered that the national security adviser and the national intelligence chief chosen by the interim prime minister he selected, Ayad Allawi, be given five-year terms, imposing Allawi's choices on the elected government that is to take over next year.
Bremer also has appointed Iraqis handpicked by his aides to influential positions in the interim government. He has installed inspectors-general for five-year terms in every ministry. He has formed and filled commissions to regulate communications, public broadcasting and securities markets. He named a public-integrity commissioner who will have the power to refer corrupt government officials for prosecution.
Some Iraqi officials condemn Bremer's edicts and appointments as an effort to exert U.S. control over the country after the transfer of political authority. "They have established a system to meddle in our affairs," said Mahmoud Othman, a member of the Governing Council, a recently dissolved body that advised Bremer for the past year. "Iraqis should decide many of these issues."
Bremer has defended his issuance of many of the orders as necessary to implement democratic reforms and update Iraq's out-of-date legal code. He said he regarded the installation of inspectors-general in ministries, the creation of independent commissions and the changes to Iraqi law as important steps to fight corruption and cronyism, which in turn would help the formation of democratic institutions.
"You set up these things and they begin to develop a certain life and momentum on their own -- and it's harder to reverse course," Bremer said in a recent interview.
As of June 14, Bremer had issued 97 legal orders, which are defined by the U.S. occupation authority as "binding instructions or directives to the Iraqi people" that will remain in force even after the transfer of political authority. An annex to the country's interim constitution requires the approval of a majority of Allawi's ministers, as well as the interim president and two vice presidents, to overturn any of Bremer's edicts. A senior U.S. official in Iraq noted recently that it would "not be easy to reverse" the orders.
It appears unlikely that all of the orders will be followed. Many of them reflect an idealistic but perhaps futile attempt to impose Western legal, economic and social concepts on a tradition-bound nation that is reveling in anything-goes freedom after 35 years of dictatorial rule.
The orders include rules that cap tax rates at 15 percent, prohibit piracy of intellectual property, ban children younger than 15 from working, and a new traffic code that stipulates the use of a car horn in "emergency conditions only" and requires a driver to "hold the steering wheel with both hands."
Iraq has long been a place where few people pay taxes, where most movies and music are counterfeit, where children often hold down jobs and where traffic laws are rarely obeyed, Iraqis note.
Other regulations promulgated by Bremer prevent former members of the Iraqi army from holding public office for 18 months after their retirement or resignation, stipulate a 30-year minimum sentence for people caught selling weapons such as grenades and ban former militiamen integrated into the Iraqi armed forces from endorsing and campaigning for political candidates. He has also enacted a 76-page law regulating private corporations and amended an industrial-design law to protect microchip designs. Those changes were intended to facilitate the entry of Iraq into the World Trade Organization, even though the country is so violent that the no commercial flights are allowed to land at Baghdad's airport.
Some of the new rules attempt to introduce American approaches to fighting crime. An anti-money-laundering law requires banks to collect detailed personal information from customers seeking to make transactions greater than $3,500, while the Commission on Public Integrity has been given the power to reward whistleblowers with 25 percent of the funds recovered by the government from corrupt practices they have identified.
In some cases Bremer's regulations diverge from the Bush administration's domestic policies. He suspended the death penalty, and his election law imposes a strict quota: One of every three candidates on a party's slate must be a woman.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company