The Iraqi settlement is full of surprises and this has once again been confirmed by the formation of its government. Prior to its imminent dissolution, Iraq's Interim Governing Council (IGC) decided to demonstrate its independence of the coalition authorities and ensured the appointment of its candidates to the posts of prime minister and president of the country.
This show of independence is alarming. In the past few months, many IGC members have criticised the coalition authorities' policy in Iraq but this did not affect the situation. Of course, this could not affect it because the levers of power were firmly held by Paul Bremer's coalition administration. In this situation, the criticism of the Americans and their allies amounted to nothing more than an attempt to score additional political points.
The trouble is that the IGC was appointed by Americans and hence has not been supported by the majority of Iraqis. Its members have frequently been denounced as the occupiers' puppets and targeted for assassination. Today, some members of the IGC and the Iraqi government, appointed in conjunction with the coalition administration, will take their places in the new cabinet. The same people operating under a different name - this will not change the situation in Iraq or win the love of Iraqis for the new government.
However, the situation will change dramatically if we imagine a new government and a new president independent of the coalition administration.
The election of Ayad Allawi to the post of prime minister by IGC members last Friday came as a complete surprise for Paul Bremer and the UN secretary-general's envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, who was holding consultations on the creation of the new government at the time. They were forced to accept the IGC decision, the more so as Allawi is not the worst choice at all. In the past, he, like many exiled opponents of the Iraqi regime, co-operated with the CIA, lived in Britain for a long time and is hence not an unknown quantity for either Washington or London. Accordingly, the premier's appointment passed off rather calmly.
But the struggle for the post of president was much fiercer. Bremer and Brahimi lost it the IGC. After prolonged debates they ensured the appointment of their candidate, the 81-year-old Adnan Pachachi. However, as soon as the news was made public, Pachachi surrendered the post to Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer, the IGC candidate. Brahimi said his protege did this "for personal reasons" but these reasons are completely transparent: Pachachi is not suicidal. If Pachachi accepted the post after fierce discussions in Baghdad and accusations of the coalition administration forcing its will on the IGC, he would be viewed in his home country as Washington's puppet.
As an experienced diplomat and former Iraqi foreign minister, he clearly saw this danger earlier. Why, then, did not he decline the offer of presidency when the debates had only started? Because of his ambitions? There is no answer to this question, just as there is none as to why Washington preferred Pachachi to al-Yawer.
Even diplomats who have spent their careers studying Iraq cannot answer this question. RIA Novosti sources say that the Americans probably saw Pachachi as a man they could easily manage and, given his age, they could remove him from the political scene without too many problems. All those who will govern Iraq in the transition period are expected to resign after the elections. At 46, al-Yawer is in his prime and may refuse to leave these political heights. But, for the moment, this is only speculation.
It is clear, however, that al-Yawer can portray himself as a politician independent of the occupation forces. At least, the situation with his appointment is promoting this view. And it does not matter if this was all spin or the result of poor thinking on the part of the coalition administration, which was bound to know that no candidate it suggested had a chance. Al-Yawer has this chance now.
However, this leads to another question: will the Iraqis accept Allawi and his new cabinet? The political forces in Iraq that are not represented on the IGC were completely sidelined from the formation of the government. This may explain why the last consultations on the new government were accompanied by an unprecedented series of explosions in downtown Baghdad.
RIA Novosti sources in the diplomatic community in Moscow point out that nobody expects the new Iraqi government to be supported by the majority of Iraqis. "This would be naive," they told the agency.
Nothing that has happened recently in Iraq has ever been legitimate, despite the attempts of the international community to give at least a semblance of legitimacy to the political process in Iraq.
The new Iraqi government will be most probably approved in the UN Security Council resolution on Iraq that is currently being discussed in New York. RIA Novosti sources say, "Everyone knows very well that the current measures are palliative and will have no influence on the situation. However, since the new Iraqi government is being created to bring peace to Iraq, the international community is ready to interact with it, if only because there are no other forces in Iraq with which it can talk or which it can support."
In this situation, one can only hope that the new resolution on Iraq will grant the Iraqis not merely formal but genuine sovereignty. The new Iraqi president, al-Yawer, wants this, too, but he will have to prove his political independence.