The US, desperate for international boots on the ground, had trumpeted an agreement to welcome Turkish troops in Iraq. That agreement was torpedoed by the Iraqi Governing Council, which has flatly (and rightly) refused to allow any troops from any neighboring countries.
The Council's decision wasn't rooted in any powers granted by the US occupiers, but by sheer moral force. The understanding was clear -- you allow Turks into our country, and we will shoot at them.
Ever since that decision, the US has waged a war of words to undermine the Council.
Increasingly alarmed by the failure of Iraq's Governing Council to take decisive action, the Bush administration is developing possible alternatives to the council to ensure that the United States can turn over political power at the same time and pace that troops are withdrawn, according to senior U.S. officials here and in Baghdad.
The United States is deeply frustrated with its hand-picked council members because they have spent more time on their own political or economic interests than in planning for Iraq's political future, especially selecting a committee to write a new constitution, the officials added. "We're unhappy with all of them. They're not acting as a legislative or governing body, and we need to get moving," said a well-placed U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "They just don't make decisions when they need to."
Oh boy. Were to even begin?
First of all -- it is the very nature of government officials to look out for their own political and economic interests. Heck, George Bush started this war in large part because of his own political (reelection) and economic (Halliburton) interests. For the US to now act dismayed that Iraqi politicians are being, well, political, is beyond bizarre.
But more importantly, why is this being leaked? To what purpose? To prove once and for all that the US is an occupying power, and to end all pretenses that Iraqis have a stake in their own country?
Does anyone realize the danger of saying things like this?
U.S. officials are still hoping that they can "stay the course, only faster," the well-placed U.S. official said. If the council exercised its responsibilities, Bremer would even be prepared to hand over greater authority "by the truckload," the senior official in Baghdad added.
It is by the grace of the Shiite on the council that Iraq hasn't erupted into full-fledged rebellion. "Greater authority" isn't Bremer's to hand over. The Shiite's can take it any time they want. They have the bodies, they have the weaponry, and they have the intelligence (heck, the Shiites on the council likely know more about the CPA than the best-informed Sunni guerillas).
The Shiite have been patient for a variety of reasons. They know the US will have to cut and run eventually, so they are sitting back and waiting, letting others do their dirty work. And if Americans kill of at least some of their Sunni rivals, so much the better. But whatever magnanimity they've given the US depends in large part with their leadership role in the Governing Council. It is that position they hope to parlay into national control once the Americans cut and run -- hence the politicking that has Bremer and the US all in a huff.
Any threats against the Council can have serious repercussions. The Shiites don't have any love for us. They are not our allies. They are using us, in a way, to achieve control over Iraq, knowing we won't stick around forever. We are using the Council, as well, as a way to buy off potential rivals. So long as they believe they'll be in charge of a new Iraq, they have no reason to roil the waters.
But that delicate balance depends on maintaining the pretention that the Governing Council has power, and will be the transitional body to the eventual Iraqi government. We threaten to take that away, and we will get a national rebellion.