THE EXTENSION OF THE UN MANDATE FOR IRAQ:
IS THE IRAQI PARLIAMENT BEING IGNORED?
By Dr. Michael Rubin
Maliki's actions are perfectly permissible under terms of the Iraqi Constitution. They are also permissible under precedent: The Security Council's November 28, 2006, extension of the mandate of the Multinational Force's presence in Iraq until December 31, 2007, was also in response to a request by the Iraqi Prime Minister.
Under Article 58 of the Iraqi Constitution, it is the job of the Iraqi Council of Representatives to ratify international treaties. This requires a two-thirds margin of support. Then, according to Article 70, the measure goes to the President to ratify the treaty. Such treaties are considered ratified after 15 days.
None of this is relevant to the case of the Prime Minister's request to extend the Multinational Force's mandate. The simple fact is that neither Maliki's communiqué nor UN Security Council resolutions any more constitute treaties for Iraq than they would for the U.S. Congress.
Despite the indisputable fact that this UN Security Council resolution does not constitute a treaty, the Iraqi Council of Representatives does have recourse if it disagrees with the Prime Minister's actions: A no-confidence vote requires only a simple majority. Despite grandstanding among some members of the Parliament, especially among parties more sympathetic to Iran, none have chosen to avail themselves of the constitutional right to a no-confidence vote.
While it is tempting, in the American political context, to second-guess the elected Iraqi government on this matter, there should be little doubt that doing so undermines the nascent Iraqi democracy and is counterproductive to Iraqi security and stability. In turn, it will be that security and stability which creates an environment that will ultimately enable a U.S. draw down.
Indeed, while it is the duty of the U.S. Congress to help make and guide U.S. foreign policy, micromanagement of the Iraqi political process often backfires. In the case of a Representative or Senator in the U.S. Congress, his first duty is to his constituency. The same is true in Iraq: An Iraqi politician who weighs the vote of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee over his own voters will not be an elected politician for long. For Iraqi politicians striving to do the right thing, the often conflicting messages received from the United States political system sometimes do more harm than good.
The Iraqi Prime Minister's request to extend the Multinational Force's mandate for a year is one of those rare actions which serve the interests of the United States, the United Nations, and Iraq.
Whatever the longterm U.S. debate about the merits of the surge, the U.S. military strategy has created space to enable Iraqi political leaders to address political reform and reconciliation. As the U.S. congressional leaders know, hard-fought political compromises on even minor issues can take weeks and months. Those involving fundamental constitutional interpretations and reforms take months, if not years. An attempt to stoke bickering between the Iraqi Council and the President over the decision to extend the Multinational Forces' mandate will undermine the very reconciliation process we have worked so hard to protect.
Finally, the extension of the United Nations mandate for Iraq addresses a key problem of legitimacy for that world body that should not be dismissed. For, while many in the West see the United Nations through the prism of the noble goals of its founding charter, many Iraqis view the UN through the prism of Oil-for-Food program corruption and former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's warm relations with Saddam Hussein. Restoring UN credibility in Iraq is an important goal, and the resolution extending the mandate of the Multinational Forces for one year will allow time for political discussion and greater security force training, and may also allow time for the Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration of militiamen.
The Iraqi political process is far from perfect. But its best chance for success lies not in second-guessing an elected Iraqi Prime Minister's request to the United Nations' Security Council, but in respecting his very responsible decision to deny populist temptations and focus on the tough reforms ahead.
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Dr. Michael Rubin, a Ph.D. in History (Yale University) and a specialist in Middle Eastern politics, Islamic culture and Islamist ideology, is Editor of the Middle East Quarterly, a senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School, and a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. Dr Rubin is author of Into the Shadows: Radical Vigilantes in Khatami's Iran (Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2001) and is co-author, with Dr. Patrick Clawson, of Eternal Iran: Continuity and Chaos (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005). Dr. Rubin served as political advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad (2003-2004); staff advisor on Iran and Iraq in the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense (2002-2004); visiting lecturer in the Departments of History and International Relations at Hebrew University of Jerusalem (2001-2002); visiting lecturer at the Universities of Sulaymani, Salahuddin, and Duhok in Iraqi Kurdistan (2000-2001); Soref Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (1999-2000); and visiting lecturer in the Department of History at Yale University (1999-2000). He has been a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, the Leonard Davis Institute at Hebrew University, and the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs.
The foregoing statement by Dr. Rubin was originally presented as testimony before the Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight, Committee on Foreign Affairs, United States House of Representatives, December 19, 2007, and can be found on the Internet website maintained by the Middle East Forum, a think tank which seeks to define and promote American interests in the Middle East, defining U.S. interests to include fighting radical Islam, working for Palestinian Arab acceptance of the State of Israel, improving the management of U.S. efforts to promote constitutional democracy in the Middle East, reducing America's energy dependence on the Middle East, more robustly asserting U.S. interests vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia, and countering the Iranian threat.
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