- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 15, 2004

A U.N. plan for elections will bring “disastrous consequences” for the people of Iraq, said Richard Perle, a leading pro-war voice and advocate of unilateral action in Iraq.

Mr. Perle made his comments at a conference yesterday at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Mr. Perle previously was chairman of the Defense Policy Board, an advisory committee to the secretary of defense.

His criticism was directed at the structure of the electoral system announced by Carina Pirelli, director of the Electoral Assistance Division brought in by the United Nations.

“If they inflict on the people a party list system, it will guarantee ethnic, sectarian and religious divisions in the country, with what I fear will be disastrous consequences,” Mr. Perle said.

“The idea that an Italian bureaucrat will consign Iraqis to that future is very troubling.”

Mr. Perle was referring to the system of proportional representation, which Michael Rubin, an AEI scholar and former political adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, said at the conference “encourages people to vote strictly on the lines of ethnicity and sectarian practice, rather than on local, political issues.”

The system allows voters to cast ballots anywhere in the nation for any listed party or independent candidate. The parties would win a number of seats in direct proportion to the number of votes they receive nationwide.

The United Nations argues that the model allows communities dispersed through conflict or Saddam Hussein’s policies to aggregate their voices on a national scale.

Mr. Rubin said the party slate system selected by the United Nations “puts us on the slippery slope toward a Lebanon model,” leading to deep internal divisions and the risk of civil war.

Single-member constituencies, such as the system used to elect the U.S. Congress, would better represent the ethnicity and diversity of Iraq, he said.

Mr. Rubin reported Iraqi criticism that U.N. special envoy Lakhtar Brahimi, “whose daughter, of course, is engaged to the brother of King Abdullah of Jordan … was trying to represent all the neighboring countries at the expense of the Iraqis themselves.”

“I don’t understand what’s motivating Pirelli,” he said. “It’s not the internal desires of the Iraqis that matter, but it’s the influence of other countries surrounding, because the U.N. tries to please all sorts of constituencies.”

AEI fellow Thomas Donnelly, one-time policy director for the Committee on National Security, added: “The U.N. [is] continuing to be a drag on the process and a roadblock to what Americans would certainly regard as genuine democracy.

“The international community and the United Nations in particular really is a bit player in this,” he said. “The U.N. role of supposedly giving legitimacy to this process is almost entirely disconnected with the facts on the ground in Iraq.”

He stressed that “this remains very much an endeavor driven by Iraqis, Americans, the British and the serious coalition members.”

Speaking of the role of NATO, Mr. Perle said: “I can’t imagine why we would want NATO to assist in training Iraqis. …

“Do we really want the French training Iraqi security forces? The most notable accomplishment of the French security in recent years was the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior.”

The Greenpeace flagship was sunk by French agents in July 1985.

“I’m not sure there’s a great deal to contribute there. Do we want Germans training the Iraqi security forces, with their great tradition? I think we’re well out of that morass.

“I think it’s foolish to consider we would get any serious help from NATO and even more foolish to desire it,” Mr. Perle said.

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