- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 12, 2003

BAGHDAD — Stunned by reports from this week’s White House meetings, officials of the Iraqi Governing Council say they are ready to become the kind of authoritative and attentive executive body that Washington seeks.

Reports reaching Baghdad, suggesting the council is in for a major shake-up and could even be dissolved, have riveted the attention of a panel whose meetings are regularly attended by fewer than half its members.

Many spend more time traveling and attending to business interests than on their formal duties, even as efforts to draft an Iraqi constitution and prepare for elections have made little progress.

Civilian administrator L. Paul Bremer and his staff have been highly supportive in public, but their frustration with the council bubbles over in private conversations.

“You’ve got a bunch of people who are more interested in their private business deals and boosting their political and personal portfolios among the Iraqis than they are about getting the job done,” said one official of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), who asked not to be identified.

Governing Council officials say they are ready to address those concerns.

“The Governing Council understands that it needs to reorganize itself into a more effective decision-making body,” said Qubad Talabani, son and assistant to the council’s current chairman, Jalal Talabani.

“It realizes that there is a lack of executive authority within the Governing Council, and the members are seriously deliberating among themselves to find a mechanism that would give them executive authority,” he said.

The slow pace of deliberations is in part a result of the very structure of the 24-member panel, argued a senior adviser to another council member.

“You are talking about a council in which the representative of the Socialist Party sits next to the Muslim Brotherhood who sits next to the Communist Party,” he said.

“It is not 24 people, it’s almost 24 different ideologies. It is not easy for these people to agree on anything.”

One suggestion being discussed within the council is to establish an executive body of three or four persons, which would be better able to make decisions.

Another idea is to limit the overseas travel of the members. One of the major complaints of U.S. officials is that about half of the council members are away from Baghdad at any one time or do not attend the sessions.

“We are probably unhappier than [the Americans] are,” said Adnan Pacheche, a council member. “We would have wanted for things to move more quickly.”

But Mr. Pacheche and others said some of Washington’s demands are shortsighted, particularly the pressure to quickly draw up a draft constitution.

“To have a proper constitution done, many, many things need to be done first,” Mr. Pacheche said. “You have to have election laws, population census, choosing a voting system, reform the judicial system so it can handle any complaints, etc.”

Some council members favor the procedure followed after the 2001 war in Afghanistan, where a provisional government was to govern while a constitution is drafted and voted on.

But there is no agreement on who would appoint the provisional government or lead it.

“We realize that appointing a provisional government by [the United States] would be almost the same as appointing the Governing Council, just putting in new bodies, and that probably won’t solve the problem,” said the CPA official. “And we don’t know of any Iraq strongman who can be the figurehead until elections are held.”

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