The Perils of Paul


Today in New York, Paul Bremer will have Chibli Mallat with his cornflakes, and he may not like the taste. The Lebanese lawyer has penned an op-ed piece for the New York Times wondering whether Bremer's efforts to get greater UN help in Iraq are wise. He writes:

Having come under increasing pressure over its plan to form an Iraqi government without direct elections, the United States is counting on greater United Nations involvement both to help ease the resistance and secure a lasting democracy.

Beyond the involvement of additional stakeholders like France and Germany, can a more determined role on the part of the United Nations translate into government-building? Considering the organization's dismal record of silence during Saddam Hussein's 30 years of totalitarian rule, I'm not so sure.

What does Mallat propose? A domestic Iraqi solution, whereby:

The way forward, then, is simple. The 10 members of the governing council whom I met with agree on this: the council, as a national unity government, should be unconditionally recognized as in charge of Iraq's destiny, with the support of the United States-led coalition and whoever else wishes to join in a democratic course of reconstruction.

As such, the council would be deemed the official interim government of Iraq ? making the United States plan to select a national assembly by July 1 unnecessary. The council would be empowered to draft a constitution and set the parameters for what a new government would look like and when and how it would be elected. In the long term, this would consolidate the whole process of democracy ? something Iraqis both in and outside the council want.