Rotary Club of New York
International Service Division                            Sylvan Barnet, Chairman

 

 

 

Iraqi Road-Map - One Year Later
Guest Speaker:  
 Michael von Ungern-Sternberg -Minister Plenipotentiary
Permanent Mission of the Federal Republic of Germany to the United Nations,
 New York, N.Y.

 


The following remarks were part of a discussion that took place at the monthly breakfast meeting of the International Service Division of the Rotary Club of New York. The meeting was held on April 21, 2004 at the German Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York City.  This is a condensed and edited text that is made available as a resource to update Rotarians on current issues facing the International Development Community. The meeting was opened and moderated by Mr. Barnet.

 

Mr. Barnet: Why are Rotarians interested in this topic this morning? We are a peace organization, and peace and conflict resolution is one of the areas we work in. But we are also a social and humanitarian organization. And the work that we do cannot be done in areas of conflict. We are waiting for the Security Council, the Secretary-General and a lot of others to make it safe for us to go back to Iraq and do our social and humanitarian work.

 

I should mention that we got a fabulous report from Afghanistan where Rotary is deeply involved in education and health projects. So we hope that we will be back in Baghdad soon so we can continue our work there too.

 

It is very appropriate that we are meeting here to get an update on the "Road Map" for Iraq. It is one year and 1 month after we were briefed by the German Deputy Ambassador,  Schumacher, on what was going to happen at the Security Council or did not happen on March 19, 2003.

 

Now, I will briefly tell you about our guest speaker. Mr. Michael von Ungern-Sternberg is the Minister Plenipotentiary of the Permanent Mission of the Federal Republic of Germany to the United Nations. He has been with the German Foreign Office for 22 years, with posts in Bonn, Morocco, Soviet Union, and E.U. in Brussels. In 1998, he headed the Division of E.U. Enlargement in the Foreign Office, and for the last 2 years he has headed the Political Section of this Permanent Mission of Germany.
Mr. Minister, we welcome you and are eager to hear your comments.

 

Mr. Ungern-Sternberg: Thank you very much Mr. Barnet. It is a pleasure to be here. It has been one year since Ambassador Schumacher was here and as you know a lot of things have been going on. But to start with, I would like to say that I was struck by the invitation I got from you. It was a very intelligent way of putting the problem. You said to me that "we are looking forward to going into Iraq and opening up Rotary Clubs". No one, I thought, has ever looked at the problem this way. But it might be quite a good measure to use because as soon as Rotary can be in Iraq, then civil society is functioning, and civility is back. So maybe it is really a good way of looking at the problem.  We are all looking forward for Rotary to get into Iraq!

 

Immediately after the war, everyone said letís get over our differences in the Security Council and rebuild Iraq. Nevertheless, still lots of differences have persisted. In fact, what we have seen in the last few days is that Spain has pulled its troops out of Iraq, and other countries are thinking of also pulling out because the area has become very risky.
The United States, as well as the United Kingdom, have put enormous political and financial efforts into Iraq, yet the coalition has not seen the result they were expecting or hoping to see. If you compare this to Afghanistan, where the situation was also very bad, everyone acknowledges that a lot of progress has been achieved and the situation has been stabilized. Just two weeks ago, we had a conference in Berlin on Afghanistan. The United States was very happy with the results and more importantly, Afghans were also very happy. There seems to be light at the end of the tunnel!

 

What has happened in Afghanistan to make it work, more or less, and has failed to happened in Iraq? To sum up right from the beginning, the big issue is legitimacy and ownership of the populations and of the political elite. That is what was handled differently in the Afghanistan case. In the last year we have seen the coalition going in,  running Iraq, and taking over control.

 

"Road-Map" was the exact term used by the Germans and the French at the Security Council last year. It suggested for the U.N. to work together with the Iraqis, present a possible road-map for the political process to the Security Council, and take it from there. But this proposal was rejected by the coalition because it wanted to stay in control. It did not want international participation.

 

In September, Paul Bremer, the U.S. Administrator in Iraq, presented a seven point plan. There was no exact time-frame, but only at the very end of the plan a transfer of sovereignty was foreseen. The immediate response by the Secretary-General, the Special Envoy of the U.N to Iraq, Mr. Brahimi, and others, felt that this would make things difficult because in Iraq and the Arab world, people would not perceive this as trying to increase ownership.

 

On the 15th of November, the seven point plan was revised and there was a new agreement between the governing council, which is composed of 25 Iraqis, and the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). They set out a different plan that outlined the main events to take place to hand over sovereignty and spelled out the transitional administrative law (TAL). Among other items, an agreement was to be reached between the CPA regarding the status of the  troops of the multinational coalition on one side, and the governing council on the other side. This raised some suspicion because some people were saying: Why have this agreement with the governing council instead of having it with the interim government that will be formed under this agreement this summer?

 


In addition, when the TAL was adopted under this agreement, some of the members of the governing council refused to sign it because several of the main stake-holders in Iraq, the Shiites and Ayatollah Sistani, could not accept some of the provisions. Eventually, however, after a lot of negotiations in the background, this transitional administrative law was adopted.

 

If one looks at the contents of the TAL, it is really quite an impressive piece of legislative work. It contains human and fundamental rights, and many other positive elements in our view.  It states that when the  permanent constitution is accepted, there would be a right of veto if three governorates would not give their consent. The Shiites are concerned that if the permanent constitution will not give the Kurds what they want, they can easily reject it because they have a strong majority. And the Shiites have said that they are going to be dependent on a Kurdish veto. This is a fundamental problem with the TAL because the Kurds now have a document that they consider binding, and on the other side the Shiites are confronted with something they donít like but their representatives in the governing council have signed. So there is a serious problem when you look at the constitutional process.

 

So what is the way ahead and what are the risks now?

 

First, we are faced with growing anti-foreign tendency, and growing anti-Americanism, in particular. There is growing apprehension of any foreigner to go into Iraq. As we can see, all nationalities are getting kidnapped and killed, and it is becoming a more dangerous place for international involvement. This is going to hamper the political process.

 

Second, we are going to face serious problems among the ethnic groups in Iraq. In the aftermath of Hussein, every group was somewhat relieved, except some smaller minorities. There was a sincere will to move on and to try to find a new way to reconstruct Iraq into a unified country. But, now the divisions have grown more important, and the divergence of interests have appeared in a much stronger way.

 

Third, the neighboring countries are growing more worried because the events are not going in the right direction. This is particularly true with countries that have Kurdish minorities. We see that the Iranians are trying to get more involved, the Turks have serious apprehensions, and so do the Syrians.

 

Fourth, there is a major problem concerning security. Security issues and the political process are strongly linked to each other. Without security, they will never be able to achieve a certain degree of progress in the political process. At the same time, without seeing progress in the political process, there wonít be any security. There is a very strong interdependence. Everyone agrees that the American forces have, in many ways, done an impressive job, but there is no way to establish security if the Iraqis do not see any progress in the political process.

 

Mr. Brahimi has suggested a proposals for the future that is hopeful. While he has not yet submitted them to the Security Council, his main ideas have already been in the newspapers:

 

First, on the 30th of June, we will have a transfer of power. And I think everyone agrees on it. The United States is interested, the Europeans are interested, and the Iraqis are interested. So there is going to be something that will happen on the 30th of June. And this needs to be perceived by the Iraqis as something legitimate.

 

Second, the new government will be run by a prime minister, with a president, and two vice presidents and there is probably going to be an ethnic and religious element. We are going to see Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds, as important figures.

 

Third, there is going to be a transitional assembly at a national convention similar to what happened  in Afghanistan.

 

Fourth, after the national conference, there is to be an international conference with many of the major international players, such as the Coalition, neighboring states and members of the
E.U.

 

Sometime in January, 2005, the Iraqis will have an election. Sistani has insisted on this and Mr. Brahimi has said this is possible. This will be a major point because at that stage an Iraqi organ will emerge from this process with a certain degree of legitimacy. Not all the problems will be over then, but at least will we have some kind of an institutional set-up which will not be contested as being imposed by the outside world.

 

On the security side, many have suggested the involvement of NATO. This is a debate that is going on in NATO, but there are different opinions being voiced there. We are not sure if using NATO would be helpful for the following reasons:

 

- By replacing,  for example, 20,000 American troops with 20,000 French, German, Dutch or any other European troops, the face of the security force will not be changed. It will not be perceived in Iraq as something they own, and will still be perceived as being occupied.
-We are not sure if it is going to increase security.
-We are not sure if it will increase the image of NATO,
-It might be perceived as something that is Christian and coming from the West, as opposed to something that is Arabic and Islamic.

 

The CPA is doing all it can in developing and gearing up an Iraqi police force. However, we all agree it was a mistake to disband the Iraqi army in the beginning. There were approximately 200,000 Iraqi soldiers, I believe, put on the street with nothing to do and they were available to be recruited by Iraqi militia. For the sake of security, it is important to draw in some participation from the Arab world.

 

What can the Security Council do, and where do we stand? The British and Americans have said we need a new resolution and we all agree on this. However, we are not working on any text in the Security Council yet. The coalition has outlined some of the main points they would like included:

 

- The resolution should state that on the 30th of June 2004 sovereignty will transfer to the Iraqis and it is the end of occupation.
-Laws that are in existence today should remain in existence as long as Iraqi authorities have not changed these laws.

 

-Determine the commanders and participants of the multinational force.
This force must have the face of someone trying to stabilize the country rather than someone who is there to occupy the county. While it is not the intention of the coalition to occupy the country, we have to accept as a political reality that it is being perceived as an occupier.
- Define the role of the United Nations. It is important for U.N. to be perceived as independent of the coalition forces. The U.N. should be the main broker in the political process. This is an area the U.N. has a great comparative advantage. They are not perceived as pursuing any self-interest, and it has the necessary experience. A special representative of the Secretary-General, who has knowledge of the issues and is respected in the region, would be effective.

 

However, the Security Council resolution can only work if it gets the backing by the main players in Iraq. There is no use producing a text here in New York, if Sistani and other main players are going to reject it. Therefore, it is very important to see the 30th of June as a start of a new stage in the whole process. And that the transitional government will not be perceived as a continuation of the governing council. It is also important that other forces in the region get more involved and gradually get a more Arab and Islamic face.

 

Thank you.

 


This transcript was produced and edited by Thomas McConnon. We welcome your questions and comments.

 

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