BAGHDAD, June 1: Iraqi political experts have dismissed the country's first post-Saddam Hussein government unveiled on Tuesday as hamstrung by Washington and manipulated by exiles. They feared the highly respected Algerian UN envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, was largely powerless to impose his will for a competent, technocratic government.
Despite fine words from the new leaders for a democratic Iraq, political scientists compared the line-up with the unpopular monarchy imposed by Britain after World War I that failed to drain the flow of oil revenues to London.
President-designate Ghazi al Yawar lived in Saudi Arabia for 15 years, vice president Ibrahim Jaffari fled in 1980, a decade after prime minister Iyad Allawi also took off for more than 30 years in exile.
They all returned to Iraq after president Saddam Hussein was ousted last year. Along with many of their colleagues on the Governing Council, they enjoy close ties with Washington.
"How can you accept people who came with the occupiers? The people who were tortured and who suffered inside Iraq deserve these positions," said Hussein Hafed al Ukaly from the Centre for International Studies at Baghdad University.
"These people with foreign connections are not real patriots, so how can they serve our people?" he added. In keeping with the interim constitution signed in March and designed to reflect the country's population, the president is a Sunni, the prime minister a Shia, the deputy prime minister Kurdish, while another Kurd and a Shia fill the two vice presidential posts.
But Ukaly sees this as a restrictive, short-sighted US policy that exaggerates fears that Iraq's ethnic divisions could be on the verge of erupting into sectarian warfare.
"People in Iraq don't differentiate between Shia, Sunni, Kurd, Jew, Christian. It is not necessary," said the international affairs lecturer. According to the process, Mr Brahimi, US chief administrator Paul Bremer and the Governing Council had to agree on the make-up of the new government. But academics are sure the reality is different.
"Bremer is the new Sir Percy Cox," said Hamid al Sadoun, also a lecturer at the Centre for International Studies, referring to London's first high commissioner for Iraq after the British mandate was declared in the 1920s.
"This whole process is being conducted under a shadow. No one can understand what's going on. It's just a plot between Bremer and Brahimi," said Mr Ukaly. The president designate Ghazi Yawar's preference for traditional tribal dress rather than slick Western suits also came under the microscope.
"If he takes his keffiyeh off he will serve Iraq, but if he continues to wear it, he'll present an image of Iraq that is uneducated. Iraq is a civilized country and it's impossible to gravitate back to tribal traditions," he said. assan Alany, a constitutional expert at a university, said Mr Allawi can make the best of a bad job.
"He is very well-known, from a good family. His father was a doctor. He has security experience and is a large man with a tough face." But for ordinary Iraqis his ties to the Central Intelligence Agency, which is reviled as a ruthless tool of US policy across the Middle East, only emphasize the government's need to win legitimacy.
"To solve this problem, you need to choose an official who has not come from abroad. You need to have a certain balance," Mr Alany said. "Why didn't they choose these men?
"For the same reason the Governing Council has failed, the new government will fail," predicted Mr Ukaly. "The population feels that it is a duplicate of the Governing Council," echoed a spokesman for influential Committee of Ulema. -AFP
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