Posted 11:55pm February 19
by Vanessa Maltin
U-WIRE Washington Bureau
As three more U.S. soldiers and one U.S. civilian lost their lives in Iraq this week, several members of the Iraqi Governing Council said they no longer support President Bush’s plan to select an interim government through caucuses but prefer the council become the sovereign body until elections are held this summer.
Bush’s caucus proposal, which sought to lay the foundation for a moderate government that would keep the country united, would institute a transitional government that will be carefully selected through local caucuses.
Now, after the council initially endorsed the plan last November, religious leaders are demanding elections and with expectations that the United Nations will do the same, members of the council have changed their minds on Bush’s plan.
Scott McClellan, White House Press Secretary, said in a press briefing that the Bush administration appreciates the U.N. team going into Iraq at the request of the Iraqi Governing Council and assessing the feasibility of elections.
“We have always said that the United Nations has a vital role to play, and they certainly have a lot of expertise that they can offer in the area of elections and the drafting of a constitution,” McClellan said. “Mr. Brahimi, the United Nations envoy, expressed support for holding elections as soon as possible, and he expressed support for transferring sovereignty as soon as possible-and we have worked in agreement with Iraqi leaders to transfer sovereignty by June 30th.”
McClellan also said that Brahimi expressed the need for infrastructure to be in place in Iraq to hold elections and discussed how the transfer of sovereignty requires the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Iraqi Governing Council to work closely together to find a way to move forward in transferring sovereignty to the transitional government.
McClellan closed by saying that the President looks forward to hearing the recommendations from the U.N.
The council rejecting the U.S. proposed caucuses also places the Bush administration in an awkward position-the group that was hand picked last year by U.S. authorities and labeled as being the most representative body in Iraq’s history, has now sided against Bush’s plan.
Daniel Tobias, a senior majoring in international affairs at the George Washington University hopes that the Bush administration will listen to the U.N. and allow the Iraqis to conduct their own elections.
“Democracy means that a body of people get to decide who their leaders are,” Tobias said. “The leaders of Iraq should be chosen by the Iraqis, not the United States.”
Julie Neimark, a senior majoring in economics at the University of California at Santa Cruz, fundamentally agrees with Tobias, but also believes that the Iraqi people still need guidance.
“The Iraqis should be able to conduct their own elections because they should be given that much respect,” Neimark said. “But at the same time, I think they still need guidance or support of some sort so that they go about holding elections in a truly democratic fashion.”
This weeks deaths bring the toll to 541 confirmed U.S. soldiers killed since the U.S. invaded Iraq in March 2003-most of which have been from roadside bombings.