Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Helena Cobban: The elephant in the Iraqi chamber

Another inisghtful post from Helena Cobban: The elephant in the Iraqi chamber:

It is blindingly clear to me that the fact that Khalilzad felt he had to go into the chamber (and not just as a passive 'guest' or 'observer') signals a deep failure of Washington's political project inside Iraq. If you look at those two mechanisms of indirect control of a parliament that I identified above[controlling access to the chamber and bribery], it is clear that the US forces completely control physical access to the Iraqi parliament, which is located inside the 'Green Zone'. But what the US administrators in Iraq evidently lack is any confidence that the parliamentarians gathered inside the chamber would, if left alone out of Khalilzad's sight, act at his bidding.

That, despite the huge amounts of money the US has always had available to hand out as bribes to Iraqi political figures!

In Lebanon, throughout the long years of Syria's overlordship there, financial incentives were a strong feature of parliament's every-six-years 'election' of a president. It was quite a common observation that the Lebanese MPs would be engaging in an elaborate game of financial 'chicken', since the price paid for each individual MP's vote would increase steeply as the Syrians (or in 1982, Israelis) came close to meeting the number needed for the election to succeed-- but once that number had been reliably reached, the price would suddenly plummet to zero.

Gosh, playing that game that must have been one of the hardest and most stressful jobs those MPs ever had to do during their very lengthy terms in power...

But in Iraq, despite the huge amount of money the US administrators have available, and the evident current penury of most Iraqis, Khalilzad can't even be certain he can reliably line up a parliamentary vote in the direction he wants without being physically present inside the chamber?? What is happening here???

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