The Looming Credibility Crisis of the IIG

Does the Iraqi Interim Government stand a chance with the people on the street?

| June 24, 2004

Want evidence that Iraq has become the ultimate power vacuum where the men toting the biggest guns at a given time rule the hour? Look no further than the squatters who have occupied various government and military buildings, posh mansions on the Tigris, or even most of the Green Zone and the Republican Palace (in the case of the United States army). Christopher Allbritton, author of the fantastically insightful and independent weblog Back-To-Iraq, writes that the fledgling Iraqi Interim Government will have to somehow establish property rights if it is to gain any legitimacy among the Iraqi people after the June 30 handover date.

'What is the general populace to take away when they're forced from formerly Ba'athist apartments on Abu Niwass street on the Tigris while their neighbors -- who have a lot of guns and can get audiences with the British ambassador -- sit around smoking excellent Cuban cigars (in the case of Jumaliddin [a former advisor to occupation czar L. Paul Bremer who has since lost favor with the Americans]) and thumbing their noses at the law?' Allbritton asks. 'And that's not even mentioning the number of Saddam-era generals who have decamped to swank apartments formerly held by government officials. Their location? Scattered throughout the Green Zone overlooking the trailer parks that currently house a large number of CPA workers.'

Whether the IIG does or does not act to remove squatters, or if it does so selectively, brings up the bigger question of Iraqis' historical relationship to authority. In Allbritton's most recent entry he compares them to Texans, 'taken to an extreme in their anti-governmental feelings. For 1,400 years, with only one recent exception in the form of Abdul Kareem Qasim (1958-1963), Iraqis have felt like their governments are an enemy, according to Jumaliddin, and fiercely resisted them.' The irony here is rich. Allbritton continues: 'The land that produced the first code of laws has come to ridicule the idea that laws can govern a populace. It is the leaders who are the source of power, not the law. And to many in Iraq, the leaders now are outsiders and thieves ... Is this the legacy of Saddam? Or was Saddam the product of the mindset?'
-- Jacob Wheeler

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