Center for American Progress

Memo on Tying the Hands of the New Iraqi Government

To: Interested Parties
From: Robert O. Boorstin

The handover of power by the Coalition Provisional Authority gave the new Iraqi government sovereignty in name, but not in reality. The CPA will continue its presence in Iraq through a legacy of 947 pages of orders that will restrict the new government's ability to conduct day-to-day business. The orders put Americans first, turn Iraq into a conservative laboratory, and undercut democratic principles.

The orders range from one stipulating that drivers "shall hold the steering wheel with both hands" (Order 86) to election rules that will have far-reaching consequences for the new government (Order 97). Many of the orders are positive steps for the new Iraq, such as instituting an Office of the Inspector General in each government ministry (Order 57) and establishing an Iraq Commission on Public Integrity (Order 55). But they threaten to undermine the new Iraqi government because the officials serving were chosen and appointed to multi-year terms by the CPA Administrator Paul Bremer, not Iraqis.

A senior U.S. official notes that these laws will be incredibly difficult to overturn, requiring the approval of a majority of government ministers, as well as the interim president and both vice presidents.

Below are highlights of the CPA's legacy for the new Iraqi government.

Putting Americans first

  • Immunity from Iraqi law. (Order 17, section 2, page 4). International personnel and Western civilian contractors cannot be prosecuted by the Iraqi government. Signed two days before the transfer of sovereignty, the immunity of U.S. personnel will alienate the Iraqi population and undermine the credibility of the new government.
  • Exemption from Iraqi taxes. (Order 37, section 3, page 2). Foreign civilian personnel, military forces, contractors, and other international organizations do not have to pay certain "excellent and first-class hotel and restaurant" taxes, car sales fees, transfer of property taxes, and petrol excise duties.

Iraq: A conservative laboratory

  • Tax rate capped at 15 percent. (Order 37, section 4, page 3). "The highest individual and corporate income tax rates for 2004 and subsequent years shall not exceed 15 percent." This provision takes away power from the Iraqi government for its own system of taxation.
  • Required sentencing for offenses. (Order 3, section 6, page 4). The government must impose a 30-year minimum sentence for offenders convicted of possessing, distributing, transporting, or selling weapons such as grenades and rockets, even though many Iraqis expressed discomfort enforcing such strict sentences.

Undercutting democratic principles

  • Election board can nullify political parties. (Order 97, section 4, page 3). The seven-member electoral commission chosen by Bremer has the power to suspend and decertify political parties, undermining the transparency the United States claims it would like in the election process.
  • Restrictions on political parties. (Order 97, section 2, page 3). No political candidates or parties may be associated with, or receive money from, an armed force or militia. This provision may be impossible to enforce since all the major Iraqi political parties are associated with militias.
  • Media regulated by Bremer-appointee. (Order 66, section 3, page 3). The Iraqi Media Network is now the public service broadcaster for Iraq and shall be licensed by the Iraq Communications and Media Commission to "reflect the democratic, social and cultural values of Iraqi society and at all times shall strive to reflect fairly and equitably the regional, cultural and political diversity of Iraq and its people."
  • Collecting detailed personal information. (Order 93, section 5, page 13). Banks are now required to collect detailed personal information on customers seeking to open an account or make a transaction equal to or greater than $3,500, violating privacy rights of Iraqi citizens.

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