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How to build a stable Iraq after the liberation from Saddam's tyranny

By David Flint - posted Friday, 11 April 2003

It is ironic that the very people who most opposed the armed intervention to liberate Iraq are precisely those who now insist that their prescriptions on the future governance of that country be followed to the letter. This applies equally to the Coalition's critics at home or overseas, particularly that extraordinary alliance, the emerging Paris-Berlin-Moscow axis.

The fact is that it is the members of the AAA coalition - the Anglo-Australian-Americans - who are best suited to guide Iraq to political and economic freedom. There are few if any countries more experienced in - and more committed to - stable democratic government, to the free market and to freedom itself.

And as the leader of the opposition Iraqi National Congress (the INC), Ahmed Chalabri says, the UN has shown itself too weak to undertake the necessary destruction of weapons of mass destruction, the de-Ba'athification of its politics and the removal of Saddam's evil influence from its security system. That does not preclude, of course, the involvement of UN agencies in specific delegated tasks, eg humanitarian aid, electoral supervision and the restoration of the homeland of the Marsh Arabs who were the subject of a terrible genocidal campaign. But it does mean that the future governance of Iraq should not be hostage to discredited great-power political manoeuvres in the Security Council.


After all, it was only those countries liberated by the AAA countries (with Canada and NZ) in the Second World War which kept their freedom.

They had no need for a Security Council appointed governor - had they, some of them could well have ended up as People's Democracies!

Nor were the colonies of the defeated powers administered directly by the UN or the League - one of the victors was given this role. In the case of Iraq, the UK allowed considerable and increasing autonomy. But the mandate lingered on until 1932 - too long - a lesson which the Coalition has no doubted noted.

So Iraq will obviously have to be fully administered by the Coalition in the short term, at least until humanitarian measures are undertaken and urgent reconstruction begun. At the same time, a parallel Iraqi administration will begin to be formed - it already exists in the North. The Iraqi diaspora will play an important role in supporting its work. The INC should constitute a major source of potential leadership. Apart from Mr Chalabri, Sharif Ali Bin Al-Hussein - the heir to the throne - has come to prominence in the INC. He was a successful investment banker and was one of the few survivors of the 1958 coup - he was two years old at the time. He would make an excellent Chairman of any constituent assembly, and a possible Head of State.

In addition to the matters Mr Chalabri refers to, it will be essential that the new Iraq is reconstituted as a federal democratic state under the rule of law, with a strong commitment to the protection of private property within a market economy. This necessarily involves an independent judiciary and measures to ensure the complete depoliticisation of the army so that it is free of the dogmas of pan Arabism, socialism, or the need for a strongman ruler. It was the army, after all, which from the '30s constantly disrupted the working of the Westminster system that Britain had left behind, which unsuccessfully tried to ally Iraq with Nazi Germany and which finally destroyed Iraqi democracy in the bloody coup of 1958, producing a succession of dictators, culminating in the monstrous regime of Saddam Hussein.

If the new Iraq is to work, much power will have to be devolved to the three formerly Ottoman provinces which under the mandate had been united to form the modern Iraq. While each will have separate ethnic majorities, this should not be the basis for their existence. This would only encourage secessionist tendencies, which would bring down the wrath of Turkey or the involvement of Iran or Syria. So, for example, the name Kurdistan should be avoided in preference for, say, Mosul. And the new political parties will have to learn to accept defeat in elections, and not conspire as their predecessors did with the army to circumvent the popular will. They must be a loyal opposition.


It will be of particular importance to ensure that the oil industry cannot, yet again, be nationalised. This is the easy solution of the demagogues and the dictators. Previous experience - and not only in Iraq - indicates that such entities become corrupt and inefficient fiefdoms. Worse, they become both the basis for and the target of dangerous concentrations of power.

Better to auction oil concessions for reasonable terms, with a previously announced and guaranteed taxation regime in place-probably one involving a rent resource tax. (Australian advice could help there). This would ensure a proper return to pay for reconstruction and then future development. To ensure the states and the federal authority are properly funded, and the states do not become mendicants, a formula to allocate this should be constitutionally entrenched. These are practical matters often overlooked in attempts to draft utopian arrangements that just do not work. The AAA countries understand this.

What is important is that the Coalition ensures the emergence of a new free (and federal) Iraq, not that it becomes a closed preserve for Coalition investments. This would only lend credence to the lie that the liberation was all about oil, and grease the path of future dictators.

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This article was first published in The Australian Financial Review on 8 April 2003.

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About the Author

David Flint is a former chairman of the Australian Press Council and the Australian Broadcasting Authority, is author of The Twilight of the Elites, and Malice in Media Land, published by Freedom Publishing. His latest monograph is Her Majesty at 80: Impeccable Service in an Indispensable Office, Australians for Constitutional Monarchy, Sydney, 2006

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