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Friday, April 16, 2004

Worth looking into 

French President Jacques Chirac, speaking in Algeria on Thursday, proposed that "a conference bringing together all elements of Iraqi society would perhaps give the political transition - while awaiting elections - the necessary legitimacy." He suggested the United Nations as a facilitator for such a conference.

I think his idea has some merit, and I'll have more in the morning. Until then, here's a link to a Le Monde article, in French.

UPDATE: Okay... The difference between Chirac's proposal and his stated goals for Iraq, and those held by the US administration, is not a vast chasm. According to Chirac, the political solution in Iraq

will happen by a rapid, complete, and visible transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis, and by the establishment of Iraqi institutions that are truly representative, legitimate, and completely responsible.
A transfer of sovereignty and the establishment of responsible Iraqi institutions are goals the US and France share. The outcome we seek is the same, so what of Chirac's proposal for an inter-Iraqi conference?

The conference he has proposed is not terribly different from the Governing Council, except perhaps that it would be larger in size. That body proved itself able to work together and to reach compromises acceptable to all parties. At the same time, the constitutional process left several key questions unanswered, and this is where a larger conference would come in handy during the transition.

The current Governing Council may be too small to hammer out the unresolved details of the transition, but a larger conference, as Chirac proposes might do the trick.

At the same time, a large conference could quickly descend into chaos, with no hope of resolving anything. That is a risk, but an inclusive conference bringing in a wide number of respected Iraqis would, first and foremost, have a better chance of reaching an agreement that everyone can live with, and secondly, would be seen as legitimate in Iraqi eyes.

While writing this, news has broken that the Bush administration has welcomed UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi's plan for a "caretaker government." His plan calls for a conference to assemble after June 30th to create a consultative assembly.

This is good news all around. It gives the administration an actual playbook to work from as the transition approaches, and it will show the world that the US does not totally ignore its friends and international bodies--indeed, when they have an idea, we listen.
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