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Americans hasten political
'face-saving' withdrawal

Military occupation will continue

"CIA Agent" out front in Baghdad

Mid-East Realities - MER - www.MiddleEast.Org - 28 June 2004:
It's historic alright. A huge historic bungle that is quite literally exploding in their faces as they try to appear to go but actually stay with their carefully chosen Iraqi faces now out front. Over the weekend on ABC News one of the neocon political commentators made a little mistake and clearly called the American-appointed 'interim Iraqi Prime Minister' a "CIA agent" -- it was a rare moment of candor in public in today's confused, uptight, and secretive Washington.
Of course this is not the language the Americans are using, but the reality is that U.S. proconsul Paul Brememer is running from Iraq a few days ahead of schedule in near-total failure, and the country itself is teetering between chaos and civil war.
As for that new Iraqi flag Bremer tried to foist on the Iraqis just a few months ago now -- the one that had two blue strips as does the Israeli flag -- it too has been disgarded, another symbol of how just about everything the Bremer-led Americans touched in Iraq has ended in failure and disgrace. And since Bremer is himself one of the infamous Washington neocons, what happened today 'ahead of schedule' is a kind of acknowledgement that Iraq has become a quagmire for the neocons and they are now attempting to publicly run from it while at the same time still controlling it. For the Israeli-centric neocons have even grander schemes and exploits in mind beyong Iraq should they retain power after November.

U.S. Transfers Sovereignty to Iraqi Govt.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP - 28 June 2004) - The U.S.-led coalition transferred sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government Monday, speeding the move by two days in an apparent bid to surprise insurgents and prevent them from trying to sabotage the step toward self rule.

Militants had conducted a campaign of car bombings, kidnappings and other violence that killed hundreds of Iraqis in recent weeks and was designed to disrupt the transfer, announced by the Bush administration late last year. Intially, the Americans were thought to have planned for about one more year of occupation.

Legal documents transferring sovereignty were handed over by U.S. governor L. Paul Bremer to chief justice Mahdi al-Mahmood in a small ceremony attended by about a half dozen Iraqi and coalition officials in the heavily guarded Green Zone. Bremer took charge in Iraq about a year ago.

``This is a historical day,'' Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said during the ceremony. ``We feel we are capable of controlling the security situation.''

Bremer left Iraq on a U.S. Air Force C-130 about 12:30 p.m., said Robert Tappan, an official of the former coalition occupation authority. He was accompanied by coalition spokesman Dan Senor and close members of his staff.

President Bush marked the transfer with a whispered comment and a handshake with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, gathered with world leaders around a table at a NATO summit in Istanbul, Turkey.

Stealing a glance at his watch to make sure the transfer had occurred, Bush put his hand over his mouth to guard his remarks, leaned toward Blair and then reached out to shake hands. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, a row behind the president, beamed.

Bush was briefed Sunday that the Allawi government was ready to take power early. The transfer took place as Bush met with Blair, French President Jacques Chirac, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and other world leaders.

Allawi ``believed that it would improve his hand on facing the security threat, and the security threat is obviously increasing up to the day of June 30th. Is it going to prevent every act of terror? No, and I don't think anybody has tried to claim that,'' a senior administration official said.

The early transfer had been under discussion between Allawi and U.S. officials for at least a week, a senior administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Bremer's last moments in Iraq were spent in a meeting with Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top American commander in the country. An aide to Bremer, also speaking on condition of anonymity, declined to say precisely where Bremer was headed, saying only that ``he was going home.''

Although the interim government will have full sovereignty, it will operate under major restrictions - some of them imposed at the urging of the influential Shiite clergy which sought to limit the powers of an unelected administration.

For example, the interim government will only hold power seven months until, as directed by a United Nations Security Council resolution, there must be elections ``in no case later than'' Jan. 31. The Americans will still hold responsibility for security. And the interim government will not be able to amend the Transitional Administrative Law, or the interim constitution. That document outlines many civil liberties guarantees that would make problematic a declaration of emergency.

As Iraq's highest authority, Bremer had issued more than 100 orders and regulations, many of them Western-style laws governing everything from bankruptcy and traffic, to restrictions on child labor and copying movies.

Some are likely to be ignored. One law requires at least a month in jail for people caught driving without a license - something many Iraqis do not have. Another demands that drivers stay in a single lane, a rule widely ignored in Iraq's chaotic streets.

Others are more controversial. On Saturday, Bremer signed an edict that gave U.S. and other Western civilian contractors immunity from Iraqi law while performing their jobs in Iraq. The idea outrages many Iraqis who said the law allows foreigners to act with impunity even after the occupation.

A Bremer elections law restricts certain candidates from running for office, banning parties with links to militias, for instance.

The Coalition Provisional Authority's laws remain in effect after the occupation ends unless rescinded or revised by the interim government, a task that another Bremer-signed law allows, but only after a difficult process.

The new government's major tasks will be to prepare for elections, handle the day-to-day running of the country and work along with the U.S.-led multinational force, which is responsible for security. The Iraqis can in principle ask the foreign troops to leave - although it is unlikely this will happen.

However, the United States and its partners hoped that the transfer of sovereignty would serve as a psychological boost for Iraqis, who have been increasingly frustrated by and hostile to foreign military occupation. U.S. officials hope that Iraqis will believe that they are now in control of their country and that will take the steam out of the insurgency.

All ministers in the new government were to be sworn in during another ceremony expected later Monday, a senior coalition official said.

Asked why the new government decided to hold the transfer earlier, he said Allawi had indicated his ministries were already fully staffed.

``Allawi said we are ready to take this all over ... it is part of our security strategy ... to have Iraqi officials be held accountable by Iraqis,'' the official said.

The ceremony took place in a formal room with Louis XIV furniture in an office in the building formerly used by the Iraqi Governing Council. Officials were seated in gilded chairs around a table, in the center of which was a bowl of flowers with a small Iraqi flag in it.

Just before the handover occurred, everyone stood up, and documents were passed to the chief justice at 10:26 a.m. local time - at that point, legal sovereignty was passed.

Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the coalition deputy operations chief, was the only U.S. military official present.

Bremer sat on the couch with President Ghazi al-Yawer.

``We'd like to express our thanks to the coalition,'' al-Yawer said. ``There is no way to turn back now.''

Bremer, wearing a dark suit and a blue tie with small white dots, read the transfer document, which was inside a blue folder. With a laugh, he referred to himself as the ``ex-administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority.''

Allawi stood on his right and al-Yawer on his left.

``The Iraqi government is determined to hold elections at the scheduled date, which is January next year.'' Allawi said in Arabic. He had told CBS television network that the election might be delayed if the security situation did not approve.

There was little initial public reaction to the near-secret transfer ceremony, which was broadcast on Iraqi and Arabic satellite television stations. There was no celebratory gunfire - which rattles through Baghdad when Iraq's national soccer team defeats foreign clubs.

Workers were cleaning the area on Firdous Square where the statue of Saddam Hussein was hauled down on April 9, 2003 at the fall of the city. More police were seen in the streets.

Coalition officials said Bush had already sent a letter to al-Yawer formally requesting diplomatic relations.

``You have said, and we agreed, that you are ready for sovereignty,'' Bremer said in the ceremony. ``I will leave Iraq confident in its future.''

Allawi said he requested that the sovereignty be transferred earlier, reflecting a preference to have Iraqis control their own destiny as soon as possible. Last Thursday, the coalition transferred the final 11 of the 26 government ministries to full Iraqi control, meaning Iraqis were already handling the day-to-day operations of the interim administration.

Bremer went on a series of farewell visits to areas throughout the country over the past few days.

With the transfer, the Iraqis now face the daunting task of securing law and order with the help of about 135,000 U.S. troops and about 20,000 more from other coalition countries.

Iraq handover of sovereignty completed

Low-key ceremony comes two days early

Monday, June 28, 2004 Posted: 0944 GMT

Bremer, right, hands the transfer document to Iraqi Chief Justice Midhat Al-Mahmodi, left, as Prime Minister Ayad Allawi looks on.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The handover of sovereignty to the interim Iraqi government took place at 10:26 a.m. Baghdad time Monday, two days before the June 30 deadline previously announced by the U.S.-led coalition.

The preparations for the possibility of an early transfer were started a week ago, according to a senior U.S. official.

The low-key transfer ceremony happened inside the Coalition Provisional Authority's "Green Zone" headquarters in Baghdad.

Coalition Administrator Paul Bremer -- now the former administrator -- read his letter contained in the transfer document:

"As recognized in U.N. Security Council resolution 1546, the Coalition Provisional Authority will cease to exist on June 28th, at which point the occupation will end and the Iraqi interim government will assume and exercise full sovereign authority on behalf of the Iraqi people. I welcome Iraq's steps to take its rightful place of equality and honor among the free nations of the world. Sincerely, L. Paul Bremer, ex-administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority."

Bremer handed the transfer document to the head of the Iraqi Supreme Court, who then gave it to President Sheikh Ghazi al-Yawar. Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and the deputy prime minister also attended.

"This is a historic and happy day for us in Iraq," al-Yawar said. "It is a day that all Iraqis have been looking forward to. This is the day that we take our country back into the international community.

"We want a free and democratic Iraq, and we want a country that is a source of peace and stability for the whole world."

The interim Iraqi leaders expressed thanks to the coalition officials and troops, saying their sacrifices would not be in vain.

Bremer -- dressed in a business suit but wearing tan combat boots -- said he was proud to have been able to return sovereignty. He said he was confident the new government was ready to meet the challenges ahead.

Bremer boarded a helicopter less than an hour later to begin his trip out of Iraq after 14 months as the administrator, according to coalition military spokesman Mark Kimmett. Within two hours, he was out of the country.

Asked by reporters attending the ceremony about why the handover was stepped up by two days, an Iraqi official said Prime Minister Allawi requested it because "every day matters" and they were ready to crack down on violence.

The decision to speed up the ceremony came Monday morning as Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari met with coalition leaders gathered in Istanbul, Turkey, for the NATO summit.

Zebari told reporters in Istanbul that the early transfer of sovereignty is "a sign we are ready for the job."

"We are ready to take up our responsibility even before June 30th," he said.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair's official spokesman told reporters in Istanbul: "We obviously welcome the handover because it's their decision. It's them taking control."

The handover comes as insurgents continue their attacks, with car bombings still taking many lives and more hostages being seized.

The Arabic-language television network Al-Jazeera broadcast a videotape Sunday of a man who it said an Iraqi resistance group identified as a captured U.S. Marine.

A coalition spokesman in Baghdad confirmed that a Marine has been missing in Iraq since June 21, but stopped short of saying he might be a hostage.

The Pentagon and the coalition spokesman identified the missing Marine as Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, but the Pentagon said it could not confirm that he was the man shown in the video.

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June 2004


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