Monday, May 12, 2008

New Maliki/Bush theme: The strong executive (with an update)

Prime Minister Maliki told parliament on Monday the government needs $5 billion in addition to what is in the existing budget for 2008, in order to "stimulate operations for the building of Iraq, and undertaking strategic projects in every part of the country," blaming damage done to the educational system by the prior regime, destruction caused by terrorism, and so on. And he said there is a need to compensate those who have been damaged in the recent fighting. (He didn't mention the damage caused by the American bombing). But in addition to the various noble aims to be served by this $5 billion Maliki also referred also to an interesting cash-flow problem:
[Maliki] explained that this sum will be by way of a guarantee for corporations, in the sense that we can permit them to draw down amounts directly from it after completing a portion of their projects. Because there is a common opinion among the corporations to the effect that Iraq is slow [to pay] and obstructs the handing over of payables to the corporations.
That was the only specific use he referred to for the $5 billion; the rest was generalities.

(UPDATE: Most of the $5 billion was probably related to proposed oil-field servicing contracts; see the comments).

Some said the proposal coming from the executive branch was unconstitutional, because budgetary proposals are supposed to come from Parliament.


Another constitutional issue was raised with respect to the General Amnesty Law. Azzaman's lead story on Monday May 12 started like this:
The Iraqi government announced [Sunday] an amendment to the General Amnesty Law which was passed by Parliament late last year in its capacity as the supreme legislative authority in the country. Salman Jamili, a member of parliament, described the amendments as a violation of law. He told Azzaman: "Legislation that is issued by Parliament cannot be changed or amended except by Parliament itself". He stressed that in the event the government tries to apply these amendments, Parliament will go to court to compel the government to apply the law as it was passed by Parliament without any amendments.
Azzaman explains the gist of two of the government's "amendments": One is to prohibit the release of individuals not only on the basis of crimes committed, but also on the basis of belonging to prohibited organizations; and another is to nullify the provision about mandatory release of those held six months or more without having appeared before a judge.


I mention these two "constitutional" issues because of the context. Maliki has just explained that the government agrees to the Sadrist-UIA agreement only insofar as it is in accordance with the "rules" respecting government monopoly of armed force and other aspects of government authority. It would have been possible for the Maliki administration to have approved of the agreement and made itself a party to it, as a manifestation of national reconciliation. Instead it took the "executive authority" approach. Similarly, it would have been possible to have worked politically for an amendment to the General Amnesty Law rather than "announcing" amendments that it is clear there is no chance of Parliament ever passing. (Recall that passage of this law late last year was part of a complicated package of political trade-offs). Or to have worked with Parliamentary leaders to make sure that the $5 billion proposal emerged as a Parliamentary proposal, rather than as a PR coup for the executive.

It seems, in other words, that Maliki and the Americans could in a transition from the earlier rhetorical emphasis on "national reconciliation", to a (rhetorical) and no doubt also real, emphasis on the powers of the executive branch, whether or not this encroaches on the rights of the legislative branch, not to mention on the whole idea of governing based on broad national agreement. The point of this will become more apparent when there has to be an announcement about a bilateral long-term security agreement between "Iraq" and the United States. Because faced with weak prospects for a broad-based Iraqi government, the parties are no doubt planning to rely instead on arguments about the inherent rights of the executive branch. It will be the only argument left to fall back on.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh dear me, iran brokered the truce between your idol sadr and maliki, hmmm what happened to your grassroot resistance badger ?guess it evaporated huh?

6:28 PM  
Blogger badger said...

and what a glorious time it is to be a two-year-old NYT-reader!

9:37 PM  
Anonymous Kjetting said...

Based on the comments from Maliki, the 5 billion USD is probabaly related to the agreements being negotiated with International Oil Companies (IOCs) over revamping some of the large producing in Iraq. These are short term contracts where all the work will be done from outside Iraq by the IOCs.

Because of the demands from Kuwait for payment of compensation over the 1991 war, the companies are not allowed to be paid in oil by the current UN Security Council resolutions.

There seems to be little willingess to change this, and the Iraqi oil ministry are therefore looking for ways to arrange payments acceptable to the IOCs. One idea has been to deposit mony in an account outside Iraq from where the companies will be paid.

11:47 PM  
Anonymous CTuttle said...

Aloha, Badger! Hmmm... Apparently, my earlier comment was gobbled up... My retort to anonymous was lost in the toobz... Anyways, it seems to be apparent that Maliki is an adept pupil of Cheney's grand 'Unitary Executive' scheme. I guess Darth gave him a crash course on his last visit! Clearly, Maliki is implementing many of the central themes! What a stooge! Excellent post!

1:16 AM  
Blogger badger said...

Thank you for the alert, Kjetting. It does indeed sound as a good chunk of that money is related to the oil-servicing story you mention. (A google search turns up this account of a recent stage in the negotiations. Anyone know of a recommendable place where that story is being followed? (Oil-sector blog or something, for instance?)

CTuttle, sorry that got lost, I'm sure it was a zinger...

4:02 AM  
Anonymous Kjetting said...

The only outlet that follows oil issues with any level of seriousness and is open to the public is the blog by Ben Lando of UPI:

5:39 AM  
Blogger badger said...


5:44 AM  
Blogger badger said...

...following up on which, readers can glean a little more on the current state of play from this report

6:04 AM  

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