As part of the power sharing agreement worked out between Iraq’s major lists, Iyad Allawi of the Iraqi National Movement is to head a new body, the National Council for Strategic Policies. The specific powers and operation of the Council are unknown as it has not even been discussed in parliament, let alone created, but politicians have laid out the broad make-up of the group.
The National Council will replace the existing National Security Council. The Coalition Provisional Authority created that latter body in April 2004. It was originally called the Ministerial Committee for National Security. It included the Defense, Interior, Foreign Affairs, Justice, and Finance ministers, the senior military advisers, the head of the National Intelligence service, and the national security adviser. When Maliki became prime minister in 2006 he eventually asserted his control over the Council. In April 2009 the cabinet endorsed a draft law to get rid of the Council and replace it with a new national security committee, but parliament never passed the bill. That finally appears to be happening when the National Council is created.
The Council for Strategic Policies is allegedly going to cover all of the major issues in the country. Those include local and foreign policies, economic and monetary affairs, the military, natural resources, power, food, and the environment. The Council will have 20-members, including the leaders of the top four lists, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law, Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement, the Sadrist led Iraqi National Alliance, and the Kurdish Coalition, the premier Maliki, President Jalal Talabani, Speaker of Parliament Osama Nujafi, the head of the Supreme Court, and other political leaders. Even though it’s not mentioned, top ministers like Defense, Interior, Oil and Foreign Affairs are likely to be included as well.
The Council is supposed to have the authority to both make policy, and reverse decisions. Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani told the press that any unanimous decision by the Council will automatically be carried out. Any decision with an 80% vote will be sent to the ministries, cabinet, or parliament for a final decision. The need for a unanimous vote seems to undermine the Council’s ability to be really effective. It would seem nearly impossible to get all the members to agree on any major issue given the fractious nature of Iraqi politics. That would also mean that the Council’s alleged veto power that Allawi has talked about would largely exist on paper only, rather than in practice. Others have argued that the constitution would have to be changed if the Council were to really gain the power to veto decisions. Maliki has also portrayed the body as one that will advise him, not make decisions.
Whether these early details will actually be put into place is not known yet. Parliament has gone on a break for a religious holiday until November 21, and wont take up the matter until afterward. On the positive side, the Sadrists have said that they support the idea of the Council. That would provide a powerful ally to Allawi to make this new entity a reality. On the other hand, if the Council needs all the members to agree to make a binding decision and will require a constitutional amendment to have veto authority, it will quickly devolve into a debating club rather than a real executive body. That would upset Allawi who wants real power sharing, and could lead him to drop out of the government. That could break up his list, as a large number of lawmakers want to participate in the new ruling coalition, and leave Allawi out in the cold.
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