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European Press Review: Iraq Needs a Legitimate Government

European papers comment on the newly-appointed cabinet of ministers in Iraq, often characterizing it as a “puppet government,” and the significance the political body will have for the country’s future stability.


Many European newspapers question the legitimacy of Iraq's new U.S.-appointed Governing Council.

The British daily the Independent welcomed the naming of the 25-member cabinet in Iraq, saying it showed that the Iraqi Governing Council is capable of taking at least some decisions. But whether the formation of the cabinet also shows that Iraq is progressing towards a government by and for the Iraqis is another matter, the paper wrote. The recent horrific acts of violence suggest that opposition to the United States and British occupation is becoming more organized and effective, if not more widespread. In its editorial, the Independent argued that hope for Iraq relies on the ability of the occupying forces to delegate powers to the new cabinet and that the ministers prove capable of handling the considerable tasks ahead of them. "So long as they must meet in fortified compounds for their own safety ... it is hard to believe that any new milestone has been reached in the liberation of Iraq," the paper concluded.

The Italian daily Il Messaggero suggested that the appointment of a governing body in Iraq without the approval of its people "could either help the Americans or bring about new problems." In the midst of the current chaos, it is hard to tell whether the public is prepared to comply with ministers who are completely unknown and who were not chosen by the local population, the paper pointed out. The editors concluded that if the 25 ministers are able to succeed in making themselves heard it would be a first step in the direction of stability, which is absolutely necessary if truly democratic elections are to take place.

Germany’s Frankfurt Allgemeine Zeitung noted that difficulties are bound to arise due to the fact that, for the time being at least, Iraq will have no prime minister. But of all the rival groups and parties within Iraq, who could have taken on this position, the paper asked? Even the provisional Iraqi Cabinet is considered to be a puppet of the occupying forces by the opposition. The newspaper’s editors said they do not envy the task of the shaky transitional government.

On its op/ed page, Britain’s Financial Times argued that what Iraq needs is a provisional government under a U.N. mandate. The truck bombing of the United Nations compound in Baghdad and the car bomb in the shrine city of Najaf appear to be aimed at deterring anyone, inside or outside Iraq, from working with the Coalition Provisional Authority. The occupation may have been legalized by the U.N. Security Council, but a second resolution is needed to legitimize it and give the U.N. a clear political mandate. Only then will America’s allies be able to provide desperately needed peacekeeping troops, the paper noted. The Financial Times concluded by urging that Iraq needs an elected assembly to write its new constitution. That way appointed provisional government leaders, most of them exiles, would have to take full account of internal forces across Iraq’s religious and ethnic patchwork, the paper wrote.