Interim Government

Interim Government

From Washington and London’s perspective, there was still reason to fear a split in the Governing Council, with Shii members supporting alSistani’s position. Thus, by early 2004, the United Nations was back in Iraq (an advance team arrived on January 23); Secretary General Annan, despite initial reluctance, agreed to send a larger UN team, led by Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, to help mediate the situation.

Despite Shii contentiousness, Iraqi sovereignty was achieved on schedule when the CPA handed over power to the Iraqi Interim Government on June 28, 2004. The Interim Government was headed by Ayad Allawi, who was, ironically, a former member of the Baath Party who had resigned in the mid-1970s when Saddam Hussein was consolidating his power. His anti-Hussein, pro-Western stance gained him covert funding from the United States and Great Britain. In 1990, Allawi had founded the Iraq National Accord, which became a strong political party in the post-Hussein years.

Although he was elected by the outgoing Governing Council (of which he was a member) to serve as prime minister of the Interim Government, it was clear to many in Iraq that Allawi was Bremer’s choice. As such, his government did not hold much water among the people. As the months wore on, the insurgency stepped up its attacks, not only against coalition forces but against Iraqi police and security forces as well. Allawi himself was the target of an assassination attempt on April 20, 2005, as a price had been on his head since the previous summer.

With the exception of the Kurds, by 2004, the insurgency had mass appeal throughout Iraq. The original impetus to the insurgency was the simple Iraqi desire for self-government, now that Hussein and the Baathists had been removed. Many Iraqis viewed the coalition as an impediment to this goal; the Shii imams were especially suspicious of the CPA and even members of the Governing Council who had returned from exile.

As steps progressed toward the Interim Government, which would alter Iraq’s historical political dynamic, sectarian hatreds mingled with the desire to oust the coalition. With neither trusting a political system that seemed imposed from above, Sunnis and Shiis began battling each other, as well as coalition forces, in order to further their own causes.Another unplanned aspect of the downfall of Hussein was the extent to which foreign mercenaries, usually Sunnis, joined the battle against the coalition, though not always with the blessing of the native insurgent leadership.

The most notorious of the foreign insurgents was undoubtedly the Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, who further muddied the already confusing goals of the insurgency by expanding the violence from one that seemingly sought to drive the coalition forces out of Iraq to a sectarian civil war. (Al-Zarqawi died as the result of a U.S. air strike on June 7, 2006.) Iran countered this infl ux by surreptitiously sending arms to fellow Shii in Iraq.

Meanwhile, the fact that Sunnis and Shiis, except in a few isolated instances, were not united in their hostility to the coalition worked in the coalition’s favor; however, the sectarian violence placed the coalition in the crossfi re. The U.S., British, and other coalition troops now found themselves fi ghting without the clear-cut purpose the invasion had provided, other than to put down the insurgency. But at times, the insurgency was not the reason for the violence, especially when terrorists bombed mosques and other gathering places.