|CONTINUED PONDERING OF U.N. IRAQ ROLE. "IMPORTANT" AND
"EFFECTIVE" NOW SUPERCEDED BY "DISCREET" (VERY!). GUESSING GAME SPECIAL
1 August 2003
After wavering between an important and/or effective U.N. role in postwar Iraq, the thrust of new
statements focus on "discreet." True, Paul Bremmer is making the decision, the approach to
media reporters went, but U.N. representatives worked "very discreetly" on him to shift certain
positions, particularly on establishing a Governing Council. True again that the U.N. had no say
in selecting members of that Council, nor figuring out what else specifically -- as opposed to
generally -- will U.N. agencies participate, collaborate or communicate (other than discreetly)
with that Council, but U.N. representatives helped (discreetly again) on elaborating the main
functions of that Council. Even that claim was ignored by mainstream media in main capitals which
searched for a U.N. presence only after a series of frustrating casualties and setbacks by the "allied
forces." However, some third world newspapers tried to help, mainly out of perceived sympathy
for the U.N. or as a courtesy to a compatriot. In a fairly optimistic interview published by
Arab daily "Al-Hayat," Adviser Ghassan Salame, a Lebanese professor and once Minister of
Culture, expounded to a Parisian correspondent on a conceptual program. He indicated that despite
apparent complications matters will be in hand by next year.
Maybe he hopes that by then he would have replaced Sergio Vieira de Mello who by the way gave an
excellent interview to Al-Jazeera television, but is undercut by the four month short mandate.
Although the self confident professor with trademark thick eyebrows and thin skin was attacked by
new Iraqi media as a proponent of the previous regime, he is counting on the presumed influence
of Saudi Lebanese dealer Rafic Hariri who happens to be the current Prime Minister of Lebanon.
Hariri had brought him into his previous government and placed him in charge of the Francophone
Summit (where he met the Deputy Secretary-General), and the Arab Summit in Beirut (where Hariri
placed a private jet to fly back Kofi Annan on his way to New York). An accomplished intellectual,
the professor is reportedly busy giving lectures to some U.N. neophytes on the philosophical
nuances between Sunni and Shia and the underlying cross-currents of common cultural diversity. As
Secretary-General Annan is a very good listener, Salami may be convinced that his tactics are
working. The French will welcome the appointment of a professor at their Paris "Science Po"
as Special Representative in Iraq. So will the Emirate of Dubai. However,
an American media-related source described that candidate as "self propelled." As the guessing
game is open on who will replace Sergio Vieira de Mello, several names are mentioned. Arabs include
Tunisian Kamel Mourjane, now in Geneva with the High Commissioner of Refugees (so was Sergio and
several appointees of Annan who started his international work there). His performance in the
Congo maybe a handicap. His familiarity with the eastern Arab world is fairly limited. An Egyptian
former U.N. official is pushing very hard, not through his government by via the United Arab
Emirates which is gaining influence in the new regime as a former, current, and future host country
to some influential personalities.
Iraqi new prominent player Adnan Pachachi was a long-time adviser to its ruler. So was Algerian
President Bouteflika, as is now former Iraqi Foreign and Information Minister Al-Sahhaf. Some
again mention the Special Rep in Afghanistan Lakhdar Brahimi who is unlikely to accept. Incidentally
his brilliant daughter Rym is displaying outstanding media credentials reporting for CNN from
Baghdad. Two new names are seriously considered. Giandominico Picco, former U.N. official who
dealt with Iraq-Iran and handled the case of Western hostages, is enjoying his private business
but may be called upon to serve. The most seriously considered name lately is that of Antonio
Guiterrez, former Prime Minister of Portugal.
It makes political sense, not only due to his stature, European connection, and
U.S.-Portuguese relations, but also because he is close to Britain's Tony Blair. As Sir Jeremy
Greenstock, U.K. Perm Rep at U.N. will become U.K. envoy to Baghdad soon, the two can certainly
work closely together as well as with Ambassador Bremmer. That would also help Sergio get out nicely,
leaving behind an influential constituent -- someone who would consolidate support by Portuguese
speaking countries for any future endeavors. Unless, of course, Sergio ends up succeeding himself
Where does the Secretary-General stand on such speculation? More to the point, what will he do?
It may be that he already has someone in mind and will produce the name at the right moment. Yet
above and beyond all nominations the main question is: what precisely is the U.N. role?
Any idea -- or is it too discreet to mention?