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Sovereignty Redefined

Sovereignty RedefinedAs the deadline for the U.S. to hand over sovereignty to Iraq approaches, Tufts professor Hurst Hannum says that the sovereignty Iraqis receive may differ from their expectations. Medford/Somerville, Mass.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [04.29.04] The clock is ticking towards what many see as a symbolic end to the United States' war on Iraq - the deadline to hand over sovereignty to the Iraqi people. But does the U.S. have the power to deliver on its promise? Until officials agree on what "sovereignty" will mean, says Tufts' Hurst Hannum, the Iraqi people may not get the freedom they are seeking.

"Sovereignty, in a way, has two meanings," Hannum, professor of international law at Tufts' Fletcher School, told National Public Radio's All Things Considered. "The international law meaning is when a state is fully independent and is a sovereign state, not subjected to the control of any other state. Then there's also the internal meaning - the independence of the government or the legitimacy of the government within a state."

Hannum - whose research interests include nationalism and self-determination - says that while the U.S. has promised sovereignty in Iraq by June 30, full sovereignty is not likely what will be instituted this summer.

"If you just say that we're going to create a sovereign government in Iraq, that means it has full powers, it can ask us to leave the day after it was constituted," Hannum told NPR. "Or it can assign to the United States and the coalition whatever obligations and give it whatever powers it would like."

Some members of Congress - including Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York - say that "limited sovereignty" might be a better definition of what the turnover will be.

But many analysts, including the Tufts expert, are concerned that if a restricted sovereignty is carried out, the Iraqi people may be disappointed.

"If we're talking about limited sovereignty, then we need to make that very clear and that's something quite different, I think, from what people expect," Hannum told All Things Considered.

According to Hannum, there is no sovereign government to be transferred to Iraq - just a sovereign state. So what the United States will really be handing over is a form of independence.

"What we are transferring is power or authority," Hannum told NPR.

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