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Iraq still facing legal challenges: White House report

[JURIST] The White House submitted a new Benchmark Assessment Report [PDF text] on Iraq to Congress Friday, noting that little progress had been made by the Iraqi government toward accomplishing 18 "benchmarks" thought to be essential to Iraq's stability. The Initial Benchmark Assessment Report [PDF text; JURIST report], submitted to Congress in July, had reported that the Iraqi government was making satisfactory progress toward meeting eight of 18 goals and unsatisfactory progress on eight others; two of the goals could not be rated for performance. The assessment issued Friday found that the Iraqi government had only met one new benchmark - allowing former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party [party website] to hold government positions:

The Government of Iraq has made satisfactory progress toward enacting and implementing legislation on de-Baathification reform. The fact that legislation has not yet passed the COR should not diminish the significance of the agreement reached by the leaders or the re-integration of former Baathists taking place on the ground. The overarching goal of de-Baathification reform is political accommodation between the Shi’a and Sunni communities. The leaders’ agreement combined with the return of former Baathists to civic life is a significant step in that regard. Debate on this draft law in the COR is an integral part of developing the broad political acceptance needed to promote real reconciliation.
President Bush, in a televised address [transcript] on Thursday, said this about the Iraq government's progess:
The government has not met its own legislative benchmarks - and in my meetings with Iraqi leaders, I have made it clear that they must. Yet Iraq's national leaders are getting some things done. For example, they have passed a budget. They're sharing oil revenues with the provinces. They're allowing former Baathists to rejoin Iraq's military or receive government pensions. Local reconciliation is taking place. The key now is to link this progress in the provinces to progress in Baghdad. As local politics change, so will national politics.
Friday's report claims that meeting the 18 benchmarks required of the Iraqi government will advance reconciliation within Iraqi society, improve the security of the Iraqi population, provide essential services to the population, and promote the country's economic well-being.

Some of the benchmarks already met by the Iraqi government include the formation of a Constitutional Review Committee [JURIST report] and completion of a constitutional review, enacting and implementing legislation on de-Baathification reform [JURIST news archive] and enacting and implementing legislation on procedures to form semi-autonomous regions [JURIST news archive]. The Iraqi government has far failed at the equitable distribution of hydrocarbon resources [JURIST report], increasing the number of Iraqi security forces able to operate independently and ensuring that Iraqi political officials are not undermining or making false accusations against foreign forces. Two benchmarks, amnesty legislation and militia disarmament, were not ready to be assessed. AP has more. BBC News has additional coverage.

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