The Iraqi Constitutional Debacle

According to press reports the new Iraqi draft constitution as presented to the Iraqi Parliament will turn Iraq from being a secular, centralised dictatorship to:

a decentralised state with a pronounced Islamic identity.
BBC Analysis

It also seems that it was the Kurds and the Shias who hammered out the unfinished draft which was presented to parliament, freezing out the Sunnis who reject not only the Kurdish and Shia demands for greater provincial federalism but also reject Shia demands to control the oil revenues of the south and the Kurdish demands to control the oil revenues generated by Kirkuk. (A city which they wish to annexe into their own autonomous province)

Secularists from all sides are not happy that the constitution describes Islam as "a main source" of legislation which leaves open the scenario of clerics striking down secular laws in favour of women and minorities, as it is not clear what has precedence Islamic law or secular law.

The Sunnis are also warning:

that the country will be dragged into civil war if Shia and Kurdish parties use their majority in the National Assembly to vote through the constitution.
From the Independent

Also according to Juan Cole
Bush's statement: "This talk about Sunnis rising up, I mean the Sunnis have got to make a choice. Do they want to live in a society that's free, or do they want to live in violence?" was interpreted as a "veiled threat" by Al-Hayat.
The Sunnis are not alone in their opposition with every ones favourite Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr organising demonstrations against the proposed constitution. More ominously Rodger Hardy in the BBC story points out that
there is no tradition in the Arab world of a successful decentralised state.
In conclusion the Iranians must be rubbing their hands in glee! :x
The Sunnis are just pïssed off that they've gone from being the ruling 10% in a dictatorship to an irrelevant 10% in a democracy.
PartTimePongo said:
I quite like the Lebanese model for constitution
You just like Lebanese models full stop ! :wink:

How would a confessional system unify Iraqis? I think it would just cement divisons and leave open the spectre of civil war and leave any Iraq vulnerable to influence from countries such as Turkey and Iran.
..and the Kurds are pissed off they haven't got their homeland , and the Shi'a are pissed off they are not controlling everything, the Marsh Arabs are pissed off they're still dispossessed , the Christians are pissed off because etc etc etc

If it was as simple as 10% of the population is upset, there could be a compromise reached. The problem is greed and revenge.

Castlereagh , I can't help it! It's those smouldering big eyes and quick tempers :)

I see why you have initial misgivings, but the fact is, the Lebanese model is working to unite Christians, Sunnis and Shi'a. As regards interference by outside entities, that must depend on how those elected conduct their relationships. We already know Turkey will be damned before it sees a Kurdish homeland, and Iran is licking it's lips at the thought of deep influence in the South.

The constitution must foremost, be about the interests of ALL Iraqis , not just the majority. The sad fact is, there are people concerned in building this new Government, who will not abandon the agendas they have harboured for a decade. There are others behind them, that will want to ensure their own agendas are being serviced.

The Sunni are concerned, that they will not have a major part to play, with all key ministries being taken by Kurds and Shi'a , and the Sunnis left in charge of "Ministry of Park toilets" etc.

It is bandied about, that the Sunni are upset because they were the ruling elite. The fact remains, there were Shi'a in key positions too. The fact remains, that the Sunni do not want to see the Iraqi constitution slide towards theocracy , and the establishment of a new othodox Islamic power. This is one of the sticking points. The Sunni are more secular in outlook , and that stance should be supported , by us. We can't say "Oh we are not interfering in this new democratic process" when we have been interfering all over the shop.

If the Sunni are given a representative role , under the Lebanese model, then I do not see a slide to civil war. I do however, see a lot of unrest and resistance starting, with active support from neighbouring states with large Sunni populations, if it looks like the Shi'a (and Iran) gain the upper hand of influence in the region.
stoatman said:
The Sunnis are just pïssed off that they've gone from being the ruling 10% in a dictatorship to an irrelevant 10% in a democracy.
I think the Sunnis are more than 10% but I think the Kurdish figure of around 25% is rather inflated and may take into account groups such as the Turcomans but what ever the the real size of the Sunnis, they are sizable enough to plunge Iraq into civil war.
Democracies are fine when the population is rather homogenous, other wise they can lead to all sorts of havoc especially in artificially created countries.
The percentage of Sunnis is certainly greater than the percentage of Kurds.
I guess I can only see trouble ahead for Iraq :(

I don't know if a Lebanon style situation could work in Iraq. The countries are too different in my opinion take for example the fact that Lebanon does not have within its population a group who are hell bent on independence. Also take the recent assasination of Hariri, yes, it is true that in the end Hezbollah accepted the need for a Syrian withdrawal but no one dares call in Lebanon to call for Hezbollah to lay down their weapons, in line with the various agreements. The tensions within Lebanon also remain. I don't think those tensions would at all be healthy for Iraq.

I admit that the Lebanese system probably is the only system that is going to work for Lebanon and it does have some real plus points like the predominance of civil secular law over religious customs.

I agree with you about the Sunnis but I would also say that there desire for a centralised Iraq stems from latent 'Arab Nationalism', an ideology that has always been strong within Sunnis.
On the Christians I think they were the only people who ever really like Saddam, considering the protection the Ba'athist regime afforded them :wink:

On the Kurds :roll: Lets say that hell froze over and the Kurds got their 'home land' whats not say that the agreement between the various factions could not break down and violence breaks out? It seems really that the only thing the factions agree on is the creation of Kurdistan.
I also don't like the fact that the Kurds are demanding Kirkuk a city which never really has been Kurdish and even now their treatment of non-Kurdish minorities in the north should be rasing some serious concerns. What are the Americans really going to do if the Turks start demanding the right to protect the Turcomens? I also don't think that any constitution should allow the Kurds the right to leave Iraq after X years, it would just allow for the break up of Iraq and a possible union of the South with Iran. 8O
it does have some real plus points like the predominance of civil secular law over religious customs.
And the way the President is chosen. Then again, while there was a gentle whiff of corruption in the Lebanon (since dealt with) , the President and current deputies in Iraq scream blatant bloody fix to Iraqis , and I can't see the Jordanians being overly chuffed.
PartTimePongo said:
And the way the President is chosen. Then again, while there was a gentle whiff of corruption in the Lebanon (since dealt with) , the President and current deputies in Iraq scream blatant bloody fix to Iraqis, and I can't see the Jordanians being overly chuffed.
Sorry PTP I may be missing some thing here but don't understand why the 'Jordanians being overly chuffed' or not would matter that much to the Iraqis. :?:
"We already know Turkey will be damned before it sees a Kurdish homeland, and Iran is licking it's lips at the thought of deep influence in the South.'
Well PTP I'll go along with that.

Just what was the reasoning for this invastion of Iraq ? Whatever it was it was never thought through by the brains of Washington.
I never got beyond Staff Sgt but 9 years in Mid east convinced me they where better left to their own devices. The arab lives in a world gone by, deeply influenced by a religion he dare not openly critisize.
The yanks need the reservists and the national guard out by this time next year for late autums senate/congresional elections.
Iraq will not be sorted in ten years and probably not in my life time.
stoatman said:
The Sunnis are just pïssed off that they've gone from being the ruling 10% in a dictatorship to an irrelevant 10% in a democracy.
Around 20% or 6 million or so. Not irrelevant by any stretch of the imagination. In the forthcoming Balkanization they're going to be landlocked, with little oil, little arable land (now the rivers are running their course down to the marshes again), few other economic resourses, and sh1t-scared of everyone they've kicked around for the past 30 years. You get your arrse they're going to kick up a fuss.
Actually Crabtastic, nearer 32% . They are also the part of the population that really likes a row , no dramas.
The idea was that the Kurds and the Shia would control each other's desire for a federal state and a Islamic theocracy respectively. Unfortunately, they've let each other have pretty much what they want. The Kurds aren't too bothered about the non-secular side to the constitution because they're looking ahead to independence - cue either a Turkish invasion or the US putting enormous pressure on the EU to buy Turkey off with a promise of membership; the Shia can live with a federal system because it means that they get the oil revenues from the south.

The Sunni get left with the square root of f* all. They're left living in a broadly Shia state, with no oil supplies, and the north (parts of which they consider theirs, since Saddam planted Sunnis there to help pacify the Kurds) about to secede. Their best bet is to reject it in the polls - three of Iraq's eighteen (?) regions would need to reject the constitution for it to go back to stage one, and the Sunnis might just manage that - and to keep the insurgency going in the hope that a second attempt at a constitution takes their concerns into account, as a trade-off for controlling the insurgency.

But the longer this takes, the more embedded AQ etc becomes in Iraq, the more likely the Kurds/Shia are to say 'It's our ball, we're going home', and the more likely Iraq is to end up in civil war.

Sadly, prospects don't look good.

It gets better Crabtastic..... :(

Al-Sadr allies suspend role in government to protest attack
BAGHDAD (AP) — A Cabinet minister and 21 lawmakers allied with radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr will boycott their official duties to protest an attack Wednesday on their leader's office in Najaf, a key supporter said.

An Iraqi soldier guards the scene of a car blast in Baghdad. Insurgents killed at least 6 in today's attacks.
By Wathiq Khuzaie, Getty Images

The move could seriously complicate efforts to convene parliament to vote on a new constitution and raises fears of internal conflicts among the Shiites at a time when Sunni Arabs are outraged over the new draft constitution.

The statement by Fattah al-Sheik was confirmed by Transport Minister Salam al-Maliki, who said he had "suspended" his membership in the Cabinet to protest the burning of al-Sadr's office in Najaf.

The clashes broke out in Najaf between supporters and opponents of al-Sadr, who led two uprisings against U.S. forces in central and southern Iraq last year.

The clashes, which left at least four dead, began when al-Sadr's group tried to reopen their office across the street from the Imam Ali Shrine, the most sacred site in Iraq for Shiites.

Officials said al-Sadr's opponents set fire to the office during the confrontation.
I... oh, fcuk it. Just fcuk it.

Send word to Brize and Lyneham to come and pick everyone up. Everyone's off down the pub and we'll be back to sort things out when they've gotten all this b0llocks of their chests.
"cue either a Turkish invasion or the US putting enormous pressure on the EU to buy Turkey off with a promise of membership"
Yep Smiffy
Now if the Turk wuz clever he could ask for and becum the fifty turd state of the US of A.
Who the muck wants Jonny Turk as part of Europe.

Under Saddam Hussein, Iraq was a centralised and largely secular state.

Now, if the Shia religious parties get their way, it will be a decentralised state with a pronounced Islamic identity.
I agree with mr.Hardy.

Mixed marriages between Sunni and Shia, once taken for granted, are becoming problematic.

In many parts of the country, women dare not walk bare-headed in the street.

And reports from parts of the lawless north-west paint a grim picture of Taleban-style rule by radical Sunni militants.
Latest from the BBC, no compromise reached - the Sunnis are unhappier then ever and are reminiscing about the old days. 8O George Bush is sending 1500 extra troops for the referendum that is to take place in October.
Is it me or is Bush expecting trouble? :twisted:

Iraqis differ on charter progress

Negotiators for Iraq's Shia majority say a deal has been agreed on a final draft for the new constitution. They say the text will be put to the Iraqi parliament for approval within the next two days. But politicians for the minority Sunni Arabs flatly contradicted the Shia claim, saying there was no agreement despite talks late into the night.
Sunni Arabs oppose Shia and Kurdish plans for greater autonomy saying it will split the country.

"This is the end of the road," Laith Kubba, a spokesman for the Iraqi prime minister, told al-Arabiya television. "In the end, we will put this constitution to the people to decide." He has admitted that even if a deal is reached, it could be rejected by Iraqis in October's referendum

Outstanding issues

The chairman of Iraq's constitution committee said on Friday that the final text of the constitution would go before the National Assembly in the next couple of days."There has been an agreement on the differences including the federalism issue," Sheik Humam Hammoudi, a Shia, said.
But top Sunni negotiator, Saleh al-Mutlaq, told al-Jazeera television that compromises offered by the Shias were "still far from what we need". And he called on Iraqi people to reject the constitution in October. "The Iraqi people have to give their word now and reject the constitution because this constitution is the beginning of the division of the country and the beginning of creating disturbance in the country."
Iraq's Vice-President Ghazi al-Yawer, a Sunni, has defended Sunni objections to the constitution
"So far, it seems that the content of the draft constitution is somewhat remote from the aspirations of all segments of the Iraqi people," he said.
Sunni demonstrations

The original deadline last week was postponed twice - giving negotiators 10 extra days to reach a deal. Shias and Kurds could approve the document in parliament without Sunni backing.
But the insurgency that still plagues Iraq has its roots in the Sunni heartlands and the constitution is supposed to be part of the process of winning the Sunni community round, the BBC's Baghdad correspondent Mike Wooldridge says. It has emerged that US President George Bush phoned a Shia leader earlier this week urging him to seek consensus. Mr Bush spoke to Abdul Aziz al-Hakim and "asked him to be more flexible with regard to Sunni demands," sources close to the ruling Shia alliance told Reuters. Meanwhile, thousands of Sunni Muslims demonstrated in the Iraqi city of Baquba to protest against the constitution being debated in Baghdad. Some danced and sang chants glorying Saddam Hussein, the deposed Iraqi leader who held onto power through a series of bloody crackdowns on the country's Shia and Kurdish communities.

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