Friday, August 26, 2005

Iraq's constitution: How long is the tunnel?

This piece wasn't supposed to be published in the first place as I only wanted to put my thoughts on paper in order to help myself reach some answers but then I thought I could share it with you so that we can all think together:

It is not easy to forecast the future of this stage of the constitutional process in Iraq; several delays forced themselves after no agreements were reached between the Sheat and the Kurds on one side and the Sunni on the other.
One thing that we must realize here before making assumptions is that the Sunni are more stubborn that their Sheat and Kurds counterparts; the latter two parties managed to get over their differences and they reached accord over the once disputed issues between them and they gave up on some of their previous demands.

On the other hands the Sunni negotiators-till this moment-do not seem willing to change their minds and accept what the other tow parties have agreed upon.
The toughest obstacle delaying getting the Sunni agreement right now is federalism or more accurately it’s generalizing federalism; the Sunni negotiators would agree to granting the Kurds the right to establish a federal state (which already exists) but they don't want that state to include Kirkuk and they don't want other provinces to have the right to form other federal states.

However, that's not what all Sunnis think; there are the tribal chiefs of Al-Anbar who announced yesterday that they have no objection to the idea of generalizing federalism and there is also the governor of Mosul who seems to be in favor of federalism and in a statement he gave a few days ago he expressed his interest in turning Mosul into a federal state without the need to include other provinces in that state since Mosul alone was one of the four (or was that five?) counties from which modern Iraq was established after the fall of the Ottoman empire.

But the question is: where do the Sunni get their bargaining power from?
How did they get to exert this amount of pressure on the Kurds and the Sheat (the winners in the January elections) while the Sunni were the boycotters and they were invited to join the process only months after that?

Actually, this boycotting which is supposed to be a weakness point has become the source of strength for the Sunni.
The Sunni have absolutely nothing to lose, they didn't win the elections and they don't feel like they need to help the constitution succeed, simply because it's not their accomplishment.
It's the winners who worry about the constitution and care for the success of the process because that will be the parameter for measuring their success.
The Sheat and the Kurds know very well that they will not be able to score similar results in any future elections when the 3rd player joins the game especially when this 3rd player is so willing to join the game.

The Sunni are starting to realize their significance and what supports this idea is seeing very prominent political figures like Allawi and Talbani seeking alliance with the Sunnis so why would they (the Sunni) back the Sheat-Kurdish project and try to make the current process succeed when they can be a main player when the next stage comes and then they can design the game the way they like?
That's why the Kurds and the Sheat are so keen to win the support of the Sunni because they realize that the Sunni can fail the current draft if they wanted without losing anything.

Actually the Sunni politicians right now are concentrating on the claim that the latest delays in the process are illegal and are in violation of the TAL and probably they're thinking that the Sheat alliance is weakening after the latest conflict between the Sadrists and the SCIRI and that will probably encourage the Sunni to adhere more to their demands since they think that the position of Sadr men in the National Assembly (who also oppose federalism) could more or less double their influence on the process.

Moreover, the 21 members of advisory board of the CDC backed the Sunni's demands to drop the name of the Ba'ath from the constitution and they suggested rephrasing the clause to ban "all parties that adopt a chauvinistic, Nazi and racist ideology" instead of mentioning the Ba'ath party; actually many people think that the constitution must not sink into small details like this.

Bottom line, I think that even if the draft gets approved by the National Assembly tonight or tomorrow, we're still going to face more obstacles with this constitution that focused on unnecessary details; these details were introduced to please politicians and serve partisan ambitions while the interests of the people came only in the 2nd place and believe me, till this moment no one can know for sure if Iraqis are going to accept or reject the constitution, maybe the Kurdish people are most likely to vote with "yes" but the Shaet and Sunni people's position is not definite yet and that particularly applies to the Sunni whose current spokesmen do not necessarily represent the mainstream Sunni opinion.

Iraqis as a people are facing a very difficult choice this time; it's not like the January elections when they had 111 slates from all colors of the political spectrum to choose from but now they're left to choose between a constitution they don't agree with all its contents and a possible dangerous political vacuum in case they reject the constitution.

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