Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Deal in Iraq Raises Hopes For Passage of Constitution

WaPo reported Four days before Iraqis are to vote on their country's proposed constitution, Shiite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish power brokers reached a breakthrough late Tuesday that revived hopes of winning Sunni support for the charter and defusing the Sunni-led insurgency by political means, Iraqi political leaders said.... The tentative accord, which would allow the constitution to be changed early next year, was reached through closed-door deals made largely by political party chiefs rather than members of the committee that wrote the charter. A parliamentary leader questioned whether enough time was left for the National Assembly to give it legal approval before the referendum. But after weeks of stalemate over a draft constitution that largely shut out the demands of Iraq's disempowered Sunni Arab minority and raised fears of even greater sectarian and insurgent violence, some Sunni negotiators accepted Tuesday's changes with clear relief.

This is very good news. The Sunnis shot themselves in the foot when they boycotted the last election, and they would have repeated that mistake if they had boycotted or come out against the Constitution, since a new constitution would not have had the US pushing for concessions for them, and they would have been outvoted, even if they had fully participated in the December elections. But if they support the constitution, and work democratically to get the concessions they need, they may get a lot of what they want.
"With the changes, I will give my full support to the constitution," said Mishan Jabouri, a Sunni Arab who was involved in negotiations. An opponent of the previous draft, Jabouri had said he stayed in the talks only at the coaxing of Middle Eastern diplomats. "Before now, I felt like I am losing. We are losing our power, we are losing our country, and I am like a foreigner living here," Jabouri said. "Now everything has changed. This constitution, I think any Arab Sunni can support it." "I believe the key part of the Sunni community will come on board," said another senior Iraqi official close to the talks. "We have come very far at the very last minute."
Fantastic news.
The deal was achieved largely because of what U.S. officials have called "tweaking" encouraged by U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. The diplomat has pushed for unceasing negotiations to win Sunni approval since late August, when Shiite and Kurdish leaders of Iraq's transitional government approved a draft over Sunni objections.

The major concession from Tuesday's talks was agreement by the Shiites and Kurds that a committee be created early next year to consider amendments to the constitution, if voters approve it Saturday, said Ali Debagh, a top Shiite official involved in the talks. Any changes recommended by the committee would have to be ratified by a two-thirds vote of parliament and a national referendum, Debagh said.

The compromise appealed to the Sunni Arabs, observers said, because the changes would be put before a new parliament, to be elected Dec. 15. Sunnis have had comparatively little say in the existing parliament because they largely stayed away from the polls when the body was elected in January. Because the Sunni Arabs heeded insurgents' threats of violence against anyone who voted and their own leaders' calls for a boycott, Shiites captured a majority of seats and allied themselves with ethnic Kurds, who are Sunni Muslims, to form a strong governing coalition.

Bill Roggio blogged This constitutional compromise can drive a stake through the heart of al Qaeda's "hearts and minds" approach in Iraq. Al Qaeda's short-term goals of establishing a base of operations in Iraq and striking out at the greater Middle East may have to be pushed back to a mid or long term goal.

RantingProfs blogged Ever since late summer of 2003 the press has been telling us that Iraq is on the brink of civil war or that X, Y, or Z is going to put the country on the brink of civil war. But it always seems as if the Iraqi communities themselves are more interested in forming political communities, defeating the insurgencies and the terrorists, and moving forward. This deal seems to be more evidence of that.

AJStrata blogged I will speculate myself the Sunni’s will support this constitution. They have a clear choice in front of them. They can have more of Al Qaeda killing their Muslim neighbors and country men, or they can control their own destinies.... I am bullish on Iraq, and if anyone deserved to be a free and democratic people, the vast majority of Iraqis do.

CQ blogged The Iraqis do seem to have caught on to democracy. Perhaps in the future, they can work on their timing. In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed for a big turnout and an overwhelmingly positive response to the new text.

No comments: