"This constitution was cooked up in an American kitchen not an Iraqi one. We stand by our position."
- An unnamed Sunni negotiator
In Iraq today, while a celebration goes on in President Jalal Talabani's office "on the occasion of finishing drafting the constitution", it's obvious that the text hasn't met with approval from Sunni Arabs (whose community is the hotbed of the insurgency.)
The decision by the Shias and Kurds to go ahead without Sunni approval has revealed the Bush administration's strategy of using the Constitution to win the hearts and minds of disaffected Sunnis away from the insurgency as a failure.
It sounds like it may be the last party before the onset of a sectarian civil war. The new constitution was supposed to bring Iraqis together is tearing away at their differences as the US presses for a resolution on their time-table. Given these circumstances, it's sure to get ugly between now and October. The Bush administration has to try to get us to swallow this whole deal as a success, even though the people of Central Iraq have been economically and socially isolated by the greater oil-interests of the North and South (with the blessings, the way the Sunnis see it, of the U.S.).
From a Reuters article, the Iraqi government and U.S. strategy for stabilizing Iraq seeks to lure Sunnis into peaceful politics and undermine the insurgency, and the Sunnis say they will not budge on federalism, fearing it would deprive them of oil resources in regions near the Kurdish north and Shi'ite south which hold the world's third-largest oil reserves.
The draft did not meet the minimum of Sunni demands which are aimed at preserving Iraq's unity. A Sunni negotiator named Fakhr al-Qaisi has said that “the draft was rejected” because of wording about “Iraq’s unity, Iraq’s Arab identity” and the designation of Islam as “a main source” of legislation and not the main one. [IOL]
While the draft is still being read, Salih Al-Mutlaq [the Sunni negotiator] confirmed again that none of the 15 Sunni members of the CDC have signed the draft.
Al-Mutlaq also highlighted the American role in bridging the gap between the different parties involved in the process but he put the blame on the other parties (the Sheat and the Kurds) for focusing on "their narrow partisan and sectarian" interests.
Our only difference we had with the Americans was about setting a rigid timetable for completing the process. [..] We'll be calling all the powers that didn't participate in the last elections for a conference where we will be declaring our objections on the draft...
Salih Al-Mutlaq also explained that their objections are limited to a few points and that they agree with large parts of constitution and he stressed that they (the Sunni parties) will fully participate in the future phases of the political process. He also called on the people who are not satidfied with the darft to avoid violence and keep practicing their normal daily activities and express thier opinion in peace.
It's worth mentioning that Hachim Al-Hasani (chairman of the Assembly) is not present at the current session.
Despite attempts to put an optimistic gloss on the talks, the failure of Iraqi politicians from the three main groups to reach any kind of consensus has been greeted with dismay in Washington and London, where it had been hoped that President George Bush's intervention last week to persuade the Shias to accommodate the Sunnis' concerns would break the deadlock. [Guardian Unlimited]
In a blogpost by Billmon called "The Philadelphia Experiment", he explains how "the Iraqi constitutional "process" (now careening towards a bitter and divisive referendum) has already inspired one of the silliest historical analogies" he thinks he's ever heard. He says:
The men who met in Philadelpha in the summer of 1787 were the winners of a protracted revolutionary struggle for national independence -- not the leaders of a collection of squabbling ethnic and religious factions, many of whom spent years in exile and then rode back into their native land on the backs of foreign tanks. The framers of the U.S. constitution expelled an occupying army. The founders of the New Iraq are guarded by one.
Meanwhile, beyond rooms where lofty aspirations fall into their papered fate, there remains a cold and hard world -
"... the Sunni guerrillas' ability to keep Iraq from moving forward-- their ability to act as spoilers-- is a key political asset. The US and British publics are brave and determined, but they deeply dislike situations where they are spending blood and treasure for situations where there is no visible progress on the ground. And by "progress" they do not mean putting down some words on paper." [Juan Cole]
At Corrente Lambert has made a good point, and points out Digby's very good point as well. This quote of Digby's is the best ending this blog entry could have, and I hope all Democratic and Republican representatives will listen:
"..I think this is where we separate the men from the boys and the women from the girls. If, after all you've seen these last five years you still believe that the Bush administration can be given the benefit of the doubt, that they will do the right thing, change course, follow sage advice, reevaluate their strategy, bow to the facts on the ground --- then you have the same disease the Bush administration has. As Ben Franklin said, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.."