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February 5, 2005
Sunnis Don't Need A Weathervane (Anymore, That Is)

The Sunnis of Iraq, who largely boycotted the elections due to their loss of power after the fall of Saddam, have slowly begun reconciling themselves to the new power structure in Iraq after the elections. Stunned by the enthusiasm for their fellow citizens for democracy and in danger of complete marginalization, Sunni leaders have reached out for the lifeline offered magnanimously by th Kurds and Shi'ites:

In a bid to avoid marginalization, a group of Sunni Arab parties that refused to participate in the election said Saturday they want to take part in the drafting of a permanent constitution a chief task of the new National Assembly.

"The representatives of these political bodies that did not participate in the elections have decided in principle to take part in the writing of the permanent constitution in a suitable way," a statement from the group said.

The groups were mainly small movements and it was not clear whether they represent a major portion of the Sunni Arab community. The initiative was spearheaded by Sunni elder statesman Adnan Pachachi, who ran for a National Assembly seat.

Pachachi told CNN that he had talked with Shiite and Kurdish leaders about a role for the Sunnis in drafting a new constitution "and they all welcomed this idea."

"So I think this will help to perhaps lessen the tensions and help in satisfying the country to some extent," Pachachi said.

This is a smart move on all sides, and while the AP stays cautious in reporting it, this opening will allow even the more strident anti-Western Sunnis to come into the fold. Pachachi and the Kurds and Shi'ites have offered the Sunni leadership a way to save a little face with their followers, who must have watched their neighbors streaming to the polls on al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya (and maybe the BBC) and wondered why they deliberately removed themselves from such a historic moment.

One could argue that discrediting such leadership entirely might make for better strategy, so that more moderate leadership could come to the fore. However, that process would likely involve a great deal of bloodshed, and the Iraqis know that that could develop quickly into a civil war. Better to make moderates of the current leaders than wait for another war to see what leaders arise.

The Sunnis know now that democracy transforms people, gives them courage and hope, and a pride of legitimacy that dictators and tyranny suppresses. That moment has passed for the Sunnis, and they belatedly have recognized it. Their best hope for the future is to make sure they have a voice in the writing of the constitution rather than give the Shi'ites an excuse to inflict a tyranny upon them.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 5, 2005 4:38 PM

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