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July 21, 2005
Dafydd: Either/Or

A puzzling and intriguing story from AP raises -- and begs, of course -- a conundrum of the first order: who killed them?

In "Sunni Arabs Continue Constitution Boycott," Qassim Abdul-Zahra writes that the Sunni delegation to the Iraqi constitutional convention are "continuing" their boycott, which I didn't even know was ongoing. Jeeze, you go away for a day, and all heck breaks loose.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Sunni Arabs decided Thursday to continue boycotting the committee drafting Iraq's new constitution, casting doubt on whether the group can meet an August deadline to complete its work. Insurgent attacks, including two car bombings, killed 15 people, officials said.

If that looks like two stories got accidentally shuffled together, get used to it; it's all through this piece. On the one hand, we have boycotting Sunni; on the other hand (now I sound like JFK), we have various people killed in terrorist attacks. There is somewhat of a connection, but they really are two distinct stories.

The Sunni delegates are boycotting (they mean on strike) until their demands are met, the primary of which is that there be an "international investigation" of the assassination of two of the fifteen Sunni delegates at the convention:

Two members resigned under rebel threats, and two prominent Sunnis - committee member Mijbil Issa and adviser Dhamin Hussein al-Obeidi - were assassinated in front of a Baghdad restaurant two days ago - prompting other Sunnis to suspend participation in the drafting.

We pause in the midst of this exciting story of Sunni suffering to ponder the question that Qassim Abdul-Zahra leaves hanging: do the Sunni believe that Issa and al-Obeidi were assassinated by Shia?

It's hard to make sense of this demand otherwise: "Say, you lot -- we refuse to attend your bally constitutional convention until you promise that we'll stop assassinating ourselves!"

Another possibility is that the delegates are deep into a "Captain Renault" moment: they really think it was Zarqawi, like the rest of us thought; but they hope the world will blame the Shia, the Kurds, or perhaps the Coalition troops.

One of the other demands (I know you're shocked, shocked to hear this) is "a greater role for Sunnis in drafting the constitution." I don't know how much affirmative action they expect, after shunning the elections and now engaged in a sit-in at the convention; but it does tend (at least to me) to cast doubt on the honesty of their demand for an investigation. The demand for religious preference makes me think the outrage is faux, sort of like those folks who demand reparations for a peculiar institution whose demise will celebrate its sesquicentennial in ten years.

Here is the connection between the two distinct stories that were shoehorned into this article:

Elsewhere, two suicide car bombings and a string of other attacks in and around Baghdad Thursday left 15 people dead, police and army officials said.

The attacks today were all against Iraqi government targets -- two Iraqi army checkpoints, the Qadisiyah provincial council, the Ministry of Trade, Iraqi guards at a British security firm, and an Iraqi patrol. All of the attacks took place in either the Sunni Triangle or the smaller "Triangle of Death" just south of the former, where Sunni al-Qaeda terrorists freely operate. And all of the victims were employees of the new Iraqi government.

And the AP does not quote a single member of the Sunni delegation calling for an "international investigation" into any of these 15 deaths. Perhaps AP is just being shy, but I think it likely that the Sunni delegation couldn't care less if officials of the Shia-run government are slain... they focus their outrage like a laser beam on bad things that happen to them.

Suppose the Sunni line turns out to be correct; suppose that some Shiite group has begun to target Sunnis. Would that be the beginning of the response from the rest of Iraq that finally goads the Sunnis into ratting out the terrorists? My Magic 8-Ball says "ask again later."

By the rules of constitutional ratification, if any three provinces reject the constitution by 2/3rds vote, the constitution fails... and Sunnis constitute a majority in four provinces: Anbar and Nineveh, which are almost all Sunni; and Salahaddin and Diyala, which have substantial Shiite populations (but not more than 33%, I believe). Which means that the Sunni probably can, all by themselves, prevent the constitution from being ratified... but only if they vote almost unanimously against it.

What we don't know is how all these shenanigans are playing out among the general Sunni population: are they just itching for a chance to throw the nascent nation into chaos by rejecting the constitution? (The next go-round might not be so Sunni-friendly, if the Shia and Kurds see them as obstructionists.) Or are the Sunni Iraqis simply fed-up with the antics of their delegates, and do they just want to vote in the constitution and have done with it?

We won't have long to wait: the constitution is supposed to be finished by August 15th.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Dafydd at July 21, 2005 6:49 AM

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