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August 15, 2005
Iraqi Constitution May Proceed Without Unanimity

The AP reports this morning that Sunni intransigence may result yet again in political irrelevancy for their constituency, at least at the moment. The failure of the expanded Sunni contingent of the committee drafting the new Iraqi constitution to compromise on federalism and other issues has forced the Shi'ite and Kurdish committee members to threaten to send their draft to the National Assembly on a two-thirds vote rather than the unanimous consent that everyone wants:

With the deadline for the new constitution just hours away, Shiite and Kurdish leaders signaled they were prepared to submit the draft to parliament Monday even over Sunni Arab objections.

Shiite lawmaker Hassan al-Sunnaid said there were "no deadlocks" and that the draft would be submitted to the National Assembly by the evening deadline. After al-Sunnaid spoke, however, Sunni Arab members Kamal Hamdoun and Haseeb Aref said there was no agreement on federalism and other divisive issues that have blocked an agreement for weeks.

No one wanted to see this as an outcome. The process certainly qualifies as democratic, but the Americans and British as well as the Shi'ites and Kurds want a result that the Sunnis can at least grudgingly support as the best possible result they can win through negotiation. However, the Sunnis have made it almost impossible to do that, at first by boycotting the elections to such a degree that they wound up with little representation in their parliament, and then to stall agreement for days and weeks by grandstanding for more and more concessions in the constitutional process.

No one has much sympathy for the Sunnis. They have acted, at best, as petulant children after finding themselves grounded. Their privileged status within Iraq has ended and they now face the future as a minority group within the country they ruthlessly dominated for decades. Now they come to the bargaining table demanding power outstripping their representation in Iraq and doing the best they can to politically kneecap the same populations that they recently used to literally kneecap, and worse. The irony is that the Sunnis reject the federalism that will allow them to have political control over those provinces where they comprise a majority. Instead, they want to continue their hegemony over the entire country and now hold the constitution hostage to get it.

Their unsympathetic status aside, the Shi'ites and the Kurds need the Sunnis to participate in the creation of the new constitution and to support it, especially in the National Assembly. Issuing a diktat to central Iraq guarantees a season of violence that will engulf the capital and the surrounding regions and bring the extremists out from all sides. The Shi'ites and Kurds can easily send the draft to the Assembly, but the result will fall short of the real goal of getting the Sunni population in harness with the rest of Iraq and averting sectarian war. Hopefully, this is more of a bluff than a reality.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 15, 2005 5:16 AM

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