Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Iraqi Constitutional Crisis

After a Sunday deadlock over key issues in the proposed draft of its constitution, Iraqi National Assembly leaders decided to push back their deadline to August 22nd. The key issues that provide the impasse include the following:
  • Federalism -

    Sunni Arab groups reject a separate Shia nation in the oil-rich south, though both Sunni and Shia groups support Kurdish autonomy in the north. Determining the amount of Kurdish autonomy is a major stumbling block with some groups supporting demarcated boundaries, revenue control and local defense forces, and other radicals pushing for complete Kurdish independence.

  • Islam -

    Delegates have agreed that Islam will be the official religion, but are at a crossroads as to the involvement of Muslim clerics and Islamic law in Iraqi legislation. The Shia United Iraqi Alliance (the majority party) believes all laws should be based on strict Islamic law (known as Sharia). This role is complicated by the differences in the interpretation of Sharia by Sunni and Shia Muslims. Sunni Muslims favor a strict interpretation of the Qur'an, whereas Shiites typically value the role of Muslim clerics and local customs as well.

  • Resources -

    Distribution of the world's largest oil reserves is another contention. The Kurds want to annex oil-rich areas around Kirkuk, while Shia Iraqis want a share of revenue from southern oilfields.

  • Women -

    Under Sharia law, females would become second-class citizens, being worth only half that of a man.
Meanwhile, the Bush administration has been trying to ignore the weight of these serious issues, having put so much political capital into the importance of deadlines. Last night, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice emphasized the constitutional process despite the increasing insurgency:
We have to remember that this is an enormously important document. And what you have here is a people who are trying to build a common future after decades of tyranny.

They didn't change the [constitutional] process. They didn't walk out of the process. They didn't try to go around the process. Instead they have remained committed to a process to bring this together for all Iraqis. And I think it's pretty impressive what they've achieved so far.
It seems clear that the Bush Administration has no alternative but to wait with apprehension the result of a forced invasion and increasingly bloody occupation. The hope that these failed means will reach some justifiable ends is all the US Administration has left. Without a plan towards an acheivable goal, it is a horrifying waiting game where behind one door lies a deep three-way civil war and the other, yet another radical Muslim regime in the Middle East. Many neo-conservatives pray for yet a third less obvious and possible goal: a peaceful, US-loving Iraq.

I only hope the Iraqis have more faith in themselves.


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