Saturday, August 20, 2005

Iraqi Constitution Deadlock

With Monday's final deadline rapidly approaching, the three major faction groups in Iraq remain deadlocked in their bid to draft an acceptable constitution. (Al Jazeera: Iraq talks stall over religion, oil).

The one major breakthrough this week is the announcement that Kurdish leaders may be willing to drop their demand for the right to secede. Interestingly enough, the demand for federalism has managed to unify the Sunnis and Shiites. Both groups took to the streets yesterday, marching for a unified Iraq.

Religion remains a contentious issue, however, with the Shiite majority still holding out for an Islamic government. That will likely be the make-or-break issue. If an agreement is not reached by the Monday deadline, then Parliament will be dissolved, new elections held, and the process will start over. One wonders, though, if the Sunnis will learn from last year's mistake and actually participate in new elections. The interests of the Sunnis are being hampered in the constitutional draft since, thanks to last year's boycott, they have a very small voice in Parliament.

Extremists are stepping up their efforts to prevent a constitution from being accepted, however. Three top Sunni leaders were killed yesterday for supporting the voter registration initiative. Voter registration ends on September 1, so insurgent groups are increasing the rate of violent attacks in an effort to prevent Sunnis from voting on any proposed constitution. This may well backfire, though, as seen by the overwhelming turnout on the part of Kurds and Shiites in the last election.

This one is going to come down to the wire. In the end, I still believe they will agree on a draft constitution, especially if the issue of federalism is set aside. It appears that both the Kurds and Shiites believe the constitutional process is in their best interests. Whether or not the remaining issues can be resolved over the next 36 hours remains to be seen, however.


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