Monday, August 08, 2005

Iraqi Constitution Stalemate

The likelihood of Iraqi leaders approving a constitution before the deadline lapses next week grows increasingly slim. The standoff now, not surprisingly, is between Shiite leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and Kurdish regional President Massoud Barzani. Ayatollah al-Sistani is pushing for a constitution based on fundamentalist Islam. Prime Minister Jaafari met with him over the weekend and reports, "Ayatollah al-Sistani does not want to impose dictates on drafting the constitution, but according to my knowledge he hopes that Islam becomes the main source of legislation."

Barzani was more blunt. "We will not accept that Iraq's identity is an Islamic one,'' he told them. "There will be no bargaining over our basic rights."

That doesn't leave much room for negotiation, considering that the Kurds and Shiites are the two main sources of power in Iraq. None of this should come as a surprise given the historical animosity between these two groups. According to the Christian Science Monitor, "it's likely to mean that the US hope of installing a secular, liberal democracy in Iraq is receding from view." Not that there was much hope for that in the first place.

Democracy in the Middle East has never really proven successful. To have it work in a region with several disparate interest groups, at least one of which is fundamentalist in nature, is beyond unlikely. Sadly, the only form of government that is successful in that environment is a totalitarian dictatorship. The trick here is to have a government installed that is favorable to the US. This means making sure the government does not overly favor the Shiites.

Regardless of how the Iraqi constitution turns out, there is civil war in Iraq on the horizon. When all is said and done, do not be surprised to see a Kurdish state and a Shiite state. That situation almost existed during Hussein's tenure and is likely to materialize in fact over the next few years.


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