Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Deal Reached in Iraq Constitution

Last minute negotiations have resulted in a compromise deal that may salvage the Iraqi constitution. One major Sunni faction has already agreed to recommend that Sunni Arabs vote to approve the constitution, although the other major factions have yet to weigh in on the changes to the historic document. (Guardian Unlimited: Iraqis Reach Deal on the Constitution).

The major change involves a clause that allows the new parliament to amend the constitution after a four month period, followed by a public referendum to approve or reject any amendments. Sunnis expect to have significantly more representation in the new parliament and will therefore have more influence over the shape of future amendments. Due to the Sunni boycott of the last election, that faction has little representation in the existing parliament.

Today's compromise and Sunni support for the constitution is excellent news for US efforts to stabilize Iraq and implement a viable democracy in the region. At least in the short term, the possibilities of a democratically elected government in Iraq now appears realistic; something that few people, myself included, would have predicted even a month ago.

Passage of the constitution in Saturday's vote now seems more likely, and that passage will likely hasten the withdrawal of US troops from the region. Expect, however, a surge in violence by insurgents intent on preventing the historic vote. Intimidation was largely responsible for keeping Sunnis away from the polls in the first election, and it is likely that terrorists will use the same tactic to attempt to influence this week's referendum. Now that the compromise is in hand, insurgents will be even more desperate to prevent a positive turnout in Sunni controlled provinces. Having seen the disadvantages of not voting, however, I doubt the Sunni population will be denied a voice this time around. They have learned the hard way that democracy gives you a voice, but you must vote for that voice to be heard. I doubt the insurgents will succeed in denying them a voice a second time.



Rob Spooner said...

Why is it progress to adopt a constitution that resolves none of the issues that couldn't be resolved in the summer? The Sunni arabs will have more people in the parliament, but they were artificially given extra seats at the constitution writing table. They couldn't win then. They can't win next year. What they want, the Kurds and Shiites don't want. This isn't going to go away.

Kannafoot said...

It's progress in that you now have all three parties willing to support the adoption of the constitution and consider amendments to that base constitution as a viable way to resolve their differences. That's a tremendous leap from where we were just a week ago with the Sunnis absolutely refusing to even consider the constitution.

Let's consider this in terms of our own constitutional convention in 1787. That was not exactly a love-fest and the convention almost broke down several times over key issues, not the least of which involved states rights. The document we ended up with is a compromise document that none of the delegates were 100% happy to sponsor. They built into that document a process for amendment to fix what they either could not foresee or to readdress issues that they were forced into compromise over during the convention.

That is no different than the situation in Iraq. They have agreed to disagree, but they have also agreed to a base document that can subsequently be amended. No, it's not what everyone wanted, but it's a start. It's a tremendous step in the right direction.